Politics & Policy

2nd Wisconsin Senate Debate — Highlights

Sen. Russ Feingold (D) vs. Ron Johnson (R) — Wasau, Wisconsin.

Q: Does it makes sense to extend Bush tax cuts for everyone?

F — We are at a tipping point with deficits. We need a “common sense solution.” We can’t afford to keep tax cuts for wealthiest Americans. Tax cuts in stimulus and health-care bill. Where’s the credit?

J — The stimulus failed. Last thing we should be doing is raising taxes on anyone. 750,000 businesses in top bracket, employ 25 percent of the work force. Engines for economic growth. I export, produce products. I’ve got faith in the workers of Wisconsin, America. If we get govt out of the way we can compete with anyone in the world. Can’t just choose to compete, we have to compete in a global economy.

F — Johnson only talking about 5 percent of businesses. This is a big myth. Most jobs created by people of average income. Why are the wealthiest businesses more important?

Q: Middle East policy taking huge monetary and human toll. Can US afford current strategy abroad? What strategies should we pursue?

F — We need a timetable. I opposed Iraq war. I listened to Wisconsin people. Have to have priorities — going after al-Qaeda, don’t build huge deficits by needless wars.

J — We are under threat from terrorists. We need a very strong intelligence capability. Feingold has been weakening that capability. Our troops need our total support. Obama sees intelligent reports. We need support of Afghan people, but we are not committed to success if we announce surge and withdrawal time table in same breath.

Q: What does it mean to win in Afghanistan?

F — It’s not about invading countries. It’s about destroying al-Qaeda. Let me correct the record. I’ve been on Intelligence Committee. I’ve worked the hardest to locate the terrorist threat. We need to honor troops when they come home.

J — Why didn’t you vote for resolution condemning MoveOn.org ad?

F — Because I believe in freedom of speech. We should be working on deficit and jobs in Senate. Not our job to condemn speech and passing resolutions.

J — Not very supportive of troops.

F — We have more important things to be doings.

Q: Can’t we all just get along? (laughter) How do we get bipartisan action going, share responsibility of governing?

J — I’ve go a record of problem solving. I will take this attitude to Washington. We have record, exploding deficits. 1.4 trillion. These are serious problems, require sense of purpose. This is not my life’s ambition, someone’s got to step up to the plate. I will work in a bipartisan way. Doesn’t mean I’ll leave principles behind. I’ll go there to solve problems.

F — I’ve been involved in more bipartisan initiatives than any Senator. McCain-Feingold, etc. Worked with Paul Ryan, Susan Collins.

Q: Fillibuster, change or eliminate?

F — Respect the Constitution of the founders. Senate needs rules. But they are being abused, by both parties. One answers might be to make 60 percent of all present required for cloture.

J — I agree. Senate = deliberative body. Rules there for a reason. Feingold says he’s so bipartisan. Two deciding votes on partisan bills. Obamacare. No bipartisanship there. Feingold = 60th vote. Same true of stimulus.

F — Recovery bill not just Democrats. Susan Collins voted for it. (Commotion/laughter). Ok not a lot, but not completely partisan.

Q: Citizens United dangerous for democracy? Should it be overturned?

F — “One of worst decisions in history of Supreme Court.” Individuals and corporations have same political rights. Founders didn’t believe that. Millions being spent for ads against me. May well be foreign money involved. I support Disclose Act. We need to overturn it Citizens United.

J — Total transparency. Rapid reporting on the internet. McCain-Feingold = “incumbent protection act.” Pushed money outside the political practice to groups with no accountability and transparency. Simple solution. Do away with McCain-Feingold. Complete transparency. Immediate disclosure on internet.

Q: Why are third party groups supporting Republicans over Dems by a large margin?

F — “Mr. Johnson refused to answer question.” He is benefiting from Citizens United. Asks Johnson: “Will you ask them to stop?”

J — “They have a right to free speech.” (laughter — echoing Feingold’s earlier defense of vote not to condemn MoveOn ad)

F — You have a right to free speech to ask them to stop.

J — They have a right to free speech. People are concerned with what is happening in Washington, they spending their money to support these groups and that’s their right.

F — Oil companies and insurance companies are “very concerned.” They are hurting the political process.

J — Individuals concerned with what is happening and they have the right to send their money where they want.

F — Will you call on them to disclose?

J — Disclose.

F — Let’s see.

J — It’s your loss Senator.

F — No it’s not. This has nothing to do with McCain-Feingold.

Q: Solutions for Illegal Immigration?

J — Two step process. Secure borders. Why don’t we just do that? I would not favor comprehensive reform because we already tried that in the 80s. Oppose amnesty. And we should enforce the laws on our books. No laws to create incentive for illegal immigration. We are a very caring society, I believe in treating people humanely.

F — Johnson doesn’t want to solve the problem. I agree securing the border, but we need a comprehensive solution now. We need to figure this out now – penalties, work permits, citizenship, get in line with everyone else. Johnson not in touch with business community. We need comp. reform as Bush, Obama have said.

Closing statements:

J — Wisconsin voters have clear choice. Feingold deciding vote for health-care, stimulus. Cannot continue to support these failed policies. I offer different vision. I will use my lifetime business experience to create jobs, get business growing again. America is precious, we need to make sure it not only survives, but thrives. That’s why I’m running.

F — Johnson offered no specifics. Ask “who is on your side?” Who voted for health-care and helped to save jobs in Wisconsin, who opposed trade agreements that hurt Wisconsin jobs? Give me the chance and I will continue to do that.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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