With eight days to go before Election Day, 2nd District Republican Rep. John Kline and his DFL opponent Mike Obermueller met for their first and only debate Monday on the Daily Circuit on MPR News, moderated by host Kerri Miller.
The pair sparred over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Kline said Republicans will repeal the law after the elections, if they are able to.
When asked how Republicans would replace the law and address issues such as health care affordability, Kline said a GOP plan would try to offer some of the features of the current law, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions. But Kline said Republicans would focus on incremental changes.
"You start by not trying to replace it with another 2,700 page monstrosity that's jammed through that's full of backroom deals, that's what happens when you put together a giant piece of legislation like that," Kline said. "You take it in pieces."
Obermueller said that repeal of the health care overhaul would have dire consequences for many people who are already taking advantage of some of the law's benefits.
"When these folks like John are voting to repeal this law, they're essentially voting to kick kids off their health insurance before they turn 26," he said. "They're voting to make it harder for seniors to pay for prescription drugs."
On the topic of government spending, both Kline and Obermueller agreed that some spending cuts are necessary to rein in the budget deficit. But Kline said spending cuts should by the only way to try to balance the budget.
Obermueller echoed Obama and national Democrats in arguing that some taxes should also rise for the wealthiest earners. Kline said a major source of the deficit is spending on programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
"Social Security has to be addressed," he said.
"In what way does Social Security have to be addressed? Do you approve of raising the benefits age?" Miller asked.
"You've got to do something and so you could do that, which was done in the 1980s, you could slowly start raising the retirement age, that will address the problem," Kline said.
"What do you think of that idea? Is it a good one?" Miller asked.
"Well, I think it's the mostly likely to have bipartisan support," Kline replied.
Obermueller disagreed, saying that those who have worked hard for many years should not have to wait even longer for retirement. He said that Republicans like Kline are responsible for the legislative gridlock on Capitol Hill.
"This Congress, especially the last couple of years, has been more focused on fighting with each other than getting anything done," Obermueller said. "This system is hopelessly broken the way you guys are running things now. I mean, John, you vote 95 or 96 percent of the time with your party. That's more partisan than Michele Bachmann."
Obermueller is a lawyer who served one term in state House.
Kline is running for his sixth term in office. He chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee.
Submit your questions for upcoming debates at The Daily Circuit blog.