Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg and state Sen. Deb Fischer answered questions Tuesday night during a debate with all calling for reducing federal spending and the national deficit and repealing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.
On the health care mandate Stenberg said, "Whatever problems we need to address in the health care field, about the worst way to go about addressing those is a nationalized health care. I think we need to recognize that we have a medicaid program that provides medical care for the uninsured people of low income. And what I would do to basically expand that program would be to block grant it to the states and get rid of all the federal regulations, so that the states could spend that money providing health care for those people that need it in any way that they choose, whether it be vouchers so that low income people can purchase insurance or running the program the way that it is."
When asked if there are people out there who are working and cannot find insurance Stenberg responded, "When phrased that way, you could probably go out and find a few, but there's also a lot of people out there, a lot of young people who could afford insurance, if they made it a priority, but they choose other priorities."
On the same issue Bruning said, "One of the problems with Obamacare is that it's going to take a number of those 'working poor' and instead of going along with an employer sponsored health plan, they're going to move to a government sponsored plan. It's going to exacerbate Medicaid costs... Obamacare is just plain a bad idea. There's a reason I'm leading a lawsuit, it's bad policy, it's unconstitutional, which is a whole 'nother discussion. We absolutely need to take care of the least among us, I think all of us agree, Nebraska is a very charitable place, we care about the least among us, the problem with this latest government intervention. It's going to increase the number of people who move to the government plan."
When Bruning was asked if he had a plan to help the least among us he responded, "I tell you what I'd do, tort reform is very important, you have a number of doctors using defensive medicine, where they're ordering up tests because they're afraid to be sued, that sucks a lot of money out of the health care system, that doesn't need to be used."
Fischer said of the health care mandate, "I also support tort reform and carrying insurance across state lines, I think they need to make it easier for health care associations to form, but we also need to look at how we're having this discussion, the discussion should be on accessible and affordable health care, I think we need to look outside the box."
She added, "I think we need to look at how we finance health care, how it's delivered and what the outcomes are, and right now we're looking at fee-based system. That is paying a doctor to require an MRI or to have surgery on someone for someone who comes in with back problems."
Fischer said, "We need a government that would reimburse doctors for having a consultation, that's cheaper, but it's also value based, and we'd have better outcomes."
When asked about the least among us, Fischer said, "I believe there are people who want insurance and can't afford insurance and developing high risk pools, but I"m also very leery of having everything taken care of by the government."
On topic of illegal immigration Bruning said, "I don't think it's cruel to require people to immigrate to this country under the law. I support legal immigration. I'm against illegal immigration and I'm against amnesty."
He added, "The reality is the federal government has not done it's job, when it comes to illegal immigration."
On illegal immigration Fischer said, "First of all, I believe illegal immigration is a threat to our national security, we need to know whose coming into this country and what they're bringing into this country, the world changed after 9/11. We need to secure our borders, I don't support a path to citizenship to those who entered our country illegally, they broke the law, they should not become citizens."
She added, "We need to always consider, when we offer what are termed incentives in this country for illegal immigrants, that it can draw people into this country, it can draw them into our state."
On the same issue Stenberg said, "I'm opposed to amnesty, we do first and foremost need to secure our borders, not only because it's an immigration issue, it's an issue of illegal drug trade, it's an issue of national security. To fight the problem of illegal immigration that's already here, we need to remove the incentives that people have to illegally immigration here, and you do that by making it difficult to obtain a job, by requiring the e-verify system, and you don't provide taxpayer funded welfare benefits that enables them to stay in that country, I'm all in favor of legal immigration."
On the issue of social security Fischer said, "We need to honor our commitments to our seniors, people have made plans on those and we should honor the commitments to those approaching the retiring age. We need to have a discussion about people who are 40 and under and changing the system, so younger people can make plans for their retirement."
Stenberg said he would be opposed to changing social security for people 55 and older, right now.
"When it comes to younger people, we need to recognize that people are living longer and we need to raise the social security age," Stenberg said. He says, he supports a program which would allow young people to divert some of their social security taxes into a private 401k or Roth IRA program, in exchange for reduced benefits from the social security program.
While Bruning said we have to preserve social security because the government made a promise to our senior citizens, they've been paying in and they should be able to take out. It shouldn't change for people who are using it right now and those 55 and older. For people who are 40 and younger, we know people are living longer and we need to preserve the program for the next generation. He said younger workers will need to wait to retire, not at 65 like our parents had. He talked about a proposal out there that for every year that goes by, the retirement age would rise a month for younger people.
Of all the questions asked from Afghanistan, the Farm Bill, and Isreal, only one question allowed for some of the "controversy" to come up.
All three were asked about their opponents weaknesses that could be exposed by the Democratic Party in the general election.
Stenberg said of Bruning, "I think there are conflicts of interest that are going on in the attorney general's Office. Right now, he's investigating possible illegal conduct by members and officials of the State Banking Department and yet those same officials regulate the banks that he owns, to me that's a clear conflict of interest."
He also said in reference to Bruning, "He's become wealthy while serving as our attorney general. In my lifetime, no other public official has become wealthy while serving in public office."
Bruning responded, "I think this is typical in Don Stenberg campaigns. There's a reason that Don has lost three times, I mean Nebraska had the chance to pass judgment on Don Stenberg three times, and this is why this kind of mud throwing doesn't work, I'm not going to throw mud at my opponents. I'll tell you what I'm going to do, I'm going to reduce the size and scope of government."
Stenberg also said, "Senator Fischer, I don't know what they would exploit so much, they would probably pick up on she hasn't been through a major campaign, and hope that they can somehow try to trip her up."
Fischer responded, "I think that it's a plus that I haven't been running for statewide office forever, I think that's a plus, and as for being tripped up, if you look at my legislative record and the transcripts from the debates, you will know that I can hold my own in the US Senate."
While Stenberg answered the question asked, Bruning and Fischer deflected their answers to Bob Kerrey.
Bruning said, "When you look at Bob Kerrey and you look at me, you realize Bob Kerrey supports Obamacare, he says it doesn't go far enough, I'm leading the lawsuit to overturn Obamacare in the Supreme Court."
Fischer added, "I believe my record against Bob Kerrey will offer a stark contrast. My record against Mr. Kerrey, he has voted for tax increases, I support tax relief. Mr. Kerrey supports Cap and Trade, I oppose Cap and Trade."
Whoever emerges from the GOP field is expected to face in the general election Democrat Bob Kerrey, who held the seat for two terms before Nelson.
Not participating in the debate was GOP candidate Pat Flynn, who was not invited.