Congressman Connie Mack IV spent most of his only debate against Senator Bill Nelson Wednesday night pressing the point that Nelson has voted the way President Barack Obama wants him to, rather than in ways that would benefit Floridians.
The debate, held at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, FL, touched on the major national issues Congress has had before it for much of the last several years, with Mack blaming Nelson for voting yes on policies he believes have harmed the country.
“The people of the state of Florida are tired of you saying one thing to them,” Mack said several times in the debate, “and then going back to Washington, D.C. and voting with Barack Obama.”
In his opening statement, Mack laid out the themes he would return to during nearly every one of his debate responses: Nelson’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act; his presence on the Senate Budget Committee, which he claimed hasn’t passed a budget in four years; and voting for the bipartisan debt ceiling bill that resulted in the possible “fiscal cliff” currently driving Washington crazy.
Mack repeatedly returned to what he described as the $716 million in cuts to Medicare that are included in the Affordable Care Act, saying the Nelson had no problem cutting it in order to put in place “government run health care,” rather than fixing the system seniors have paid into for a big part of their lives.
“When you look at the need to have something done with Medicare, it’s gonna run out in three years if you repeal Obamacare,” Nelson said in response to one of Mack’s specific goals. “It’s going, in October of 2015, to run out of money. That was one of the major concerns of fixing medicare and the rest of the health system.”
A similar point was made by Mack concerning Nelson’s vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling, saying that Nelson was in favor of “gutting the military” rather than making necessary cuts to the federal budget.
The bill to raise the debt ceiling, Nelson explained, included a sequestration trigger, which would mandate that $500 billion be cut from the defense budget over the next decade if a bipartisan committee created by the law raising the ceiling could not come up with enough cuts to equal that amount.
When discussing immigration, a topic important to Floridians because of Haiti, Cuba and other Central and South American countries that provide many immigrants, Mack’s position was one of reorganizing the system to make it easier to track people who immigrate legally.
Nelson, who is a sponsor on the DREAM Act, outlined a position similar to Mack’s, though each used different terms.
The candidates also hold a similar position on not lifting the Cuba embargo, though Nelson said he supports allowing family members to make visits and send money home to their relatives that they have earned in the United States.
“We’ve just seen recently what happens when you have a weak foreign policy,” Mack said in response to a question about the greatest current foreign threat to the United States.
“This administration has turned its back on our allies and bowed to our enemies. I will stand up for America, America’s values, and Americans here and anywhere around the world.”
With the exception of the immigration and foreign policy questions, both candidates repeatedly turned their answers into attacks on the other, with Nelson focused on what he called Mack’s distortion of his record.
Mack, however, stayed on message regarding government waste, the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act and budgeting issues, calling Nelson out directly for handing Obama his vote when asked. The challenger, however, suggested that a senator who keeps Floridian’s interests in mind, while, interestingly, also hoping to stand by his own friendly president, was better for the state.
“The liberals in Washington turn to government to solve our problems that they created in the first place,” Mack said. “You’ve seen tonight why we need a change in Washington. I believe we need to renew the American spirit, Mitt Romney needs someone he can count on, and we need another Republican senator from Florida.”
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