Kentucky Senate candidates Jack Conway and Rand Paul faced off in a debate on this week's edition of "Fox News Sunday," with host Chris Wallace challenging them to explain inconsistencies, vague statements and flip-flopping.
One of the sharpest exchanges came on the issue of spending. Both men support extending all of President Bush's tax cuts. Republicans have accused Conway of changing his position, first saying that he would extend the "majority" of the Bush tax cuts and later saying he would extend all of them.
"I was talking about the special interest provisions that allow companies to ship our jobs overseas," Conway told Wallace on Sunday. He added that the country shouldn't be "raising taxes in a time of recession" and noted that he was one of the few Democrats to support the Bush tax cuts in 2002.
Wallce challenged Paul to reconcile the fact that extending the Bush tax cuts would add approximately $4 trillion to the national deficit. "If you're so concerned about the national debt, how are you going to pay for a $4-trillion loss of revenue from the tax cuts?" Paul argued that it wouldn't actually be costing the government anything:
PAUL: I think first of all, you look at whose money it is. It's the people's money, who earn the money, and we give up some to pay taxes. So I'm not seeing that as a cost to government. But I will immediately introduce bills to reduce spending. I think we should offset it. So I'm not opposed to introducing bills to reduce spending.
WALLACE: There's no way you're going to get $4 trillion by spending cuts.
PAUL: We're going to introduce legislation that will reduce spending. I'm going to introduce legislation that will balance the budget. We will have a balanced budget amendment introduced if I'm elected. We will also have a balanced budget that will be introduced if I'm elected.
Wallace then pushed the two men to name specific measures they would take to reduce the spending in entitlement programs. "Tell me of a single benefit you would reduce, any eligibility you would change, any tax you would increase on either Social Security or Medicare to deal with the entitlement crisis," he said.
Conway said that the country needs to have Medicare bulk purchasing, meaning the program would be allowed to use its large size to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. "I think it was wrong during this health care debate to take PhRMA out of it," he said. "We ought to let Medicare negotiate for lower prices, the way we let Medicaid and the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] do it. That would save about $200 billion." When Wallace pointed out that President Obama and Democrats in Congress tried to arrange this but were blocked by the drug companies, Conway said it would still be the first bill he introduces if he is elected. He also called for Medicare fraud units in every state, an end to offshore tax loopholes, a pay-as-you-go system and a bipartisan debt commission.
Paul said he wouldn't change Medicare or Social Security at all for anyone who is currently receiving benefits from the programs. When Wallace asked whether he would support raising the retirement age, Paul replied, "There may have to be for younger people, yes." He also said there would also likely be higher deductibles and premiums for younger workers.
On health care, Paul reiterated his belief that health care reform should be repealed. Wallace pointed out that more than 600,000 people in Kentucky are now uninsured. "How are they going to get coverage under your plan?" Wallace asked Paul. The Republican from Kentucky claimed that one of the problems with the Affordable Care Act is that it covers undocumented immigrants. "No, no, that's not true, sir," said Wallace. Paul then jumped in and replied, "I know, but it's illegal to ask them if they're illegal. So the thing is, it's sort of a catch-22."
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