Deb Fischer and Bob Kerrey traded jabs and points for 90 minutes Saturday in their first debate of the campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Both candidates stood their ground in the debate, which was held at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island.
Both agreed that the times are serious and promised change, but differed on several issues. Kerrey said he would shake up the Senate, challenging established leaders, balancing the budget and reducing the influence of special interests. He promised to disagree without being disagreeable.
Fischer said she would be a fresh face and bring Nebraska values to the job. She said she's not a career politician, but primarily a wife and mother who started in politics as a school board member at a country school. She said the federal government must balance its budget, like Nebraskans know how to do.
Social programs, economy
Kerrey said he would require more from Social Security and Medicare recipients to make both programs solvent. Kerrey announced those plans earlier.
Fischer said she opposes cuts in Social Security or Medicare for anyone under 40 years old. But Kerrey said Fischer’s plan for a balanced budget amendment would limit government spending to 18% of Gross Domestic Product, which would cut health programs in Nebraska, including Medicare.
Fischer said she would get the U.S. economy humming and grow jobs through tax cuts and fewer regulations on businesses. Kerrey referred to the 1990s, when he served in the U.S. Senate and the federal budget was balanced. He said some taxes will have to increase to balance the budget now.
On other key issues:
Fischer said the Keystone XL pipeline should be built through Nebraska. She said environmental concerns are being addressed.
Kerrey said the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will do a solid job of evaluating the pipeline now. He said Fischer did nothing to challenge the first pipeline route. Kerrey said the pipeline should be built in accordance with the DEQ review.
Fischer said drought is the biggest issue facing Nebraskans, and is happy the Farm Bill provides crop insurance. Kerrey said the biggest issue is the failure of Congress to pass a Farm Bill, and rising health care costs.
Ryan budget (Path to Prosperity)
Both said they would not vote for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget. Ryan is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice-president.
Fischer said the climate in changing but doesn’t believe the causes are man-made.
Kerrey said climate change is due to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and it will damage Nebraska’s agriculture. He said he once thought “cap and trade” would reduce carbon emissions but after seeing how a similar exchange in Europe became corrupt, he is not sure how to address the problem.
Fischer opposes a complete troop withdrawal in 2014 as a date certain. Kerrey supports the 2014 withdrawal.
Obamacare (health care reform)
Kerrey supports Obamacare with modifications. Fischer wants Obamacare repealed.
Dodd-Frank bill (financial reform)
Fischer supports repeal. She said it hurts small community banks.
Kerrey supports Dodd-Frank. He said it is necessary to prevent a recurrence of the financial collapse of 2008.
Fischer has said she would debate Kerrey three times, but she has not agreed to any other times or places yet. This debate will be broadcast again on RFD & RURAL TV on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 29 & 30, at 7 p.m. Central Time.
To listen to the debate, click HERE and look for the audio button at the bottom of the page.