There were no real surprises in the debate between Steve Daines and Amanda Curtis. There were a couple of statements made that need highlighting or explanation, though.
The first question to Steve Daines was a simple one, would he vote again to shut down the government? Daines didn’t answer the question and blamed the government shutdown of 2013 on Washington being broken. Any Congressman, such as Mr. Daines knows that spending and budgeting are controlled by Congress and all spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives. Because of this, when the U.S. reaches the end of its fiscal year in October, the House must raise the federal debt limit. This is basically an accounting procedure since the House has already approved and spent the money. But, in 2013, the Republican controlled House decided to hold the debt limit hostage for one reason only, they wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act. It wasn’t a “Washington breakdown”, it was simply a tea party tantrum supported by Steve Daines. And, by the way, although he was specifically asked twice, Daines refused to say he wouldn’t vote for another shutdown.
When asked about the Affordable Care act, Amanda Curtis supported the idea of making health care available to all. Daines called for a complete repeal of the ACA and said it should be replaced by a “Montana based solution.” But, what the heck does that mean? Daines didn’t say. I guess Daines wants to kick the can over to Montana’s state government. Montana doesn’t have the money or ability to completely run its own system. I guess Daines just thought it made a good sound bite rather than making good sense.
One of the big dilemmas facing Republican candidates this year is their past support of “Person hood” Constitutional Amendments. Steve Daines is a co-sponsor of the federal bill. The big problem with such bills is that, not only would they outlaw abortion in any circumstance including rape, incest, or the life of the mother, they would outlaw popular forms of birth control such as the pill and IUDs. The other problem facing Republicans is their approval of the US Supreme Court decision, Hobby Lobby, which allowed corporations to decide what provisions of a health care policy they don’t like. The Affordable Care Act mandates health policy coverage for contraceptives at no cost. Hobby Lobby, didn’t want to pay for policies that included contraceptive coverage.
However, the people covered by these health insurance policies like being able to afford contraceptives. In fact, the American public, by an overwhelming margin believe that birth control should be easily available and cheap. After all, isn’t it much more cost effective to fill a birth control prescription, than to pay for a Caesarian section? So, Mr. Daines, even though he has co-sponsored a person hood bill, supports the Hobby Lobby ruling, and has voted continually to repeal the Affordable Care Act, said, “I want to make it clear that I support the availability of contraception.” Really?
One of the best questions asked by the panel was addressed to Mr. Daines asking whether his economic plan of less governmental regulation and lower corporate taxes wasn’t just “trickle down ” economics which has failed to help the middle class. It is certain that Republican “trickle down” economics is killing the American middle class. Mr. Daines’ answer was, dig more coal. I’m not sure if Mr. Daines is aware, but here in Missoula County, we don’t have coal. Nor does most of the nation. Daines then again brought up the supposed Obama “War on Coal” which he contended is keeping the Crow Reservation from mining coal. That is a bald faced lie. The Obama Administration has approved the mine! There are two reasons the coal has yet to be mined. One is that its not profitable. Two is that the coal would have to be transported through other Indian reservations that want no part of the coal.
I laughed out loud when Mr. Daines said that we can’t have a serious discussion about reforming Medicare because as soon as someone makes a suggestion, there are a bunch of thirty second ads running. Does anyone remember the ad Steve Daines ran this summer with a nice pink haired lady saying she couldn’t support John Walsh because he might cut Medicare? I do! The ad contained the absolute lie that Obamacare will cut Medicare funds.
Further on the issue of Medicare, Mr. Daines flatly denied that he had voted to turn Medicare into a voucher system. That denial is a lie. Mr. Daines voted for the House Concurrent Resolution 96, of 2014. This was popularly known as the Paul Ryan Budget proposal. The text of the Resolution as it relates to Medicare is:
“For Medicare, this budget advances policies to put seniors, not the Federal Government, in control of their health care decisions. Those in or near retirement will see no changes, while future retirees would be given a choice of private plans competing alongside the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program. Medicare would provide a premium-support payment either to pay for or offset the premium of the plan chosen by the senior, depending on the plan’s cost.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a voucher system. Daines did indeed vote for it, as recorded here.