The final televised Virginia Senate debate saw a feisty exchange between former governors George Allen (R) and Tim Kaine (D) over sequestration, as both men try to convince voters to send them to Washington D.C.
The debate, hosted by Virginia Tech and WSLS, saw both men attack the other's key proposals for fixing the federal budget deficit, and avoiding mandatory spending cuts agreed to in last year's fiscal cliff deal that Congress passed.
ECONOMIC PLAN DIFFERENCES
Allen called Kaine's plan to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making $500,000 or more is a tax hike, and added that hiking taxes is a bad idea in a struggling economy. Allen promoted growing the economy through shrinking the corporate tax level to 20% for most businesses, which should allow them to hire more workers, and increase the tax base. Allen also proposed eliminating tax loopholes, and to reform the entire tax code.
Kaine promoted his compromise proposal of keeping the Bush tax cut levels for those who make less than $500,000 a year, and allowing them to expire for people with higher incomes. Kaine said doing so will add up to about half of the money needed to balance the budget, and help make it easier to find other targeted cuts to avoid the mandatory spending cuts. Kaine believes Allen's plan of not allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those who make $500,000 or more, will not work, and possibly add to the deficit.
When WSLS Political Analyst Dr. Bob Denton asked if either one of the candidates would support the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan in its current form, both men hedged and said each would change parts of it.
Kaine revealed a personal tie to the sequestration controversy, saying he has a son who's just started a career in the military. Kaine emphatically stated, "I'm not going to do things that hurt the troops, or veterans."
Allen said he thinks it's wrong to use the 200,000 men and women in Virginia whose jobs are at risk due to sequestration, as a bargaining chip. Kaine claimed Allen was making it seem like those 200,000 were hostages. Allen denied Kaine's inference.
Kaine said sequestration wasn't pretty deal to pass, but to avoid an international fiscal collapse, it worked. He noted that current Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) spoke in favor of the deal. Allen countered that the federal budget need real reform, including spending caps, a balanced budget amendment, and a line item veto for the President. Allen also remarked that Congress should not get paid unless it passes budget bills on time.
ENERGY PLAN DIFFERENCES
Another point of differences both men brought up was energy.
Allen said that people who use electricity should vote for him, claiming Kaine supports EPA policies that essentially make using coal for electricity not practical for businesses.
Kaine said he believes in the science he's seen, showing human activity's impact on climate. Kaine aid he supported a measure to control carbon, and finding strategies to limit carbon's impact.
Allen attacked Kaine's use of a hybrid energy plant in Wise County in commercials, saying under current EPA regulations that plant couldn't be built today, due to its coal use. Kaine countered that as long as new energy can be about "cleaner," that it would be good for Virginia and the country.
Kaine also recommended cutting subsidies to "big oil companies."
SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE
On two of the biggest growing parts of the federal budget, both men called for reforms.
Kaine noted both Medicare and Social Security are critically important. He said the Medicare budget is growing partially for the good reason that people are living longer. However, Kaine added that the government needs to get costs under control. Kaine proposed allowing the government to negotiate rates for prescription drug prices. He argues this will save about $250 billion over ten years. Kaine argued that Congress failed to include that provision while Allen was in the Senate for Medicare Part D.
Kaine also promoted examining pilot projects for healthy outcomes, instead of just medical procedures.
Allen on Medicare, said Part D has helped seniors pay for their medications. On Social Security, Allen suggested a gradual age adjustment for people younger than 50, meaning a longer wait before being able to receive benefits. Allen also wants an income level component, which would limit how much wealthier people receive.
Both men clashed on the impact of Health Care Reform on Medicare. Allen claims the $700 billion that "Obamacare" takes out would hurt seniors. Kaine countered that money would be moved to programs that help seniors live healthier and prevent some medical procedures, instead of going to drug companies and to pay for some surgeries that could be avoided with preventative care.
In the part of the debate where the candidates got the chance to ask the other a question, Kaine asked Allen if he would finally agree that privatizing Social Security was a bad idea. Allen stated that in addition to his age and income adjustment proposals, he would be looking for new options for people to provide for themselves in their retirement years. Kaine countered that he believes Allen still agrees with supporting the privatization of Social Security. Kaine said he would fight against that proposal.
PARTY SUPPORT BIAS
Both men promoted their bipartisan pasts, when asked about siding with their parties.
Kaine said he did not think it was anti-Virginian to support the President. Allen believes Kaine demonized Republicans during his last year in office, while head of the Democratic National Committee (which President Obama chose him for). Kaine countered that Allen didn't tell of his role as head of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee while he was in office.
Allen said that he'd be a Senator for Virginia, and noted some bipartisan votes in his past. Kaine called Allen's term as Senator one of fiscal irresponsibility, and noted that by the time he left office that national debt approached $16,000 a second. Allen countered that Washington's current budget problems are part of policies that Kaine supported, and referenced current deficit spending at $47,000 per second.
On foreign policy, Kaine noted that U.S. military and Virginia National Guard forces don't have to deploy as often for the war on terror, thanks to past successes against Al-Qaeda and other terror linked groups. Kaine then attacked the House budget proposal which cut money for embassy security, and linked it to Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee.
Allen noted that the attacked on U.S. embassies last month are examples of why sequestration is dangerous. Allen also singled out U.S. foreign aid for Egypt, saying he did not think a dollar should be sent there until the country's leaders prove they're going to support the ongoing effort against terror.
Overall, both men agreed they have two clear, different plans for voters to decide between.