Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Notes from Bryan Lentz and Pat Meehan Debate (9/22)

It doesn't sound like there will be any other debates between the contenders for the open 7th congressional district seat. I made a point of watching and taping their recent debate on PCN and typed up rough notes.

Some of the remarks were difficult to catch. The sound quality was not the best and some comments, especially those of Mr. Meehan, were a little convoluted at times.

This is not intended as a transcription. I encourage the voters in the 7th district to watch the debate if possible (it is about 75 minutes long). PA2010 has posted some video clips here -- if you don't want to watch all of it, catch the closing statements. As always I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

I didn't set the tape quite right and so missed the first few minutes where the rules are set.

The debate was originally held on Sept 22nd.

Moderator: Matthew Handel, JCRC and Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia


Republican Pat Meehan. first elected as District Attorney in 1995, he tried the DuPont murder trial and the Aimee Willard murder. In 2001 he was sworn in as US Attorney, protect region from terrorism, prevent crime, fraud and abuse. Health care fraud cases. corrupt public officials in Philly.

Democrat Bryan Lent, 2 term state rep. 4th generation Army veteran, graduate of Valley Forge Military Academy, served in the 82nd airborne served in Iraq, Bosnia and the Sinai. Between deployments he served in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. In office he supported [missed a few things] and education funding.

opening statements

PM: thanks. Talk about important issues to 7th cong district, particularly to the Jewish community, peace and prosperity in the Middle East. As US Attorney began job 7 days after 9/11 see impact of terrorism and what it can do to sense of safety and security to nation, an experience Israelis have lived under for generations. First and foremost Iran and nuclear Iran and impact on peace and prosperity in entire region. Must not allow that to take place. Second, an experience I had sitting at top of Masada this summer when I visited Israel. Think back some 2k years ago. those trapped on a hilltop concerned about a siege. 2k years later same kind of mentality. Never again true today regarding nuclear Iran and other nations that deny Israel’s right to exist. Need complete agreement of Israel’s right to exist. America’s role needs to continue to be paramount, in Mid East. capacity we have with our America economy to be able to support for us to serve from a position of strength. Going through a remarkably challenging economic times, must focus on real opportunity to create jobs and prosper and let us continue to take leadership role

BL: thanks. Our country faces difficult challenges, record deficit, 2 wars, struggling economy. I want to go to Congress to confront those challenges while maintaining our commitments as a country, to seniors, middle class and allies around the world. Unfortunately in our politics today there is a move to a radical right wing, toward abandonment, meet challenge of debt by abandoning seniors and allies like Israel. Promote economic policies that have wiped out our middle class. I’ll go to DC not to meet an agenda but to solve problems. As a paratrooper do a job well and get results.

q1: Israel and Palestinian Authority recently begun negotiations, settlement moratorium. what is US role in negotiations?

BL: Served in Middle East in 1987 as a peacekeeper in Sinai, keeping peace set at Camp David. The way we get to peace is not putting preconditions on Israel. let Israel come to the table without preconditions.

PM; We cannot impose preconditions on Israel. We appreciate that right now the negotiations with Palestinians are captured by the inability of [Abbas? Hammas?] to even represent on the front end that he can control those [missed this] 2 state solution is objective to be working towards but security of Israel must be guaranteed.

q2: as a follow up what actions would your personally take as a congressmen

PM: deal with influence of Iran. The greatest concern I have is their capacity to continue to act as an agent of terrorism. aggression throughout entire Middle East. We have to rein in threat from Iran. Begins with their potential to be able to secure nuclear weapons. Our role is calling for negotiations. Cannot have preconditions. Take a leadership role in assuring Israel is free to act in its best interests

BL: one of the keys to peace in Middle East is a strong Israel. I would reject argument that we end foreign aid. Israel must be able to defend itself. Advocate for foreign aid, essential for Israel. Against unilateral condemnation against Israel. Israel must be able to come to the table unencumbered.

q3: Iran, Obama signed legislation economic sanctions against Iran. UN security council also sanctions. but Iran continues to enrich uranium. What do you see as the role of congress?

PM: We have to stand and speak with unified voice as Americans on behalf of Israel and peace in Middle East. Some of Obama's commentary sends mixed signals. Tried various approaches to deal with Iran. Sanctions. Looking to tighten them. Deal with ability of Iran to project itself into Iran. Opportunities to allow nascent opportunities to Ahmadinejad after stolen elections. return to kind of govt that would respect world order. lost that when the president recognized Islamic Committee of Iran. what we need to be doing is to assure that if sanctions don't work we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel. Assure that nuclear threat does not pose threat to Israel.

BL: When Pat says there was an opportunity to return to govt. The last govt was the Shah, a brutal dictator. His actions that led to revolutions and govt we had today. Ahmadinejad elected, illegally but elected. We invaded Iraq, mistake, Blunder. Led to removal of only counterbalance of Iran. strengthened hand of extremists in Iran. Led to more instability. nuclear Iran unacceptable. We must pursue sanctions and if they aren't effective see what we can do to improve them. US will not tolerate an Iran with nuclear weapons.

q4: Homeland security, threats since 9/11. Some homeland security funds made available to nonprofits including some Jewish non-profits. Role for govt in this, funds?

BL: resources whether grants or other resources devoted to where threat is. There is a heightened threat again Jewish groups. Help with defense of that. advocate for that in Congress.

PM; As US Attorney helped create joint task force. aware of scope of threats, global perspective, threats came here within US, Islamic factions, skinheads, growing threat, it can be appropriate in certain circumstances, groups given support to allow them to do some kind of security, cameras, and such to protect themselves.

q5: economy, further stimulus spending, nonprofits in Jewish community

PM: not in support of further stimulus spending, spent already, and unemployment went up to near 10%. we have invested money in our public sector to the point where we have 65000 more public sector employees where 8M private sector employees laid off. For US to be able to be supportive of entities like you mentioned that function, what will let us get our economy started again. Not more stimulus spending or borrowing that will put on backs of our children trillions and trillions of dollars of debt. Allow those capable of investing in business, create environment to let people create real jobs

BL: if I could have written stimulus or had input would have liked to see more investment in infrastructure, mass transit, more done about that because that is key to Delco having vibrant economy. what would Pat have done. Part of that stimulus was aid to states that would have let Upper Darby increase spending to bring them up to level of wealthier school districts. Pat says he would have voted against that, aid to schools districts. What about hospitals that were able to do things because of stimulus. I go to trains stations every morning. seems like very third person works in health care. When I look at stimulus I look at how that will affect people of the 7th congressional district not people in boardroom.

PM: Impact of that spending is this incredible debt. Spending largely borrowed. he supported billions of dollars in new spending. billions of dollars held in reserve by school districts. there needs o be some level of cushion but shouldn't borrow when sitting on reserves

BL: pat is campaigning with a state rep candidate who is president of the Upper Darby school board. You should talk with her about that and how she has raised prop taxes. I voted to increase spending in education to make sure Upper Darby and other schools had adequate finding. Our economy will never be vibrant if we don’t have good schools. stimulus not sole cause of debt. 2 wars that we didn't pay for, prescription drug program under Bush that we didn't pay for.

q6: congressional spending and growing deficit, what would you cut?

BL; foreign aid fraction of budget. Israel receives $30 mil over 10 years, but we spend $100 mil each year on Afghanistan. small price to pay in Israel. foreign aid lets us avoid sending soldiers to fight. Debt is a real problem. Pat and tea party want to fix debt by privatizing medicare which ends medicare, privatizing social security which ends social security. Pat had breakfast event with Eric Cantor, leader in privatizing social security. Fix debt by making tough choices, look at defense for spending, trillions to corporations. Don’t solve debt problem by giving tax cuts to people who make millions of dollars.

PM: Be honest in debate. BL suggested positions I have taken that I have not taken. He had tv ad up that has been labeled misleading. I have never advocated privatizing social security. We must be honest in dialog. The best way for us to deal with deficit is to create sustained and growing economy. Generate tax revenues that will do the most to bring back the dollars that since the beginning of the downturn in economy biggest problem is loss of tax expenditures in addition to stimulus spending. Create economic environment that will let us grow our way out of problem. Tough decision make in bipartisan manner. Problems. need to control costs of health care. We need genuine competition. control health care costs.

BL: Pat left out most significant contributor to debt. It is TARP passed by Bush with support of [John] Boehner. bailout of Wall St. commercial is true. You do want to extend tax cuts for people who make millions of dollars without making spending cuts you will grow debt. if you want to work in a bipartisan fashion to cut budget. how about voting to pass small business spending act. Pat opposed it.

q7: If elected what policies would you pass on taxes

PM: I have spoken out about in support of idea of not allowing Democrats to raise taxes across the board as would happen if tax cuts expire. BL talks about this having no impact on deficit. Of the $4 trillion that would be generated by this new taxes. so the fact of the matter is we do not want to be raising taxes at this time on anybody. That’s the kind of thing that would put us back into a negative situation. 35 Democrats wrote a letter to Nancy Pelosi about impact of raising taxes at this time. funding of small business -- hit hard by taxes. subchapter S corporations would be at risk.

BL: every economist has said there is a difference in extending tax cuts for those who earn under $250K, of those who earn over $250K over 80% earn more than $1 million. They tend to save if earn more than million. if make less than 250K you spend it, put it back into the economy. gets economy going. tax cuts for wealthy doesn't do that. also an impact on economy. no impact on economy for over 1 million. If you are blessed with wealth you need to do more. small business lending act. number 1 issues ,need access to capitol. that act would have made credit available to small businesses and cut their taxes.

PM: small business lending act. my concern including the fact that what they were trying to do is infuse capital from fed into local banks, influence what lending was done at local level. next step to where determination is made on ideological bases on what loans ought to be made. banks are flush and have more capital than ever before but not lending in uncertain economy.

BL: Pat describes what bill is trying to do. Our local business need capital. he would have govt be a bystander and watch business suffer. govt can do something. we aren't spending that money, we’re making loans. how can be you against that unless adhering to far right and boardroom not people. lets do something lets not oppose everything.

q8: tax policy. president proposes limit on charitable deductions on top tax brackets. worry about local giving to charities

BL: when top bracket goes back to 39% charitable deductions remains at 35%. to pay for expansion of health care. something the Jewish Federation believes in. example of paying for things we are trying to do as a country. some additional pressure on people trying to make charitable donations.

PM: hidden taxes put in place by Pelosi health care. talking about creating a disincentive when nonprofits increasingly challenged to deliver social services. even those in the arts. a time when we want to create policies to encourage those who are wealthy. need some small turnback on the donations they can make. reducing the amount they can make by raising tax rates and lowering rate they can get back. health care bill we haven’t figured out how to pay for.

q9: health care reform. what legislation would you support and what measures do you want to see

PM: I will support vote for repeal of current health care bill. replace with something to work to control health care costs. There was no debate, a problem of one party rule. Pelosi fashioned bill in midnight hours, said pass first and then read. will cost more than promised. will cause regulation. all unknown quantities. there are real opportunities to hold down cost of health care, competition across state lines. compel health insurance companies not reward them with franchise. create competition that will drive down costs. create pooling for small businesses. allow them to compete. tort reform. BL had come out against. saving in systems so no defensive medicine.

BL: PM, every job he’s ever gotten is as a result of one party rule is now against one party rule. second, if you're going to congress and your first mission is to repeal a bill that will give insurance to sick people, discriminate again children who are sick, then I don't want you to be my congressman. Pat has on his website or did, that his first three priorities were end discrimination against pre-existing conditions, do away with cap on expenses and let adult children stay on their parents’ policy. those are in the current bill. families went bankrupt after paying for insurance because family member got sick. I disagree with repeal. don't return it to the insurance companies. we do need to do more on costs. we need to reduce cost of care. reform system. don't repeal a law that is providing a benefit to people you want to represent.

PM: absolutely I' was in support of common sense things that people were in favor of that weren’t part of bill. creation of bill whose costs are going to increase above what was promised.

BL: he mentioned pooling. that is in bill with the health care exchanges. it isn't perfect but it has a lot to do in cost containment. you can't campaign on being against discrimination on pre-existing conditions and then be in favor of letting insurance companies run it again.

q10: lowering health costs, how ?

BL: one of the untold stories of health care debate are many pilot programs in legislation. deliver quality care more cheaply, remove redundancies, remove unnecessary testing. there are ways. There are two systems in Texas and one delivers care for a fraction of what the other one costs. We need to replicate that through incentives. Look at Geisinger, Cleveland Clinic or Mayo.

PM: never included in bill. things that generate real savings, competition. I saw this as a prosecutor, dealing with things like prescription drugs. tremendous dollars when they were able to represent both sides of negotiations, they represented both the govt and health care systems. lack of ability to see what they were doing with negotiations. what were are able to do with prosecutions is to see what is going on. see what competition could do.

BL: there is competition in state exchanges. originally a Republican idea, to see that people had choices, including basic packages, see what is offered. agree that you should be able to buy across state lines.

q11: balance budget, what would you cut?

PM: look at those dollars currently in unspent stimulus dollars. TARP funds not expended. work on performance based budgeting in govt agencies. making them each year produce dollars spent appropriately and effectively. look across the board at all expenditures. start again and return genuine efforts at controlling costs of health care.

BL: look at everything. 76% of annual budget is entitlements and national defense. you could cut everything else there are 2 areas growing and contributing to the debt. need to protect entitlements. medical care for seniors and greatest poverty program we have ever seen, social security, should be preserved. invest in education system. if we don't have an educated workforce or good transportation system we won't have a prosperous economy. He should have a more specific answer if deficit is his first priority. We need to cut defense. You can't be serious about debt and deficit reduction if you don't cut defense. I have experience doing it. last budget I voted for cuts in 31 of 35 budget lines. not because we wanted to but because we had to.

PM: talking about cutting taxes from a guy who voted for a budget that was $1 million more than year before. Republican refusal to pass compelled them to cut. I worked on the ability to analyze by making presentations for base realignment and closure committee. doing it by a basis of genuine competition and what stood on merits. performance based budgeting.

BL: which of your taxes increased and did so dramatically?. property taxes -- brought to you by Delco GOP. brought to you by his running mate.. I did my job in Harrisburg and will do it in Congress

PM: Republican budget helped education and still cut costs. he's picking and choosing. property taxes, we should draw down school district reserves before raising prop taxes

BL: hope you will deliver message to Republicans that control county govt and school districts. those reserves held to pay for increases in pensions.

[exchange between candidates over state budget. BL asks if PM would have supported increased to education funding. PM would have supported budget that would have held line on spending]

q12: defense spending: barney frank 25% cut in military budget

BL: flat cuts are a way to avoid difficult decisions. I know what works in field for our soldiers, what programs are effective. lets have that debate line by line. significant reduction in defense. support what Secretary of Defense Gates is doing. we can’t afford any longer to buy every program offered

PM: great rhetoric why wasn't that done in Harrisburg [BL: we don't have an army in Harrisburg]. where was he when a large budget was introduced. the rhetoric doesn't match what he did. he didn't change things in Harrisburg he won't change things in Congress

BL: in PA we have to pass balanced budget. my job as a legislator is to have priorities. Education is a priority. who raised your taxes recently. Republicans in Delco, Republican controlled school districts. Those tax increases would be greater without help from state. have voted to keep and cut good programs. another local tax controlled by Republican, largest county govt in pa

PM: rhetoric doesn't match the actions. only done when Republicans in legislature compelled those decisions to be made. yes he voted but only after pulled there kicking and screaming.

q13: energy dependence

PM: we have to make a real commitment to allow our energy policy to include all resources at our disposal., include nuclear energy, gas in PA, that would allow us to have energy generated from own region. must be scrupulous about it being safe. must investigate oil from off our coast. also look at wind and solar. not let govt tell you what to do but tax incentives for most efficient on table and let market decide. don't rely on foreign nations.

BL: its not that we have a bad energy policy. we have no energy policy. threat to economy, natural security. when our soldiers fired upon in Iraq and Afghanistan the money comes from oil money, from Saudi Arabia and Iran. need to get off oil addiction, off addiction to foreign fuels, 60% of Iran's gdp is oil. jobs -- China and Europe creating thousand of jobs in new energy. we can put electricians to work here putting solar panels in. need to get away from hundreds of years of bad policy. I'll be a leader for that in Washington just as I’ve been a leader for that in Harrisburg.

closing statements:

BL: thanks. there's a real difference between PM and me. I've been a legislator for 4 years he's been a politician for 30. my first job out of college as a paratrooper. whoever is elected has to make tough choices, speak truth to constituents. you cannot cut taxes for millionaires and reduce deficit. cannot encourage shipment of jobs overseas. must invest in infrastructure. you cannot do this if you promise tax cuts to rich people and corporations. Independence Hall tea party has endorsed two people within 15 miles of this podium. Pat and Christine O’Donnell. Pat running with endorsement of tea party. if he had a chance to vote for aid to states, aid for school districts, he would have voted no. He chose the tea party and ideology over constituents. he would have voted no on closing Florida loophole. Pat will go with ideology and rhetoric over real needs. would have voted no on small business act. if you send me to DC I'll standup for you. fight for real solutions.

PM: thanks. my opponent continues to characterize what he says rather than what I stand for. he was a prosecutor now says he thinks that is purely a political position. I was a District Attorney for 14 years. take issues that affect people and work with others. work I did as US Attorney. work with people of both parties. work on issues like violence in urban issues. worked with Democrat mayors, look at solutions that didn't care about partisan activity. issues we face are real. people who are out of work. sense of uncertainty about future. lost sense of confidence in future of this country. go back to basics. develop vibrant economy based on principles of free enterprise. He's wrapped himself in policies Nancy Pelosi has been promoting, public option, cap and trade, billions in new spending. things that have put us in situation we are in. need to have genuine dialog. it will not happen unless there is a Republican voice in current Congress.

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