The 8th District congressional candidates sparred over health care in a breakfast forum on Monday in Schaumburg.
“Thank you for inviting us to debate,” Walsh said soon after Duckworth, who had spoken moments earlier, had left the room. “I’m sad that didn’t come off. Eleven to 12 groups have invited us to debate and she [Duckworth] said no to each one of them.”
The newly drawn 8th District comprises roughly 55 percent of the former 6th District where Duckworth was encouraged to run against Republican Congressman Peter Roskam of Wheaton in 2006. Duckworth lost her 2006 race against Roskam by 2 percent and she was later appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 to 2009.
The Schaumburg Business Association forum was moderated by Jim Slusher, Daily Herald Assistant Managing Editor for Opinion. The discussion centered on small businesses and their owners, escalated to a heated dialogue about congressional bipartisanship, the country’s escalating debt and health care reform.
Duckworth emphasized the need for more bipartisanship in Washington and challenged aspects of Medicare and health care, specifically the “25 percent of Americans between 50 and 64 who don’t have access to health insurance,” Duckworth said. “We need to let them buy into the federal employee health care system.”
While Duckworth states she supports preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, she ensured the audience that small businesses will be protected from burdensome regulations
“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay and we have to work with it,” Duckworth said. “I would, however, like to take the burden of providing health insurance for Americans off of the shoulders of businesses.”
Like Duckworth, Walsh also disputes parts of Medicare–what Walsh calls “Obamacare”.
“Every politician in Washington, and I’m sure Ms. Duckworth has been told this too, every politician knows Medicare will be gone in 10-to-12 years…I mean poof, gone,” Walsh said.
Not only will the benefits of Medicare disappear in the near future, it is the largest part of the federal budget, according to Walsh.
Evidence actually sows that the largest part of the federal budget goes to social security, roughly $780 billion. National defense ranks in at second with $716 billion. Medicare is the fourth largest part of the federal budget with $484 billion.
“These healthcare costs for our aging population is the biggest, fastest growing part of the federal budget; nothing comes close,” Walsh said.
While campaigning, Duckworth said she met sat mayors in her district prioritized three issues: western access to O’Hare, Elgin O’Hare expressway, and what she will do to help her district develop local business districts.
“I got the message,” Duckworth said, “that’s what I need to work on. I will support government programs that will get those dollars flowing.”
Most of the critical issues in this election center on the economy. When asked what steps the government needs to take in reducing the federal deficit, Duckworth explained her jobs plan.
“It’s more a framework, a strategy of what needs to be done,” Duckworth said.
“I think there are some short-term things that the government needs to do to spur the economy,” Duckworth said. “I support tax credits for American businesses that keep jobs right here in America and that hire those who have been unemployed for more than six months.”
Unlike the calm and composed Duckworth, Walsh was literally jumping out of his seat to answer the questions from Slusher.
“If you want to get serious about spending, you should be able to balance your books in 10 years,” Walsh said waving his hands above his head. “But neither party is really serious and that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in.”
Earlier in September a campaign ad by a pro-Mitt Romney group, Restore Our Future, blamed President Obama not only for the current high rate of unemployment, but also for leading many Americans to simply stop looking for jobs.
“Millions of Americans are disappearing from the work force because they can’t find jobs,” the ad says. “The overall unemployment rate doesn’t even count them anymore. Eight million Americans have dropped out of the workforce since Obama became president. Counting people who dropped out or can’t find full-time jobs, the real unemployment rate is 19 percent.”
“This country is shaking, this country is broke and this country is in debt,” Walsh contended. “The next time a politician tells you the unemployment rate is 8.1 percent turn around and walk away. The real unemployment rate in this country is close to 19 percent.”
With more than a half an hour each, both candidates finished their forum and made their rounds of shaking hands and taking pictures with members of the audience.
Duckworth and Walsh are scheduled to debate at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows Oct. 9, and on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” on Oct. 18.
- A Heated Debate Over the 8th District (katherineiorio.wordpress.com)
- Tribune and Daily Herald have long history endorsing Duckworth (illinoisreview.typepad.com)
- Walsh: Duckworth admits she’s “not ready” (illinoisreview.typepad.com)
- Rep. Joe Walsh, battling Duckworth, bolstered by $1.3 million in help from Now or Never SuperPac (blogs.suntimes.com)