Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Casey, Smith Hold Cordial Debate Senate Candidates Spar over Spending, Health Care, Government Regulation

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Casey, Smith Hold Cordial Debate Senate Candidates Spar over Spending, Health Care, Government Regulation

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican challenger Tom Smith sparred over federal spending, health care reform and government regulation Friday during their only debate.

Mr. Casey repeatedly jabbed at Mr. Smith for being a too- conservative tea partyer who supports a radical agenda. Mr. Smith attacked the incumbent, saying he isn't the independent voice he claims to be but an ineffective lawmaker whose votes are too closely tied to President Barack Obama's agenda.

Mostly, though, the debate was a cordial back-and-forth over policy.

WPVI-Philadelphia recorded the debate Friday and will air it at 1 p.m. Sunday and make it available to other stations between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon. WTAE and cable's PCN plan to air it at 5 p.m. Sunday.

"The Affordable Care Act is the biggest power grab in history," Mr. Smith, who supports repeal, said during one exchange. "What do I have against the Affordable Care Act? Do you really want to turn over one-sixth of the economy in this country to bureaucrats like the ones that run the IRS and the post office?"

Mr. Smith said the Affordable Care Act imposes 22 new taxes.

"That's not true," Mr. Casey interrupted.

"So, anyhow," Mr. Smith said after an awkward four seconds of silence. "The Affordable Care Act is dragging down this economy."

Casey campaign manager Larry Smar later said that Mr. Smith was referring to penalties for businesses that don't provide health insurance, not taxes.

Mr. Casey said he doesn't want the country to return to a time when pre-existing medical conditions weren't covered and when young adults couldn't be covered on parents' medical plans.

"The worst thing we could do on health care is to either put our head in the sand and do nothing, which is what repeal means, or to have a big partisan fight over it," Mr. Casey said. "We should bring people together to get this right."

Mr. Smith said his opponent's policies would increase the country's debt.

He said his own experience as a businessman qualifies him for the Senate.

"I have a good sense of what it takes to grow the economy. I have a really good sense of the enormous amount of regulation that is put on by the federal government [and] the state government," he said. "We need reasonable regulations on businesses -- Wall Street also -- but most businesses and people are just getting inundated by regulations."

Mr. Casey characterized Mr. Smith as an ideologue who would increase partisanship in Washington rather than help forge needed compromise.

Mr. Smith stumbled a few times during the debate, twice calling moderator Jim Gardner "Larry" and, at another point, needing to hear a question about banking reform three times before saying government shouldn't bail out financial institutions.

Mr. Casey, in contrast, said the country can't afford to let banks default. …

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