Sunday, October 14, 2012

Goodlatte/Schmookler debate touches on a variety of topics

Goodlatte and Schmookler debate.

Breckinridge Middle School was host to the first of three debates between incumbent Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte and his challenger Democrat Andy Schmookler. There were about 80 supporters evenly divided between both camps Saturday.

Goodlatte won the sign war though Schmookler had plenty of his own stuck in the ground in a gauntlet that led cars to the cafeteria door. The cafeteria was packed with standing room only. Jay Warren, WSLS anchor stood at a podium barely visible between camera tripods.

The NAACP Roanoke Branch and the Williamson Road Area Business Association sponsored the debate. The rules restricted the candidates from bringing up each other’s record. Schmookler has never held office and as the challenger felt that not being able to mention Goodlatte’s voting record put him at a disadvantage.

Jay Warren prepares for coin toss.

In a question on affirmative action that is being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court Schmookler misstepped when he mentioned Goodlatte’s Civil Rights Legislative Report Card “F” grade given him by the NAACP. Goodlatte received a 15 percent rating with only Congressman Eric Cantor coming in with a lower grade at 13 percent. With that Warren let Goodlatte rebut. He said, “I have great respect for the organizations like the NAACP that fight for what they believe in.” Goodlatte said that many of the NAACP issues used to rate member of congress are broad and “I disagree on because I believe in limited government.”

Both candidates spoke about how affirmative action is more about “class” and less about race. Schmookler said “we still have a long way to go before we are truly a color blind society.” Goodlatte said that it was not appropriate to have quotas. He recounted the time he took Brenda Hale president of the Roanoke NAACP to President Obama’s inauguration when his wife was unable to go.

Schmookler bemoaned the lack of honesty in politics saying he was a “truth teller.” Goodlatte said the country does not need “more big government.” Both assured voters they will work across party lines.

Neither candidate would vote for the proposed Simpson-Bowles commission plan that would tackle the $16 trillion deficit. The commission’s report recommends deep cuts to entitlements, the military and elimination of tax deductions.

Goodlatte opposed the tax increases. Schmookler pointed to Goodlatte’s support of increasing the national debt during President George W. Bush’s administration. “We don’t need to be dealing right now with cutting spending,” said Schmookler. Cuts would result in massive job losses he said.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Goodlatte admitted to signing the Grover Norquist “no tax” pledge saying the pledge was to the people of Virginia to not raise marginal income tax rates. “I would support tax reform that was revenue neutral.” Goodlatte said he would lower corporate tax rates and close loopholes.

Schmookler would vote in favor or raising the debt ceiling again saying that “we don’t play politics with that – we don’t hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage … this is not genuine conservatism … something has gone fundamentally wrong,” claimed Schmookler. Goodlatte wouldn’t commit to raising the debt ceiling. “We’ll have to see what the conditions are related to the package that’s included with it – what other spending reductions can we continue to bring about fiscal responsibility.”

Goodlatte said he was not in favor of federal subsidies to extend rail to Roanoke. The state should provide the those funds he said. “We don’t allow earmarks in the congress anymore.” Goodlatte supported the Norfolk Southern Heartland Corridor between the Port of Norfolk and Chicago. Schmookler said he didn’t know enough about it but advocated for rail service as a means to reduce fossil fuel use.

Andy Schmookler

On Medicare Schmookler said it was a healthcare inefficiency problem and to look to other country’s solutions and adjust it to fit the U.S. healthcare system. Goodatte said that it was “very much a Medicare problem” pointing to the $700 billion that Obamacare was taking out of Medicare. “We are heading in the wrong direction in solving our healthcare problem.”  Goodlatte would support raising the eligibility age for Medicare in line with Social Security. He alluded to a sliding scale related to an individual’s ability to pay for healthcare.  Schmookler said the $700 billion comes from private insurance companies that inefficiently manage Medicare Advantage.

On an immigration question Goodlatte said that he did not support President Obama’s executive order dubbed “The Dream Act.” It provides a path to citizenship for children born in the U.S. whose parents came to the country illegally. Goodlatte would also eliminate the green card lottery. Schmookler supports the Dream Act.

Schmookler said he was disappointed in the healthcare bill that came out of congress because it lacked a public option managed by the government that would bring down costs. Medicare has an administration cost of only two-percent he said. Goodlatte voted to repeal Obamacare over 30 times and pointed to the increase in public health centers like New Horizons. He advocates for association health plans and for allowing the purchase of insurance coverage across state lines. Schmookler accused the Republicans of opposing the individual mandate that was an idea that came from the Heritage Foundation but when the Democrats proposed it – it became unconstitutional he said.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Election 2012, Elections, National, Politics

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