Looking to make up ground, Democratic Nebraska Senate nominee Bob Kerrey attacked Republican candidate Deb Fischer on her support of a balanced budget amendment in their second debate today.
“I do worry about this balanced budget amendment,” said Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. Senator. “It’s going to have a terrible impact on Nebraska.”
“We are not going to be able to invest in our universities. We are not going to be able to provide the Pell grants that our students need. We are not going to be able to have the kind of research that needs to occur to develop” partnerships with private-sector businesses, he said.
“These private partner relationships that are all around the University of Nebraska medical center are at risk with this balanced budget amendment,” Kerrey added.
His comments came after a poll conducted by the Omaha World-Herald found that Kerrey trailed Fischer by 10 points.
This was just one among several efforts that Kerrey made to argue against the proposal, which would change the constitution to require the federal government to balance spending with receipts, similar to most states, including Nebraska.
Fischer was unfazed by the Kerrey attacks. She looked to stick to her message of small government and reducing federal spending and regulations.
But she did respond toward the end of the debate.
“I’ve heard a lot about [the] balanced budget amendment, so maybe I should address that,” Fischer said. “I support a balanced budget amendment. Here in Nebraska, we balance our budget every year. It's required by our constitution. We need to do that at the federal level as well. Any time that you don’t have controls on Congress, on spending, on politicians, they will spend every dime they can get their hands on. We need to make the tough decisions. We need to control spending. That is how we can move this country forward.”
She also pledged to keep commitments made regarding Social Security and other entitlements for those 40 and older.
Kerrey also charged that Fischer for was relying on platitudes, such as signing the "no taxes" pledge from Americans for Tax Reform, rather than workable solutions.
Fischer argued that Kerrey would not take the steps to help move the nation in what she believes is the right direction, such as repealing the health care reform law, a significant legislative achievement for Democrats in the previous Congress.
Kerrey said he wants to improve the health care law rather than repeal it. He singled out his opposition to the law’s employer mandate that says if a company with more than 50 workers stopped offering health coverage, it would face a fine of $2,000 per employee.
He stressed that he would not be afraid to take on his own party on issues he believes in.
“I know how to cross party lines and take the grief from my party when I do, and I promise you I will do just that,” Kerrey said.
When she was asked about remarks by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney naming 47 percent of Americans as dependent on government, Fischer said, “I am running my own campaign, I have my own views.”
“There are people that need help and government needs to help those people,” she said.
She also distanced herself from the Republican platform, which called for a ban on all abortions. “I am pro-life," she said. But she added, “I do believe there should be an exception made for the life of the mother.”
The two will meet again Monday for the third and final debate.