CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Candidates for the Iowa’s 1st Congressional District seat pulled few punches in a Wednesday debate on Iowa Public Radio.
Ben Lange, the Republican challenger, went after Congressman Bruce Braley from the get-go, calling Braley “part of the problem,” adding his policies are “a reason why Iowans are frustrated” with Congress.
“You went into Washington saying the national debt was your highest priority and yet you nearly doubled it under your watch,” Lange said in his opener.
He went on to say Braley campaigned to end ties between members of Congress and lobbyists, yet accepted lobbyist contributions.
He added Braley promised an open discussion on health care, then voted for the Affordable Care Act that few understood and Republicans hated.
The two candidates traded barbs over the federal stimulus, national debt and the economy in the first segment of the program.
Each candidate questioned the other’s honesty during a spirited one-hour debate.
When asked about tax policy, Lange spoke of a simpler tax structure. He also said he would remain open to tax increases if they were guaranteed to go towards debt reduction.
Braley responded saying Lange’s tax plan would hurt the middle class.
“He has proposed changing our tax code to a two-tiered tax system that would result in an increase in taxes on the middle class and tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. You don’t have to take my word for it, you can take the words of the Tax Policy Council,” Braley said, pointing to the group’s study that analyzed the Paul Ryan budget plan.
Braley said the two Republicans have similar plans.
Lange said the problem with Braley is he hasn’t set forth his own solutions.
“We keep open all of the discussion, but the point is somebody has to have a plan. President Obama has a plan. Mitt Romney has a plan. Paul Ryan has a plan. Ben Lange has a plan. Congressman Braley has been in office six years and he still doesn’t have a plan,” Lange said.
Both candidates were asked if another stimulus plan could help more Americans get back to work.
“I don’t think there’s support out there for another $1 trillion stimulus plan,” Lange said, noting unemployment hasn’t gone down like was promised under the last federal stimulus.
“Those are dollars not that any of us have here, those are dollars that my children are paying for and that’s what politicians in Washington don’t understand,” he added.
Braley countered that the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling and stifling the economy. A stimulus would be target road and bridge projects.
“It keeps that money here in the United States. We have a lot of talented people that could be working on those infrastructure projects,” Braley said.
Lange has presented a plan for Medicare that would maintain the current system for today’s beneficiaries, but give future seniors the option to get health care from private insurers vetted through state governments.
He criticized Braley for the $716 billion cut in Medicare under the Affordable Care Act.
“You can spin it. You can cut it, you can put any kind of political spin that my opponent wants to put on it. When you take money away from it you are restricting access for senior citizens to their health care benefits,” Lange said.
Braley took offense to the Medicare cut line of attack.
“First of all lets talk about the lie that $716 billion has been cut from Medicare benefits. It’s a lie because what we did was improve the solvency of Medicare by eight years,” Braley said.
He said most of that figure was cut by reducing payments to private insurers that were not as efficient and saving money in the drug program.
Braley and Lange have a second debate scheduled for Nov. 1 in Dubuque.