With Election Day just a week away, the candidates in the 3rd Congressional District debated on MPR News' Daily Circuit program Tuesday.
Host Kerri Miller moderated the discussion between Republican incumbent Rep. Erik Paulsen and his DFL opponent, Brian Barnes.
Paulsen is running for his third term in the district that includes western Minneapolis suburbs, while Barnes is a political newbie who's running his first campaign.
Both men portrayed themselves as being somewhat independent of their parties. But on one of the central issues of this election, whether the Bush-era tax cuts should be allowed to expire on those earning more than $250,000 a year, both candidates back their parties' positions.
"We should not be raising taxes in this tough economy on anyone," Paulsen said.
Mentioning his work on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Paulsen instead called for tax reform to expand the tax base, which he said could encourage economic growth and increase government revenues.
Barnes countered quickly.
"When you say 'expanding the tax base,' what you're basically saying is you're going to tax seniors and soldiers," Barnes said. "It may not be a tax increase on upper-income people, but it's a tax increase on somebody."
While President Barack Obama is prepared to allow taxes to rise on those making more than $250,000, Barnes said he believed only those making more than a $1 million a year should get a tax hike.
Barnes said the extra revenue should be used to reduce the deficit and pay down the national debt.
On the subject of taxes, Paulsen was asked whether he had signed the "no new taxes" pledge organized by long-time Washington anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
"I signed the pledge once back in the 1990s, I believe, in the state Legislature, and I think they carry that forward for life," Paulsen said. "I don't feel bound by any pledge from the perspective of a lifetime."
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While disagreeing on many fiscal issues, both agreed that big ticket military weapons programs could be scaled back to help lower the deficit.
Another point of agreement was nuclear energy. Both said that the use of nuclear power should be expanded, a position that puts Barnes at odds with the DFL's party platform.
With many Republicans contest the scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to global warming, Paulsen was asked about his views on the matter.
"I'm not a scientist; I couldn't tell you if it's actually because of human activities," Paulsen said.
Barnes responded by citing a past interview where Paulsen said he wasn't smart enough to weigh in on the science of global warming.
"To me, I want people in Congress who are smart enough to understand this," Barnes said.
The candidates also tangled over abortion. Paulsen said he opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger.
Some Republican congressional candidates this year have taken to opposing abortion under almost any conditions.
Barnes disagreed and said he believes women, and not the government, should decide whether to have an abortion.
There's been no polling in this race and political handicappers say Paulsen's seat is safe. He leads Barnes in one important metric: money. As of mid-October, Paulsen's campaign had more than $700,000 in the bank, ten times as much as Barnes.
Submit your questions for the next debate at The Daily Circuit blog.
We're continuing our series of debates on The Daily Circuit between congressional candidates with Minnesota's 3rd District at 11:06 today.
Republican incumbent Rep. Erik Paulsen is being challenged by Brian Barnes, a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve and a sales and marketing professional.
Debate started. Kerri doing intros.
She starts with Paulsen. Asks for his "singular accomplishment."
The repeal of the medical tax is what he mentions.
To pass that bill through the House is the accomplishment. It's not yet law.
As for one that is passed, he and Klobuchar worked together to streamline FDA requirements. It was signed this summer.
Kerri says his voting record is party-line. is he bi-partisan.
Paulsen mentions the FDA reform measures taht were passed nearly unanimously. He had to work bi-partisanly.
He wants to be able to "move the ball forward."
Barnes on Paulsen's bi-partisanship:
"What you are talking about is taking that country over party approach." He says Paulsen's bi-partisanship is Democrats crossing the aisle to work with him.
He says that he voted accross the aisle on an amendment on FDA regulation of tobacco.
Bi-partisanship matters. It means being a good listener. You also need to move around the floor and talk to your colleagues.
Kerri moves on to health care.
Paulsen voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He wants to keep pre-conditions coverage. Kerri asks for more specifics.
ACA doesn't address the pocket book. We should reimburse physicians for emailing with their patients to control chronic conditions and other new models. Make the system more patient-centered.
Has Paulsen signed Norquist's No Tax Pledge? If so, how will he balance the budget without hurting poor people? does he support Ryan's budget? How will we take care of seniors and disabled in nursing homes?
We need to close the donut hole.
3rd District businesses have already received a benefit from the ACA.
Kerri asks about whether the ACA should be reformed in some places.
Barnes says keep it and move it forward. We need to control costs in the system. We have a 21st century doctor's office and a 19th centrury administration. We need to reduce the amount that private insurance is paid.
If you repeal the ACA, you will immediately harm seniors and young adults on their parents' plan.
Paulsen in response to Betty:
He signed a "no tax" pledge while still in the state legislature but doesn't feel beholden to that for life. But he does believe in tax reform.
Kerri asks if people at the top of the tax scale could pay more?
"I say the answer is 'no.' We should not raise the taxes on anyone."
"When you say 'expanding the tax base' you are saying your are increasing taxes on soldiers and old people."
"I believe we can sunset the Bush-era tax cuts on individuals making over 1-million dollars a year." 100% of that should go for reducing the debt.
Your comments about big gov imply fraud and waste when mostly that is not true.
As a retired Finance Director of Mn Munis, you do a huge disservice by spinning the facts. We now have fewer public safety personnel and not enough regulators to protect our health, food, and safety.
I have voted to eliminate weapon systems. We need to "wind down our overseas commitments."
Please ask the congressman when lowering the tax rate led to economic growth. Thanks.
Rep Paulsen, to SAVE money would propose to DECREASE the health insurance plan given to Congressional representatives from life long to only while serving. This would put representatives on the same plane as the constituents.
I know the importance having the best equipment in the field. But we have the largest Navy in the world. We have 12 aircraft carriers in operation and 3 under constructions.
We can maintain the military and make some smart cuts.
Where do they stand on the Lilly Ledbetter Bill?
When a Republican Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the prescription drug plan for Medicare (Part D) in 2005, it included a mandate to participate and a penalty if you didn't. What is the difference between this approach to expand the risk pool by using a carrot/stick and the "individual manadte" in the ACA?
We've robbed from medicare to pay for the ACA. And the independent payment advisory board makes decisions to ration medical care. They don't have to be medically trained.
Please ask the candidates about their views on women's rights to fair pay, the Lily Ledbetter Act, and reproductive choice. Thank you.
Thanks Undancey. I am passing this to Kerri.
That we are robbing medicare is a falsehood. It's a savings.
We should let medicare negiotiate their own pricing. That's the first palce we start.
The chief actuary of Medicare says there is waste, fraud, and abuse. We need legislation to clean that up and protect Medicare.
I haven't met anyone is "for" waste, fraud, and abuse,
I am for equal pay. When women are not paid equitably, it affects families, not just women.
Lily Ledbetter Act was passed without hearings. Paulsen says it is ridiculous to be against equal pay. He supports equitabel pay but voted against Ledbetter. Says it was mainly good for trial lawyers.
Paulsen on reproductive rights:
Paulsen supports abortion only in the instance of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother.
Back to health care. The Congressman complains about healthcare rationing under Obamacare. We have rationing right now, it's just done by insurance companies, who are not responsible to the public.
Paulsen says that he learned from Ramstad about constituent service.
He separates himself from his party on energy. He thinks nuclear energy is safe and that if we want energy independence, we need to think about expanding nuclear. The DFL doesn't support nuclear energy, although Kerri points out that Obama does.
Kerri asks about climate change.
We can't go it alone. We need to work with China and India. He doesn't dispute that it is getting warmer.
"I'm not a scientist" and I don't know if climate change is from human activity. He doesn't know if we are responsible. He won't dispute the science.
Barnes on climate change:
"I want people on Congress who are smart enough to understand this." he says "I am a numbers guy" and that we need to look at science, accept what it is, and use that to find ways to move forward.
If Barnes supports cap and trade. That is a mistake.
Coal is a large form of baseload energy. Until we have storage capacity for green energy, we need to clean up coal.
Paulsen on climate change again:
"It's not understanding the science," it's about finding solutions. "What I would support is nuclear energy, smaller carbon footprints, cleaning up emissions."
Kerri thanks them both.
Thursday: We'll have Michele Bachmann and Jim Graves.