Sestak on deficits; Rendellis

For months now, Republican Pat Toomey has labeled Democrat Joe Sestak as a big-spending liberal who’s voted to explode the federal government’s deficit. The Senate nominee tried to turn the tables during an appearance in Harrisburg this afternoon.

In a speech to the Pennsylvania Press Club, Sestak said by voting for President Bush’s tax cuts and budgets, Toomey was “practically pro-deficit.” He added Toomey “wants more tax cuts for the top one percent that will add 650 billion dollars to the deficit. My opponent has a lot of theories about the economy, but controlling deficits is not one of them.”

In contrast, Sestak framed himself as a fiscal moderate who wants to balance the government’s books.

Toomey’s campaign manager, Mark Harris, countered Sestak’s speech was “laughable,” and accused the Democrat of having a “selective memory.” Harris pointed out Sestak voted for the 2008  financial bailout, the 2009 federal stimulus package, the health care overhaul, and other measures that have boosted the federal deficit. Sestak defends most of those votes as emergency measures aimed at keeping the economy from sinking into a depression.

Harris took the speech as a complement, suggesting Sestak has co-opted Republican talking points in the face of the harsh political climate Democrats are facing.

The federal government ran a 1.4 trillion dollar deficit during the 2009 fiscal year. If you’re as confused as I am over who ran up more deficits, check out this helpful chart from the Congressional Budget Office. Additionally, CBO recently published out an executive summary of how the deficit has ballooned in recent years, and where federal spending is headed over the coming decade.

In much less wonky news,  I asked Sestak after the event whether Governor Rendell had ever taken him up on his pre-primary offer of  a hatchet-burying lunch at WaWa. (After Governor Rendell told our Politics as Usual podcast Sestak had “no chance of winning” the contest, Sestak said he looked forward to eating a “Rendelli” with the governor.)

Sestak laughed, and asked the gaggle of a dozen reporters if he was being taped.

About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

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