With three weeks to go until Election Day, Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack and former DFL Rep. Rick Nolan debated Tuesday over the best ways to create jobs and provide health care.
Before an overflow crowd at Anoka Ramsey Community College in Cambridge, Cravaack and Nolan debated for a third time. With questioning from Gary Eichten, the two made their way through numerous issues during an hour-long discussion.
Asked whether the stimulus bill worked, Nolan said it could have been better, but that it did.
"It did in fact create good jobs in a whole wide range of areas, not the least of which is in the field of transportation," Nolan said.
Nolan also spoke about the tax cuts in the bill and the billions in aid to state and local governments.
Cravaack said the bill was not worth what it added to the national debt, which he repeatedly said could leave future U.S. generations "indentured servants" to countries such as China.
"By every economist that I have read [it] did not help the economy," Cravaack said. "All we did was add more to our debt."
Moments later Cravaack said the stimulus had a "very small impact" on the economy. Economists disagree on the impact of the stimulus, but a Congressional Budget Office study found that between 1.3 million and 3.6 million jobs were saved or created by it.
Cravaack repeatedly sounded alarms about the national debt. Nolan noted the debt grew much faster under Republican icon Ronald Reagan than it has under the Obama administration. And Nolan repeatedly called for reduced military spending and ending what he calls "wars of choice."
On the Affordable Care Act, Cravaack said he would repeal what's become known as "Obamacare."
"The reason why? Let's just start off at the 30,000 foot level: Nobody read it," Cravaack said. "It did not go through the normal committee process."
"No, I definitely would not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It ensures that another 30 million people in this country would have health insurance; it provides that nobody can be denied as a result of preconditions; it provides that parents can keep their children insured up to the age of 26," Nolan said.
As they have throughout the campaign, Nolan and Cravaack sparred on Medicare. Nolan accused Cravaack of favoring a plan to turn the program over to the private insurance industry. Cravaack accused Nolan of having no plan to address its future insolvency.
Asked whether environmentalists were hurting economic development, Nolan said not at all. Cravaack criticized Nolan for opposing logging, snowmobiling and motor-boating when he voted to create the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildness in the late 1970s.
"Congressman Nolan sided essentially with the Twin City environmentalists and was actually in opposition of pro-growth, pro-economic reforms that we needed in the Northland to create jobs," Cravaack said.
Nolan said he remains proud of his BWCA vote which he suggested has created plenty of 8th District tourism jobs.
"It's one of the 10 best destination-oriented vacations in the entire world," Nolan said. "People fly in from all over America, all over the world to take advantage of that great experience."
On another important northeastern Minnesota issue, mining, Cravaack criticized Nolan for his proposal to spend taxpayer money to open a mining institute. Cravaack noted that Nolan's DFL primary challenger, Jeff Anderson, didn't like the idea either.
"A person that's on your staff, Jeff Anderson, said that some of the proposals that you have made, making the mining institute, for example, at the cost of the taxpayer, $250 million a year that keeps mining under a continual microscope instead of moving forward and progressing," Cravaack said. "Jeff said that this is pie in the sky."
Nolan pointed out that Anderson is supporting him in the election, not Cravaack. He also said University of Minnesota Research was behind the taconite industry that has been so important to the state's economy.
"This is the kind of basic research that enables business to go forward in a way that accesses and takes advantage of the opportunity and protects the environment," Nolan said.
The mining issue is expected to dominate the fourth and final Cravaack-Nolan debate. It will take place in the Iron Range city of Virginia, on Halloween, just days before voters will decide who they want representing them in Congress.