As a freshman senator, Republican Pat Toomey punches above his weight in the high-stakes fight over increasing the U.S. debt limit.
To cheers and jeers, Toomey — a Tea Party favorite and Wall Street veteran — dismisses as an exaggeration worries about a short-term debt default and wants the Constitution changed to require a balanced federal budget.
Toomey’s stance has won over enough Republicans — some 20 in the Senate and more than 100 in the House of Representatives — to create a potential bloc able to sway talks this weekend between President Barack Obama and leaders in Congress.
“Those numbers lurk like a black cloud over negotiations,” Ethan Siegal of the Washington Exchange, a private firm that tracks Congress and the White House for investors, said of the bloc that includes many Tea Party movement-backed Republicans who have resisted compromise on the debt ceiling.
Obama and congressional leaders ordered staff to work through the weekend toward a possible agreement to trim the massive U.S. deficit, raise the U.S. debt limit and avoid default by an August 2 deadline.
With the White House warning of dire economic consequences of a default, the president and congressional leaders are to meet on Sunday to discuss progress.
Toomey will not be in the room, but his views will be.
“When Toomey speaks, people listen,” a senior Republican aide said.
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