Republican challenger Ben Lange called 1st District Congressman Bruce Braley “gutless” tonight, and Braley called Lange a liar.
The exchanges — not in response to each other — came during Iowa Public Television’s debate at Dubuque’s Grand Opera House, an often-testy round-table forum between two repeat opponents.
Lange, 33, an attorney from Independence, stood behind one of his TV spots blaming a lack of political courage for Congress’ and Braley’s failure to reduce the federal budget deficit.
“His record has shown, six votes to increase the national debt limit, he doesn’t understand the importance of that national debt,” Lange said.
“What people in Iowa are looking for are mature, hardworking people who have demonstrated an ability to work across the aisle and get things done,” said Braley, 55, an attorney from Waterloo. He cited his work keeping open the post office in Quasqueton, Lange’s boyhood hometown, and postal sorting centers in Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.
A few minutes later, the oft-cited-and-debunked claim that the Affordable Care Act reduces Medicare spending by $716 billion was raised. According to the Congressional Budget Office, ACA reduces Medicare payments — primarily to providers — by $716 billion between 2013 and 2022.
“That claim is accurate,” Lange said. “$716 billion has been taken from Medicare to use as a piggy bank for Obamacare.”
“This is one of those ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ claims,” Braley said. He noted his endorsements by state and national medical and hospital associations.
Early in the hour, Lange backed off from his statement Monday that federal funding for flood protection, including in Cedar Rapids, should wait until federal debt is reduced.
“There’s a role for the federal government to play,” Lange said. “What percentage I think is up to debate. The federal government can’t be the answer to every situation out there.”
“He hasn’t had the experience I had dealing with disasters,” said Braley, noting the 2008 Parkersburg tornado and Cedar River flooding. He called Lange’s comments at a Cedar Rapids Rotary Club meeting “unbelievable.”
“I have said everything that we can do from a federal perspective” for flood protection, Lange said. “But what we are not going to do is ignore the problem of the national debt.”
Braley defeated Lange by 4,209 votes, or 2 percent, in 2010. After redistricting, the new 1st District includes Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, Dubuque and Waterloo.
The debate panel included Gazette political reporter James Lynch, Radio Iowa news director Kay Henderson, and Iowa Public TV moderator Dean Borg.