WYSOX TOWNSHIP - In an interview Thursday in Wysox Township, U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey called for regulatory reforms that would end the bailout of large financial institutions and instead make their processing through bankruptcy court much quicker.

"I think the most important thing on the financial regulatory front is to end a system of bailing out failing firms ... We cannot create a category that is too big to fail, and that becomes the recipient of taxpayer funded bailouts if they do fail. I'm concerned that that is what the (Sen. Chris) Dodd bill does. I think we ought to instead make whatever reforms we need to our bankruptcy code, so that we can handle the resolution of a failed large financial institution in bankruptcy, where it ought to take place," said Toomey, a former three-term congressman.

Toomey, a Republican who is seeking to win Arlen Specter's seat in the Senate, was in Bradford County to attend a fundraiser for his campaign at the RiverStone Inn.

In an interview in Wysox, Toomey discussed his views on the war in Afghanistan, the national debt, and other matters, such as hydraulic fracturing.

Toomey was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999, but did not seek re-election after serving three terms.

"I pledged when I first ran for (the House seat) that I would serve no more than three terms," said Toomey, who lives in Zionsville, Pa., with his wife, Kris, and two children. "I'm a believer in term limits."

Toomey said that after he left Congress, "I took over an organization based in Washington called the Club for Growth, which is a national advocacy group dedicated to limited government, free enterprise and low taxes."

Toomey said that after leaving Congress, he and some other individuals also started a community bank, which is headquartered in Bethlehem, Pa.

The bank, which is called Team Capital Bank "is doing very well. We're doing business in Pennsylvania and New Jersey," he said.

Toomey said he co-chaired the bank's board of directors until he began his campaign for the Senate. He still serves at this time on the bank's board of directors.

Regulatory reform

"The problem with the bankruptcy code is that a very large, very complicated financial institution takes a long time to be resolved in bankruptcy. And that's the problem. So Lehman Brothers is still operating in the bankruptcy context. We've got to find a way to do this much, much more quickly for big financial institutions. So I would look at a range of reforms recommended by experts in this area so we could have a more expedited (bankruptcy) process," Toomey said.

Toomey said that ending the bailout of failing companies in general is one of the things that needs to be done to address the national debt.

The national debt "is very, very worrisome to me," Toomey said. "We are setting all-time records in (federal) deficits and are approaching war-time high levels of debt. The burden we are imposing on our kids is unconscionable. We've got to get our spending under control."

Toomey also said the federal government should end the distribution of funds from the $787 billion stimulus package as another way to help address the increasing national debt.

Only 40 percent of the funds from the stimulus package have been spent, and the government should takes steps so that the other 60 percent is not spent, Toomey said.

"That would diminish the otherwise huge ongoing surge in our deficits and debt," Toomey said.

He also said Congress should ban earmarks, which costs tens of billions of dollars a year.

An earmark occurs when a congressman attaches funding to a specific project, he said. "It's designed to bypass the normal congressional scrutiny, and they are outside of any kind of test of merits or competition for scarce resources. It's just pork. And it's become a currency that's used to buy votes for other bills. It's a terrible policy."

Toomey also said that President Obama's policy on Afghanistan is flawed.

"I supported the president's decision to increase our troop level and adopt a classic counter-insurgency approach in Afghanistan," Toomey said. "(But) I worry that there are mixed messages that come from this administration with respect to Afghanistan. In particular, the question of whether we will withdraw our troops on a given date. If the enemy knows we're leaving on a date certain then it creates a huge incentive for them to just lie low until that day comes. And it creates an equally huge incentive for the local population not to cooperate with Americans by identifying the insurgents and the dangerous elements in their midst, because they know we're not going to be around for long, but the bad guys are. I look forward to American troops coming out of Afghanistan as much as anybody, but I think we need to have some benchmark accomplishments on the ground as the guide to when we do that (withdraw), rather than have an artificial timeline."

Asked whether he favors the exemption for hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Toomey replied that he is not aware that there is such an exemption.

However, Toomey issued the following statement: "This (drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale) is a huge, huge economic opportunity for rural Pennsylvania. It has to be done in a way that is consistent with preserving the quality of our drinking water, (and) the water table generally. I am absolutely convinced that we have the technological ability to develop this tremendous natural resource and still preserve clean water, our water table, and streams throughout Pennsylvania. It's very, very important that we do both."

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or e-mail: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.