The Gazette: Blum, Finkenauer find little agreement in final debate

“CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa 1st District candidates U.S. Rep. Rod Blum and challenger state Rep. Abby Finkenauer had sharp words for each other Tuesday evening in their second — and final — debate before the Nov. 6 election.

For an hour, Democrat Finkenauer and Republican Blum found little on which to agree — but plenty to argue over including economic issues, entitlements, trade, immigration and abortion.

Finkenauer, who has represented a Dubuque district in the Iowa House for four years, repeatedly criticized the two-term congressman for supporting the Trump tax cuts, which she said added $1.9 trillion to the deficit and gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent of the wealthiest.

‘Any type of tax relief package we need to be looking at should be leveling the playing field here, making sure that we’re closing corporate loopholes,’ she said.

The average family of four in the 1st District will save $2,464 a year over the next 10 years as a result of the federal income tax cuts, Blum countered. He said the bottom 50 percent of wage earners pay 3 percent of federal income tax ‘so it’s hard to give (them) tax relief.’

Without identifying any particular congressional action, Finkenauer said it’s necessary to raise wages ‘so if you’re working 40 hours a week you’re not just making a living, but making a life.’

She cited a poll that found people earning less than $90,000 a year were not seeing wage growth.

‘I’m not sure what country you’ve been living in but our economy is absolutely booming, if you haven’t noticed,’ Blum said, ‘and it’s due in large part to those tax cuts.’

Not only is unemployment at a 50-year low, he said, but wages are rising — 5.1 percent in Iowa during the last quarter.

In a rare moment of agreement, Blum said he, too, wants to see wages rise — but then went on to say, ‘You probably want to do that through government dependency. I want to do it through the miracle of the free market.’

Blum is seeking a third term representing the 20-county district that includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Dubuque and Marshalltown. The district has a voter registration breakdown of 28 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat and 39 percent other and is considered by political forecasters to be one of the most likely in the nation to flip to Democratic control.

However, the debate happened on a day that a new poll showed Blum appearing to be more competitive than in previous polls that gave Finkenauer as much as a 15-point advantage.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, an independent super PAC supporting Republicans, announced a $1 million ad campaign. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee restarted its ads after earlier canceling them.

Finkenauer, whose campaign theme is ‘it’s personal,’ made it personal for Blum as she criticized his role in the Republican-controlled Congress that ‘just plays politics and doesn’t get anything done.’

‘We deserve better’ than a congressman ‘who has the gall to talk about the best economy in 63 years’ while passing out supplies at a food bank, she said.

The economy may be doing well for Blum, a millionaire, she said, but he’s forgotten the people of Northeast Iowa working two and three jobs to make ends meet.

‘You sound like your attack ads,’ Blum replied.

They agreed changes are needed in federal health care policy, but not on what changes should be when asked about Medicare and Social Security.

‘This is something we’ve got to fix,’ Finkenauer said about health care. She wants to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act to allow people under 65 to buy into Medicare. That would increase competition and drive down premiums, she said.

‘We’ve got to get serious and stop playing politics,’ she said.

‘Bulletin, this is political. Washington is very political,’ Blum said, adding that repeating lines from her attack ads ‘is not policy. I’ll gladly yield my time to hear your policy.’

Rather than ‘cost-shifting’ by expanding Medicare, Blum said, Congress should ‘unleash the miracle of the free market’ to lower health care costs.

Blum and Finkenauer did agree that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices and that the re-importation of drugs from Canada and Europe should be allowed.

They also found some agreement on immigration. Both favor border security but not necessarily building a wall; giving legal status to Dreamers, the immigrants who gained temporary legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy; and improving E-Verify to help employers comply with the law.

But when the questions from KGAN-TV anchor Nick Weig and KXEL-AM 1450’s Jeff Stein turned to abortion, it was back to disagreeing.

Finkenauer wants to see the 45-year-old Roe v. Wade decision upheld.

‘I stand by Roe,’ she said. ‘It’s a touchy subject’ but the decision to terminate a pregnancy at any time should be made by a woman and her doctor, Finkenauer said.

‘There’s another person involved. Another human being,’ said Blum, adding that in many countries abortions are prohibited after the 24th week of pregnancy.

The debate will be posted in its entirety at www.cbs2iowa.com and also can be heard at 2 p.m. Wednesday on KXEL-AM 1540.”

Author: James Q. Lynch

Full article here.