Deb Fischer said Friday that a Lincoln homebuilder was fined $7,000 for ladder leaning on wall and Bob Kerrey said there are 88 subcommittees in Congress governing Homeland Security.
The two faced off Friday in Omaha.
The debate was broadcast live to a national television audience.
The two powerful candidates are gunning for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Ben Nelson, who retires at end of the year.
Kerrey and Fischer will debate again Monday, Oct. 1, hosted by public broadcasting -- Nebraska Educational Television stations -- in Lincoln from 7-8 p.m.
It will be broadcast live on television, radio and the internet -- NET1 / NET-HD television, NET Radio and live online at http://netNebraska.org.
Fischer, a Republican, said regulations must be rolled back to get the economy going. She said a home builder in Lincoln told her he was fined $7,000 because he had a ladder leaning against the wall.
Not so long ago, regulators would help contractors get in line with regulations. Now, harsh fines are slapped on them, she said.
Although Fischer didn't give many specifics, she said government must cut spending and add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
"Our debt is $16 trillion," she said. "Who would have thought that was possible four years ago?"
Kerrey said Congress must reform itself and he promised to fight Congressional leaders if necessary. He said the Constitution must be amended to take some of the partisanship out of Congress. He said 88 Congressional subcommittees are involved in Homeland Security.
And, Kerrey criticized Fischer's balanced budget amendment. He said it would mean drastic cuts that would harm Nebraska's hospitals, universities and private-public research projects.
Both candidates criticized Environmental Protection Agency regulations over emissions at the Gerald Gentleman electric power plant near Sutherland.
Kerrey said Congress must reform Social Security and Medicare, citing plans he's laid out during the campaign. And, he said pensions are gobbling up too much government money, citing the Chicago teacher's strike, where he said class sizes might have to increase to 50 students to fund teacher retirement packages.
War, health care
The candidates also talked at length about Iran and Obamacare.
Fischer said the United States must prepare to take strong action to deal with Iran and keep it from creating a nuclear weapon.
"We are less safe if we don't send a strong message," she said.
Kerrey, a former Navy SEAL, said he is concerned about Iran's buildup and threats to Israel, but he would double-check intelligence reports about Iran's progress toward nuclear capability. He noted that he is familiar with special military operations. He said he would take a dim view of going to war because he fought in Vietnam.
Fischer called for complete repeal of Obamacare, replaced with limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, such as those already in effect in Nebraska. She said 25 percent of medical procedures are unnecessary, conducted in an overabundance of caution to protect physicians from lawsuits.
Fischer said health care must become more affordable.
Kerrey said he would remove employer requirements from health care reform, so people not businesses would buy the insurance directly, which is similar to the program enacted in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney.
Kerrey said there are several benefits in Obamacare, including lower costs for the elderly who already pay less for prescription drugs and the elimination of pre-existing conditions by which insurance companies deny coverage.
Fischer also said she would like to eliminate pre-existing insurance exclusions.
"We can work in a bipartisan way to get that done," she said.
To cut the budget, Fischer said she would reform Medicare in the future. No one over the age of 40 would be affected.
Kerrey said Fishcer is idealistic, saying that government can't balance the budget and totally protect current beneficiaries.
"She's saying, 'If you're over 40, or if you make more than $1 million a year, you don't have to participate in the solutions,'" Kerrey said.
Kerrey said all Americans have to put something on the line to reduce the debt. He referred to the honor he felt and shared with fellow SEAL special forces who took risks to serve their country.
The debate was at the Omaha Community Playhouse, sponsored by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and KETV of Omaha.
To watch the one-hour debate, see the KETV and CSPAN websites.