Thursday, July 26, 2012

Voter's Guide: Nebraska Senate Race

With the announcement of Ben Nelson to not run for another term as senator for the state of Nebraska, the Democrats in Nebraska wanted former governor and former senator Bob Kerrey to run.  At first, he was hesitant to do so, saying he wouldn't until finally he agreed.  Meanwhile on the Republican side, Jon Bruning who won the job of attorney general, did what most attorney generals do, which is run for a new position.  Bruning launched campaign advertisements about him playing football with himself (I'm sure there was a point in the advertisement but I missed it) and was seen as a lock for the Republican senate ticket.  But, as a lot of entrenched Republicans have seen in the last 5 years or so, fringe candidates fueled by Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and remarkably Sarah Palin, took the spot instead.  Deb Fischer, in the Republican primary defeated Jon Bruning by a considerable margin and is the heavy favorite to win the senate seat in the notoriously conservative Nebraska. 

Deb Fischer vs. Bob Kerrey: The Showdown for the Senate.

Deb Fischer: current state legislator, first elected in 2004 from Valentine, Nebraska.  She has a BS degree (me too, we're like twins zomg!) in education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (not so much like twins).  She was a rancher, a former member of the board of education for both Cherry County School District 5 and Valentine rural high school.  Her largest 5 contributors for her campain by industry are Leadership PACs, retired, livestock, crop production and basic processing, and general contractors.  The largest one by far is leadership PACs. 

Bob Kerrey: currently not in office, former governor of Nebraska (1983-1987), senator of Nebraska (1988-2000), with a brief flirtation with the idea of running for President in 1992.  He has a BS degree in pharmacy from the University of Nebraska.  He served in the U.S. Navy, was a restaurateur, and a president of New School University.  His top 5 contributors are Leadership PACs, retired, securities & investment, lawyers/law firms, and lobbyists.  The largest two are Leadership PACs by quite a bit over retired, which dwarf the other three.

Issues:

We'll go through this in alphabetical order the best I can.  I'll try to leave my personal comments for another post.

1. Abortions:

Deb Fischer wants to prohibit federal funding of abortions and of organizations that advocate or perform abortions.  Fischer thinks abortion should only be legal in the cases of incest, rape, or when the mother's life is in danger.

Bob Kerrey has received a 100% grade from Planned Parenthood in his support of their issues.  Extrapolating that and his vote to support Roe v. Wade, his vote to support health insurance to cover abortions, among other votes, it would be safe to say that he is a supporter of pro-choice policies.  I have not found statements of his that update his stance on this issue.

2.  Budget, Spending, and Tax Issues

Deb Fischer, while a state legislator, stated that she would like the state to slightly increase spending for education (K-12) while slightly decreasing state spending on welfare.  She also stated that we should have a slight decrease in inheritance taxes and greatly decrease property taxes.  Since announcing her candidacy for Senate, she has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge which promises that a candidate will not raise taxes on individuals or businesses.  She has also stated that she supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  She has stated that she wants to repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and No Child Left Behind as those are "unnecessary government intrusions" into our lives.  She wants to eliminate ineffective and duplicative programs and agencies.  She cites an example of the government offering 44 job training agencies costing $30 billion and the Federal Highway Administration.  She wants to implement a process for congressional oversight of regulations.  She cites an example of Congress having approval authority over any regulation that has an economic impact.  She also wants to audit the Federal Reserve.  She does not want cuts in our defense budget.  She would like to increase spending so that we can adequately secure our borders, both north and south and our ports.

Bob Kerrey worked as a governor and a senator to have a balanced budget.  He believes that both sides need to work together in order to cut the deficit.  He proposed to reform entitlement spending  and to cut spending during his terms as governor and senator.  His plans call for a reform for social security spending among others.  I'm going to be honest, Kerrey rambles off a long story about how he worked so hard to try to help out the financial mess we were in, in both Nebraska and the United States, that I kind of zoned out halfway through and those are the most important things I could find.

3. Campaign Finance and Governmental Reform

Fischer has been quite adament that she would propose a term limit for those in Congress.  She has pledged to a two term limit for herself in the Senate.  She opposed individual spending for state legislative campaigns and gubernatorial candidates but supported corporations, PACs, and political parties to spend how they see fit on those elections.  Fischer stated that she supports full and timely disclosure of campaign finance information. Put a lifetime ban on Members of Congress from becoming federally registered lobbyists after they leave office.  She wants to prevent immediate family of Members of Congress from becoming federally registered lobbyists while that particular member holds federal office.
Increase the cooling-off period for congressional staff from lobbying Members of Congress for whom they were previously employed to three years and eliminate the salary requirement.
Prohibit former committee staff to lobby committee chairs or any member of the committee who was active during their time on staff for three years.
Restrict federally registered lobbyists from joining congressional staff or committee staff for three years.
Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Nebraska and other states are subject to FOIA and Washington should be held to the same standard.
The current financial disclosure reports by federal candidates and Members of Congress need to provide additional details. Currently, the disclosure reports allow for too wide of a range for asset and liability values to accurately determine a member's net worth.
Change the rules of the U.S. Senate to require debate on the Senate floor on all major pieces of legislation with two thirds of Senators present for at least 5 hours prior to a vote. This debate should be subject to public viewing.
All bills need to be posted for at least 72 hours for public review before being voted on by Members of Congress.
As a U.S. Senator, Deb Fischer will thoroughly review each bill before voting on it.
Oppose all earmarks until the budget is balanced and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
Eliminate earmarks that go to private companies.
Make it a top priority to pass the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act" in order to balance the budget and reduce spending.
Vote to eliminate automatic pay increases for members of Congress.
Prohibit Members of Congress and federal employees from trading stocks based on information obtained on the job that is not publicly available.
Prohibit Members of Congress, their staffs and federal employees from disclosing nonpublic information for investment purposes.
Prohibit Members of Congress, their staffs and federal employees from purchasing land based on inside information that is not public available.
Require Members of Congress to be subject to the same laws and privileges as every citizen of the United States

Bob Kerrey does not have public statements clarifying his statements on the issues, certainly not anywhere near how much Fischer has spoken about the issue but Kerrey voted yes on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which would ban soft money in federal elections, greatly increases transparency in campaign finance, among others.  He also voted yes to disclose members of political organizations known as 527s.  Perhaps most famous for this Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements. 


4. Crime Issues

Fischer is a believer in the death penalty.  She wants to end parole for repeat offenders.  She wants to strengthen penalties and sentences for drug related crimes.  She also believes that accused minors of a violent crime should be prosecuted as adults.  She does not support the legalization of marijuana.

Kerrey voted no on a bill that would charge teenagers involved in a crime with a firearm as being tried as an adult.  He later voted yes on a bill that would try teenagers involved in crimes with a firemarm as an adult.  That bill also increased the number of crimes that could be punished by the death penalty.  It also required a mandatory life sentence for criminals who were convicted of their third violent offense. 

5. Education issues

Fischer would like to endorse voluntary prayer in school.  She thinks there should be state funding for tax incentives and financial aid that makes college more affordable.  She also stated that she thought schools should be funded equally by state funding and local property taxes.

So far, I have not found public statements from Bob Kerrey on this issue.

6. Energy/Environmental Issues

Fischer has stated that she wants to reform or possibly eliminate the EPA.  She would like to see the "burdensome" greenhouse gas emissions restrictions lifted allowing businesses to respond to market forces without being stifled.  She supports domestic and off-shore drilling including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  She would support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.  She wants to expand nuclear and coal powered technologies, removing burdensome regulations for nuclear power for it to create more of the nation's energy.  She believes that the private sector should should lead the development of alternative energy.  She also believes that we should support our universities, colleges, and research institutions to study energy conservation and alternative energy. 

Bob Kerrey has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, a leading environmental interest group in the United States.

7. Gun Issues

Deb Fischer has an A+ rating from the NRA and is endorsed by them.

Bob Kerrey had a 0% approval rating from the NRA (this must have been before they gave letter grades).

8. Healthcare

Fischer wants to repeal Obamacare. She wants to tackle the problem of health care reform by promotoing competition between insurance companies, reforming our tort system, updating information technology, and embracing preventative care.

Kerrey has stated that Obamacare is doomed to fail because it was passed on strict party lines.  Kerrey believes in his own health care reform which is called Health USA.  The only eligibility requirement is to be an American citizen.  It's a market-based approach that empowers individuals to choose between competing plans based on deductibles and co-pays that we choose together.  He wants to sever the link between employers and health care to help those who have businesses to focus instead on just creating jobs.

9. Immigration reform

Fischer wants to secure the borders by providing necessary funding to secure the Northern and Southern border, and our ports.  She wants to increase the number of border patrol agents.  She wants to implement a mandatory E-verify system for employers and enact stricter penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.  She wants to provide support to state and local governments by allowing for the expedited removal of illegal aliens with a criminal record or suspected of trafficking.  She also wants to increase funding and flexibility for state and local officials to enforce immigration laws.  She opposes amnesty for illegal alients and would deny benefits such as driver's license and in-state tuition to illegal aliens.  She would cut funding to state and local governments that adopt sanctuary city policies.  She also wants to make English the official language of the United States. 

Bob Kerrey had this to say about immigration reform:

1. Citizenship should be offered to any immigrant serving in the Armed Forces
2. Any immigrant seeking advanced college degrees should get work visas to stay in the U.S. after they graduate and their student visas expire.
3. Redoubling efforts to secure borders
4. Crack down on people who overstay their visas which is the most common form of illegal immigration since the Great Recession curbed the number of Mexicans crossing the border into the United States
5. Speed up applications of permanent resident visas, or green cards, to spouses and children of green card holders living abroad. Currently, there is a cap, with a backlog of 2 ½ years to receive a visa.
6. Update the system of temporary worker visas "so that it meets our economic needs." Updating the system has been held up by both parties in Congress amid failed efforts to achieve immigration reform.

10. National Security

Fischer has stated that national security is the federal government's number one priority.  She wants to make sure that nuclear weapons do not get in the hands of terrorists.  She has also stated that she wants to make sure our troops and their families are supported and their needs are met. 

Kerrey tells a long story about how Congress needs to make sure they're doing their job and using whatever power they can to keep America safe from unconventional enemies.

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