Nebraska U.S. Senate hopefuls Kerrey and Fischer square-off in second debate
- Fischer and Kerrey spent their second U.S. Senate debate on issues including health care, social security, abortion, the military and changing politics in Washington D.C.
Story and photos by Jake Sorensen and Michael Sholes, NewsNetNebraska
Republican Deb Fischer and Democrat Bob Kerrey met Friday for a second debate in the race for Nebraska’s second seat in the U.S. Senate. The candidates spent a large part of their hour-long debate fielding questions about the economy.
The Omaha Community Playhouse hosted the candidates who spoke before a full house and TV audience. KETV and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce sponsored the debate.
Kerrey, a former U.S. Senator and Nebraska Governor, repeatedly attacked Fischer’s support for a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
“Senator Fischer I’ve looked at your plan…your balanced budget amendment would at least double unemployment in Nebraska,” he said.
Fischer, a Nebraska State Senator from Valentine, said a balanced budget amendment has led to a strong economy in Nebraska, and would work at the federal level as well. “Anytime that you don’t have controls on Congress on spending on politicians, they will spend every dime they can get their hands on,” she said.
(Click here for audience reaction to the debate.)
The candidates stands on the Affordable Care Act, referred to by some as Obamacare, was also a debate issue. Fischer supports repealing the act if elected, saying health care reform is necessary, but there’s a better way to go about it. “Health care right isn’t’ really affordable for anyone, and we need to find efficient ways to help lower the cost of it,” she said.
KETV anchor Rod McCartney served as moderator for the debate. It can be watched in it's entirety on KETV's website.Fischer said she was concerned about how Obamacare would affect hospitals in rural Nebraska. “We can’t expand hospitals in these towns because they honestly don’t know what’s coming down the road with health care,” she said.Kerrey countered by saying he doesn’t support all aspects of the ACA, such as the employer mandate, but there are “many good things already there.” He said by 2014, 120,000 Nebraskans that otherwise couldn’t afford health insurance will be able to as a result of the ACA. “I think you’ll have trouble eight or nine years from now finding someone who opposes this act,” he said.Fischer said she opposes the way the ACA will be funded. “We don’t need to steal over $700 billion from Medicare to cover expenses,” she said. Iran's nuclear capabilitiesOn the issue of global security, both candidates agreed on the importance of keeping Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. Fischer said that allowing nuclear weapons in Iran is ‘absolutely unacceptable.’ “In three years, they (Iran) will have ICBM’s (intercontinental ballistic missiles) that can reach the United States,” she said. “This is a concern for the world and a concern for our country.”Kerrey, a former Navy Seal who saw combat in Vietnam, urged caution when dealing with situations such as the one the U.S. faces with Iran. It can be easy to get caught up in patriotism, he said, and forget about the costs of war. “I was actually concerned when I see that two-thirds of Nebraskans want out of Afghanistan and two-thirds want to go to war with Iran.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Nelson attended the debate. Kerrey and Fischer are vying for Nelson's U.S. Senate seat.
The mood was light at times as well. At one point, a panelist asked Kerrey a question while looking directly at Fischer. “You are charming,” Kerrey said of Fischer. “What are you doing tonight?”
KETV News anchor Rob McCartney moderated the event. Questions came from a panel made of NET’s Mike Tobias, the Omaha World-Herald’s Robynn Tysver and Todd Andrews of KETV.
The next debate is set for Monday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in Lincoln and will be hosted by NET.