Kuster and Lawrence trade fire over issues in the NH1 News 2nd District debate
CONCORD – U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence disagreed Tuesday night over numerous issues as the two-term Democratic congresswoman and her Republican challenger met in an NH1 News debate.
Both candidates also defended their support of their party’s presidential nominee during the first televised showdown in the race in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District.
Lawrence once again called “horrible” the extremely lewd comments from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump directed towards women in a 2005 recording. But he said he agreed with Trump on important issues.
"Mr. Trump’s platform in those key areas, moving the country forward, doing something about our exploding federal debt and foreign policy are more in line with my platform," Lawrence added. "That’s why I am supporting Mr. Trump."
As for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, Kuster said “I think she made a mistake on the emails and have said that right off the bat and I accept her apology.”
But Kuster took aim at Trump, saying “I just don’t think he has the temperament, he doesn’t have the experience. And I think it frightens many Americans.”
Clash over Obamacare and Social Security
The debate was held one day after the White House confirmed there will be a dramatic rise in premiums next year for those people securing their health insurance from the exchanges created by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Lawrence touted his opposition to the law, adding "I said then and I believe now it was going to increase our costs for health care and it is going to limit our options.”
But he added that "we can’t turn back the clock unfortunately. Now we have to deal with the situation at hand."
Lawrence highlighted that “my plan would be to repeal portions of this law that have damaged our health care system while protecting the portions of the law that allow people to have health care.”
Kuster pointed out that the premium increases for those on the federal exchange in New Hampshire was only 2%, far below the 25% national average.
"The good news is subsidies will make up most of the differences that individuals have had to make up," she added.
Kuster said “I continue to support the Affordable Care Act but have vote for a series of fixes. I agree with my opponent on the Cadillac Tax and I’ve also voted for fix the Family Glitch and to help small businesses keep health insurance for families.”
The two candidates also clashed on how to prevent Social Security from becoming insolvent in 2034.
“I do say that you do need to leave all options on because Congress has not been affective in solving this problem,” Lawrence said.
Kuster disagreed, saying “I do not believe we should raise the age. Congress already took steps to raise the age from 65 coming on 67 and I think that anyone who has worked hard on their feet, teachers, blue collar workers, knows that they’re ready to retire by then. I also don’t think we need means testing. And so we have a big distinction here. What I do think we can do and it will fix Social Security and increase the solvency and indefinitely is to increase the cap on payroll taxes.”
Background checks, Veterans, and Syrian refugees
Kuster supported strengthening background checks for gun purchases, saying “we have a background check system and it works well but it’s not sufficient for the on-line sales. I think it’s 30% of guns now that are sold on line and we should extend that background check system to make sure we keep our families safe in the community.”
Lawrence disagree and instead urged giving law enforcement the “tools they need to enforce the books that are on the law” to help keep Americans safe from gun violence.
The Republican nominee, who’s a graduate of the Air Force Academy, was critical of the work Congress has done the past couple of years to help fix the numerous problems at the Veterans Administration.
“We promised the veterans when we had issues with them getting access to their health care a choice card two years ago Unfortunately it’s still not working. My first priority if I’m elected to Congress is to fix that program so that veterans can get that health care that we promised them and they deserve,” Lawrence declared. “We’ve been kicking this can down the road far too long. It’s time for Congress to roll up its sleeves and actually do something and not just pay lip service to the veteran community.”
“The Veterans Choice program is brand new so nobody’s been kicking the can down the road,” she replied. “I think we can make it work and I think it’s a top priority and it’s why I choose to serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee and introduced legislation to fix the problem.”
The clash continued when it came to allowing more refugees from the Syrian civil war into the U.S., which has also been a divisive issue in the race for the White House.
“Right now there are no guarantees that the vetting process that’s in place will guarantee the safety of Americans. Therefore I wouldn’t advocate bringing in anymore refugees from anywhere until we can guarantee that we are bringing people over here that are not going to pose a security risk to the American people,” Lawrence stated.
Kuster shot back that “I did vote to increase the vetting process to make sure that we do know that people who come do not pose a risk. But I think we can balance our security and our compassion.”
The congresswoman proposed allowing in “a limited number with appropriate vetting I think we can be compassionate.”
The two candidates also disagreed on the proposed commuter rail line from Boston up to Manchester and on raising the federal minimum wage. They both were in synch in their opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal.
But they disagreed on climate change.
“I don’t think that anybody’s going to debate that climate change is occurring. What the scientific community is debating rapidly is how much man has contributed to that,” Lawrence contested.
“Kuster responded that the issue was “another point of difference. I absolutely believe that our climate is changing and I absolutely believe that it is caused by man as do 97% of the scientists.”