Earmarks, bailout separate U.S. House hopefuls - East Valley Tribune: News

Earmarks, bailout separate U.S. House hopefuls

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Posted: Friday, October 10, 2008 7:48 pm | Updated: 11:19 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Democrat Harry Mitchell and Republican David Schweikert sparred over earmarks and the Wall Street bailout package, but they found plenty of areas for agreement during a rare debate between the District 5 congressional candidates Friday.

VIDEO: Highlights from the 5th Congressional District debate

Democrat Harry Mitchell and Republican David Schweikert sparred over earmarks and the Wall Street bailout package, but they found plenty of areas for agreement during a rare debate between the District 5 congressional candidates Friday.

Read Paul Giblin's political blog

They generally agreed on matters large and small, ranging from how to proceed in Iraq and Afghanistan, to how to improve the country's health care, immigration and energy policies.

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They even shared the idea that long plane flights between Arizona and Washington presented twice weekly opportunities to read proposed legislation.

Arizona's 5th Congressional District takes in Scottsdale, Tempe, Fountain Hills, Ahwatukee Foothills and west Mesa.

Mitchell, the first-term incumbent, and Schweikert, the challenger, were mostly cordial to each other during the hourlong forum presented by the Tribune. However, they snapped briefly during their discussion on earmarks, which is the practice of designating federal money to particular projects or programs selected by the specific lawmakers who request the funds.

Mitchell explained that changes guided by the Democrat-controlled Congress during the past two years have made earmark requests more transparent. Mitchell said he takes an additional step by posting all of his earmark requests online.

Mitchell said he would continue to request earmarks until the practice is banned altogether.

"Let me tell you, Arizona is last, 50th, when it comes to earmarks per capita," Mitchell said. "For every dollar we send to D.C., we get 92 cents back on the Highway Trust Fund. Alaska gets 10 times the number of earmarks than Arizona does."

Mitchell noted that overall, Congress made 25 percent fewer requests this year than in 2006.

To that, Schweikert retorted, "Well, another 75 percent less and we'll have an honest government. The fact of the matter is you need to bring an end to all earmarks."

Schweikert, a former Maricopa County treasurer, said even though the process has become more transparent, congressmen and lobbyists still deal earmarks for campaign contributions.

"I've got to tell you, this is a pox on both our houses - this is Republicans and Democrats," Schweikert said. "If you love your country, whether you be a Republican or a Democrat, conservative or liberal, this type of soft corruption must come to an end."

Schweikert faulted earmarks because the practice encourages reckless vote-trading and because the country is "broke."

On the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package, Mitchell said he didn't like the legislation, but voted in favor of the second version because he felt it was needed to shore up the financial markets and the economy at large. He said the credit market has stopped functioning.

"It affects every one of us," Mitchell said. "Your refrigerator breaks and you want to go to Best Buy or Sears to buy a new one and you can't get the credit. College loans, home-improvement loans, small businessmen. Do you know what this does to them?"

Schweikert said he would have voted against both the first and second versions of the bailout bill. Both the Senate and House passed the second version with bipartisan support last week.

"It hasn't gotten better, has it?" Schweikert said. "It's actually gotten worse. Has anyone in this room looked at your IRA in the last day or so? How many of you who wanted to retire in the next year or two are going to be working for years longer because of what's going on?"

Schweikert said Congress instead should have addressed the "underlying problem" that home values have plummeted.

He said the government should have helped stabilize the slide by converting a portion of interest paid for mortgage from tax deductions into tax credits. Furthermore, the government should have motivated investors to purchase troubled mortgages by waiving certain capital gains taxes.

"You could have stimulated the market without a government takeover," he said.

Schweikert and Mitchell offered similar stances on many other issues, some of which were raised by Tribune readers.

On Iraq, they said rebuilding roads, sewers, schools and similar projects will help win over that nation's citizens. The candidates also want more buy-in and support from the Iraqi government to run its own affairs.

On Afghanistan, they said lessons learned in Iraq should lead to a more efficient war against terrorists on the second front.

On health care, Mitchell and Schweikert both called for more private-sector competition to lower costs. Mitchell promoted wellness programs, while Schweikert championed living wills to reduce health-care costs during the final 10 days of people's lives.

On immigration, they support increased border security and a new immigration policy that would include provisions for temporary workers from other countries to work in the United States legally. They both blamed Congress for inaction on the issue.

* On energy, they support development of alternative fuels, such as solar and wind power. Mitchell said, "The United States, particularly Arizona with 300 days of sunshine a year, should be the Saudi Arabia of solar." Schweikert said the United States should increase domestic drilling until other sources can be developed.

* On gun laws, both defended personal ownership of handguns.

The Tribune debate marked just their second joint appearance during the campaign.

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