Health care, the economy and the federal debt dominate the second debate between US Senate candidates Republican Deb Fischer and Democrat Bob Kerrey in Omaha.
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and KETV sponsored the debate held at the Omaha Community Playhouse Friday morning.
Fischer, a state senator from Valentine, faulted the current administration for failing to create jobs.
“You know, I have a jobs plan. We need to back government away from small businesses. We need to have government reduce those regulations. They’re such a burden on our businesses. So they can create jobs. We need to reform a tax code,” Fischer stated.
That plan doesn’t impress Kerrey, the former governor and US Senator.
“Well, Sen. Fischer I have looked at your plan. First of all, you signed the (Grover) Norquist pledge which wouldn’t allow you to say to Americans who generate more than a million dollars in income that you ought to pay the same tax your employees pay,” Kerrey responded. “Secondly, your balanced budget amendment would at least double unemployment in the state.”
How to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent while reducing the federal debt became a focal point of the debate.
Fischer stated the federal government has a responsibility to those who will soon be covered by the two programs.
“And we need to honor the commitments we made to our seniors and that’s why I say, let me be clear, no one over the age of 40 should see their benefits cut or their taxes increased,” Fischer said. “Promises were made by government and promises need to be kept.”
Kerrey insisted those promises cannot be kept.
“Promises are made in order to secure the votes of people over the age of 65. That’s why they’re made. And we keep promising. Since the Second World War, we’ve been doing it. The problem is it’s $60 trillion unfunded liability,” Kerrey said. “And the question is are we going to solve the problem?”
Kerrey said it would take a combination of budget cuts and tax increases to right the fiscal ship. Fischer said the budget must be cut and a growing economy would bring in the needed revenue.
Fischer and Kerrey again expressed their disagreement on the federal health care law, the same disagreements aired during their first debate at the State Fair in Grand Island.
Fischer said the federal law did nothing to reduce the cost of health care.
“We need to look at the affordability of health care,” according to Fischer. “We need to make sure that Americans can afford it. We need to make sure that Americans have opportunities to have jobs, good paying jobs, in order to purchase health care.”
As for Kerrey, he said the law needs to be fixed, not repealed, because health care is vital.
“Other than it makes the difference between life and death, other than it oftentimes can determine whether or not you can hold a job, other than it determines whether or not you are going to survive as a family, it won’t have much of an impact,” Kerrey stated. “I think you will have trouble finding anybody eight or nine years from now who will says honestly that they oppose this act.”
There was a humorous moment in the debate when Kerrey asked whether a question was asked of him, because the reporter was looking at Fischer. Fischer responded the questioner looked her way, because she was charming. Kerrey replied that she, indeed, was charming and asked what she was doing later. Fischer suggested dinner. The audience laughed approvingly.
The two meet for their final debate Monday evening at the television studios of NET in Lincoln.
The debate is scheduled for broadcast on KETV on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m.
AUDIO: United States Senate candidate debate, Omaha Community Playhouse [1 hour]