SPRINGFIELD, Mass.—Making the clearest distinction yet between two divergent political visions, U.S. Senator Scott Brown and Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren disagreed about the federal deficit, rising healthcare costs, and education policy Wednesday night in the third debate in the Massachusetts race for U.S. Senate.
The hour-long debate at Springfield’s Symphony Hall hinged on the candidates’ ideological differences over job creation and the federal government’s role in it.
Both candidates’ views fell along party lines. Brown, the incumbent Republican, said the only way to promote a healthy economy is to rein in federal spending and keep tax rates low. Warren, the Democratic nominee, described a responsible federal partner that invests in infrastructure and education to promote job growth.
“The one thing we can’t be doing right now in the middle of this three-and-a-half-year recession is taking more money out of people’s hardworking pocketbooks,” Brown said, later referring to the federal government as “pigs in a trough that will just take and take and take.”
Specifically, Brown called for a balanced budget amendment and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He pointed to his work on healthcare reform and financial reform while in the Massachusetts legislature, pledging to find a better way to govern than tax hikes.
“The first thing every single time is ‘Let’s raise taxes,’” Brown said. “I am not going to be putting our businesses’ and individual’s lives and jobs in jeopardy.”
Warren argued for a “serious” approach to the deficit that would lay the foundation for a responsible federal government that can assist with local issues like education and health care. Unlike Brown, she said she would uphold the Affordable Care Act and promote increased federal spending on infrastructure.
“I am willing to make cuts. I am willing to make substantial cuts,” Warren said. “But I believe we are going to have to raise revenues. That is what is going to take to get serious about our budget deficit.”
Everyone, she said, needs to pay their fair share when it comes to taxes. She favors raising taxes on the nation’s highest earners. Asked about what she would cut from the federal budget, Warren said she would slash farm subsidies and defense spending, using savings to invest in education, infrastructure, and research.
“We need to take this opportunity to think about the military we need going forth in the 21st century,” Warren said.
A colonel in the National Guard, Brown said he would not consider cutting military budgets and would pursue an aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East. He argued the federal government needs to let states solve issues like healthcare reform and education policy as they see fit.
Notably absent from the debate was any substantial discussion of Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry or her record as a corporate counsel, topics that dominated the first two meetings between the candidates.
The debate was not without personal attacks, however. Brown called Warren a part of an “army of lawyers” corrupting Washington. For her part, Warren tried to tie Brown, a self-described independent, to the Republican Party. She pointed out Brown’s votes against three jobs bills, a bill to end oil subsidies, and unemployment extensions, as well as votes he cast against various bills dealing with women’s issues, all as evidence that he is more loyal to his party than the people of Massachusetts.
“You can cherry-pick votes and try to distort things, but the bottom line is I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Brown retorted, adding later, “I’m one of those vanishing breed of senators in the middle working together trying to get things done.”
With only 27 days before the election, Brown and Warren remain close in statewide polls. They will have more than two weeks of campaigning before debating one final time in Boston on Oct. 30, just one week before Election Day.
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.