King, Vilsack debate health care, farm bill
Rivalries took center stage at the Clay County Fair Saturday afternoon and evening, with the Iowa vs. Iowa State game followed by a debate between U.S. Rep. Steve King and democratic challenger Christie Vilsack.
The two may not have revealed which team they had been cheering for, but instead squared off over issues like health care reform and the farm bill in front of about 700 people.
King continued his crusade against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, calling for a "full, 100 percent repeal of Obamacare."
He said he would replace the bill with a system that allows health insurance sales across state lines, the full deductibility of health insurance policies and tort reform to curb lawsuit abuse and defensive medicine.
"He (Barack Obama) argued there should be a federal insurance company to compete with our private sector health insurance companies," King said. "When that began, there were 1,300 health care insurance companies in America and over 100,000 possible policy varieties. One more was not going to solve the problem, but selling insurance across state lines does."
Vilsack did not comment on King's proposals, but focused on aspects of health care reform that she favors.
"One of those is making sure we can keep our children on our policies until they're 26," Vilsack said. "We need to make sure seniors have access to affordable prescription drugs and we need to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions are covered by health insurance."
She acknowledged the need to address health care costs.
"One of the best ways to address that cost is to concentrate on a coordinated care program so that we no longer pay for services, but that we pay for results," Vilsack said. "We really need to make sure that we try to keep people out of hospitals and we pay health care professionals to make sure they're doing that."
King noted that Iowa already allows 26-year-olds to stay on their parents' insurance and has a taxpayer-subsidized pool to make premiums more affordable for people with pre-existing conditions.
"Wouldn't it be great if everyone in the country could have what Iowa has?" Vilsack responded, eliciting applause from her supporters.
On the topic of the farm bill, Vilsack defended the estimated 75 percent of funding that goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, saying 14 cents of every dollar spent in the program goes to a farmer. She also called on King to sign fellow Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley's discharge petition to force a vote on the bill.
King advocated for cutting SNAP, arguing the program has been abused to pay for tattoos and bail bonds.
When Vilsack contended that 93 percent of SNAP recipients are seniors citizens, children and the working poor, King disputed that percentage to a mixed crowd reaction.
The two agreed that job creation would extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund beyond 2033, when funds are expected to be depleted.
Vilsack touted her proposals for an apprenticeship program and jobs related to energy, conservation, outdoor recreation and infrastructure.
In her closing statements, Vilsack argued that she and King see the job differently.
"Rep. King sees it through the lens of someone who is really not interested in taking care of the issues that we need to deal with here on a local level," Vilsack said, referencing King's support for a 23 percent national sales tax. " ... The way I see this district is the way I see my students on the first day of school."
King used his closing statements to call for a Lincon-Douglas debate and promote a balanced budget amendment.
"We have a $16 trillion national debt that will not be eradicated unless we pass a balanced budget amendment out of the Congress and to the states, where 38 of them have to ratify it and rebuild our American Dream on the jobs that are created by that," King said.
The debate closed on chants of "King for Congress" and "Vote for Christie."