Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Debate-O-Rama in Tossup Senate Races

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley were sparring over energy policy, ironically, when a hailstorm cut power to the debate studio.

“Senator Heller’s comments about Nevada’s Latino community were disrespectful, demeaning, and offensive. Between his insulting comments and his long, well documented anti-Latino record, it’s clear that Heller is grossly out of touch with the Nevadans he is supposed to represent,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter said in a statement.

However, Nevada-based reporters and political observers were quick to point to examples of Berkley using similar language in the past.

Earlier in the evening, Murphy and McMahon appeared at the University of Connecticut for a debate in the race to decide which of them will take the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I).

While the Nevada race is nationalized without much effort because it is Reid’s home state, Murphy is making a concerted effort to do the same in Connecticut, as he is facing an expectedly strong challenge from McMahon.

“Let’s be honest what’s happened to the Republican Party in this country. It’s not the Republican Party of our parents or our grandparents. It’s become a radical party, and Linda McMahon would empower a Republican majority in the Senate who would stop at nothing to end a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “Voters are deciding between Linda McMahon and myself, but they are also deciding whether the tea party should be in charge of the United States Senate, or Democrats should.”

McMahon, on the other hand, sought to stress her independence in the Democratic-leaning state that hasn’t had a GOP Senator since Lieberman defeated incumbent Sen. Lowell Weicker in 1988.

“Congressman Murphy still tries to paint me in a corner, but he knows that I’m an independent thinker,” McMahon said. “He knows that I differ from my party on various issues, and I will be an independent thinker in Washington.”

For instance, McMahon emphasized portions of the 2010 health care law that she would like to preserve if Republicans were to get the votes to repeal it. She said she wants young people to be able to stay on their parents’ insurance through age 26 and to keep prohibitions on discrimination for pre-existing conditions, but she said the law is generally not having the desired effect of reducing health care spending.

“Insurance premiums are going up, cost of health care is going up. Now I think there are some good things. In this economy, especially,” she said.

“This mythology that you can just ‘repeal and replace,’ it is just that,” Murphy said. “The Republicans in Congress that Linda McMahon is seeking to empower have voted to repeal the bill 30-some-odd times and have never voted to replace it.”

In response to a question about insurance coverage of contraception, McMahon repeatedly made clear she supports abortion rights, even if most Republicans nationally do not.

“While health issues are clearly important to [women], when I’m traveling around the state, they’re not really talking to me about contraception. They’re talking to me about how they’re going to have a job and how they’re going to make ends meet,” she said.

Murphy, however, pointed to McMahon’s support for an amendment sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would allow certain employers to not provide health insurance benefits for contraception due to religious beliefs.

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