Fact check: Pawlenty and Bachmann's debate claims

GOP debate
Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, listens to Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., center, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty during the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011.
Charlie Neibergall/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, both of Minnesota, clashed frequently during a Republican debate Thursday. They spent a large part of the two-hour debate criticizing each other. Here's an assessment of the accuracy of their statements.


Pawlenty, who was governor from 2003 until January 2011, said he has a record to point to and Bachmann doesn't.

"It's an undisputable [sic] fact that in Congress, her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent," Pawlenty said of Bachmann. "That's not going to be good enough for our candidate for president of the United States."

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In fact, Bachmann has few accomplishments to point to during her time in office. Just seven of the bills she authored were signed into law during her six years in the Minnesota Senate -- and some of those bills were ceremonial measures like renaming a highway.

None of the bills Bachmann has authored since she won election to Congress in 2007 has passed. The House did pass three non-binding resolutions she sponsored, and two amendments to larger bills. But those bills were defeated in the Senate. It should be noted that Bachmann spent all but one of her 10 years in elected office in the political minority.


Bachmann criticized Pawlenty during the debate, for supporting policies many Republicans oppose.

"When you were governor in Minnesota you implemented 'cap and trade' in our state, and you praised the unconstitutional individual mandate, and you called for requiring all people in our state to purchase health insurance the government would mandate," she said. "Third, you said the era of small government was over. That sounds more like Barack Obama to me."

Pawlenty and his supporters argue that Minnesota does not have a cap and trade law that would require a cut in greenhouse gas emissions. But Bachmann is correct that he did take steps to enact it.

In 2007, Pawlenty signed a bill into law that would require a task force to "recommend how the state could adopt" a cap-and-trade system. In 2006, Pawlenty told reporters that reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be a priority.

"The country needs to hear this wakeup call and move boldly and aggressively in this direction," Pawlenty said in 2006. "What people think now will be very different than what people think 10 or 15 or 20 years from now. And whatever political stripe you are, you'll look back on these types of initiatives and say, 'Thank goodness we did that.'"

Pawlenty has said his support for cap and trade was a mistake, and said recently that climate change stems from "natural causes." He also contends he rejected an individual health insurance mandate when it was presented to him as governor, and said his comments on the era of small government were in reference to a New York Times story, not a claim he was making.


During the debate, the two also sparred over a 75-cent-a-pack fee on cigarettes Minnesota enacted in 2005 to help balance the state budget. Pawlenty said more recently he viewed the measure as a "mistake."

"I did agree to the cigarette fee," he said Thursday night. "I regretted that."

But that's a far cry from how he characterized it when he introduced it in 2005.

"I believe this is a user fee," Pawlenty said then. "Some people are going to say it's a tax. I'm going to say it's a compromise, and a solution to move Minnesota forward,"

When Bachmann criticized Pawlenty for pushing the fee, Pawlenty countered that she voted for it in 2005. But the record shows that Bachmann tried to defeat the measure by proposing an amendment to remove the fee.

"I do respect the governor and I do respect the governor's position," Bachmann said when debating her proposal on the Senate floor in 2005. "That does not mean that I yield my right as a legislator to be able to call this what it is. This is a tax. This isn't a fee."

Bachmann's amendment failed.


Finally, during Thursday's debate, Bachmann said she was vindicated for opposing plans to raise the federal debt ceiling.

"I think we just heard from Standard & Poor's. When they dropped our credit rating, what they said is, 'we don't have an ability to repay our debt.' That's what the final word was from them," Bachmann said. "I was proved right in my position: We should not have raised the debt ceiling. And instead, we should have cut government spending, which was not done."

But an official with Standard and Poor's told Politico on Thursday that a big reason the firm downgraded American debt is because some lawmakers were even discussing the possibility of default -- which would have happened if Congress hand not raised the debt ceiling last week.