6th District candidates disagree on bailout, Iraq


The first 6th District debate was supposed to be Monday night in Monticello, but Congresswoman Michele Bachmann couldn't get back to the state in time.

Bachmann was delayed in Washington, DC, where earlier in the day she helped defeat the $700 billion bailout package in the House.

The first-term Republican is heading back to Washington to take action on a revised plan, but she told the standing room crowd at Stillwater City Hall that she'll vote against the bill again.

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"This bailout that the Senate is voting on this evening is essentially the same bailout that the House rejected on Monday. It just has different wrapping paper on it," Bachmann said.

Bachmann said she believes there are other ways out of the nation's financial crisis that would not burden taxpayers with huge debts. She favors lowering corporate tax rates and easing accounting rules and other government regulations.

Bachmann's DFL challenger, Elwyn Tinklenberg, said he, too, would have voted against the first bailout bill. But he criticized congressional leaders for taking that vote when they weren't certain of its passage.

"What the economy, what the financial markets needed most of all on Monday was a sense of confidence. The rebuilding of confidence, the belief that somebody was in charge and somebody was leading and somebody was moving this forward to find a solution. And instead what they got was uncertainty and chaos. The 'no' vote, you saw what the outcome was," Tinklenberg said.

Tinklenberg later clarified that he would support the revised bailout plan on Friday.

Independence Party candidate Bob Anderson said he will not support any bailout bill. Anderson said he would like to see some billionaires trying to solve the financial crisis rather than the government.

"I'd rather see the free market get involved in this. If this is such a good investment for us taxpayers, I'd think there's be some private people stepping up to the plate," Anderson said.

During the 90-minute forum, the candidates also talked about the nation's growing debt, energy independence, transportation funding and budget earmarks.

But the sharpest differences between the frontrunners came on the subject of Iraq.

Bachmann, who has staunchly supported Bush administration policy in Iraq, recounted her two trips there last year and the changes she observed.

"Al Qaeda has essentially been vanquished in Iraq. There remain everyday outbreaks and bombings that occur. But as an organized force, our troops have taken them down," Bachmann said.

Bachmann said she wants the Iraqi government to begin paying its share of the cost of the military operation. But she did not mention a timetable for withdrawing troops.

Tinklenberg supports a timetable but also did not offer specifics. He said the military focus should now be in Afghanistan.

"That's where we should have been fighting from the beginning. That's where al Qaeda was. That's where bin Laden was. That's where we should have been focusing our effort. And it's unfortunate that we discovered too late that al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq."

Bachmann and Tinklenberg are scheduled to square off again in St. Cloud on October 16. There also will be a live radio debate on MPR's Midday program Oct. 29.

Bob Anderson said he was not invited to either of the remaining debates.