Voters were treated to a spirited debate Thursday night between 1st Congressional District Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and his Democratic challenger, Jimmy Farris.
Farris criticized Labrador for signing a pledge offered by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist to never vote for a tax increase. Farris said that pledge prohibits Labrador from supporting bipartisan budget balancing bills like the legislation proposed by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. But Labrador said the plan simply isnt the right one for the country.
Fielding questions from three panelists, including Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey, Labrador said he supports across-the-board budget cuts, including to military spending. He said he doesnt agree with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romneys proposal to increase defense spending and said personnel at the Pentagon could be cut by a third and still function normally.
We need to realize that we have the biggest, most powerful military in the world, and we can do a lot more with less money, Labrador said. You cannot tell me that theres not enough cutting that we can do.
Farris said Labradors claims of bipartisanship are false and said hes on the far right of his party. The two at times were sharply critical of each other, with Labrador pointing to what he called Farris false claims of wanting to work with Republicans.
You keep saying you can work with Republicans. You dont even listen to the Republicans, Labrador said. I had respect for Walt Minnick, he continued, referring to the Democratic congressman he beat in the 2010 election. You dont have any respect.
Farris said he doesnt disrespect Labrador he just deeply disagrees with him.
I respect all people, Farris said. Farris said his lack of political experience is a good thing because what I dont have is experience blowing up the deficit and contributing to gridlock and partisan bickering.
Labrador said he supports overhauling the Medicare and Social Security systems to ensure the funds remain for future generations. He said he supports increasing the retirement age. If nothings done, Medicare will go bankrupt in 10 years and Social Security will disappear in 20, Labrador said.
Farris said he doesnt support raising the retirement age but wants to raise the amount of income thats taxable for Social Security from $110,000. The bipartisan legislation supported by Labrador calls for the taxable income to cap at $190,000.
Labrador said he supports banning abortion unless the pregnancy threatens the mothers life. When pressed, Labrador said he would vote for an anti-abortion bill that includes that exception as well as exceptions for rape and incest, because he estimated about 75 percent of the country supports those exceptions. But he said he doesnt want to include a punitive aspect for women who do seek abortion. I dont want to punish the women, Labrador said. I want to punish the providers.
Farris said he does not support such restrictions on abortion. He said his priorities if elected will be education reform and immigration reform. Labrador said he want to change the tax code to lower the tax rate and reform the regulatory system to make it easier for small businesses to do well.
Meghann M. Cuniff: 377-6418