Menendez, Kyrillos face off in debate
Candidates clash on jobs, Affordable Care Act during second debate of season
The state of the U.S. economy was the forefront of the second senatorial debate last night between incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and challenger Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-N.J.).
The heated hour-long debate was held in the studio of New Jersey 101.5 FM, with moderator Eric Scott asking his own questions, as well as those from the audience.
Associate Director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics John Weingart said the race is of vital importance to every N.J. resident, because through the senators, they can make their voices heard in government.
“The split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate is very close, and whether there is one more vote for the Democrats or one more vote for the Republicans could determine which party has all the committee chairmanships and to a greater extent controls the agenda,” he said. “So it matters who wins.”
The candidates took opposite stances on the government’s role in creating jobs.
Menendez said the government should help kick start the economy through programs and policies that directly benefit the working class, such as raising the minimum wage and providing subsidies for burgeoning industries like solar energy.
Kyrillos said the key to creating jobs is providing relief for those who own businesses, so they have more leeway to grow and hire new people.
“You do that by dealing with these crazy regulations, the highest corporate tax in the world ... to get a climate where people create jobs,” he said.
Menendez said he voted to raise minimum wage, while Kyrillos voted against it.
Kyrillos rebutted this argument in saying he supports raising the minimum wage, but the issue should be left up to state governments based on individual circumstances so as to not adversely impact business owners.
“[Gov. Chris] Christie is against putting it in the constitution, but we need to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt small business,” he said.
When addressing the deficit, Menendez said he would support ending subsidies for large corporations and remove tax havens used by the wealthy.
“[Oil companies] don’t need the $24 million in subsidies,” he said.
Kyrillos said he would focus on trimming governmental waste through cutting excess government programs.
“Nearly one-quarter of the American economy is spent on government ... that doesn’t allow for growth fast enough,” Kyrillos said.
Other debate topics included the Affordable Care Act and illegal immigration.
Both candidates agreed illegal immigration is a problem, but disagreed on the enforcement of immigration law.
Menendez said the job of immigration enforcement is the domain of federal authorities.
The job is too big for just federal authorities to handle and any help at any level is needed, Kyrillos said.
“They [local law enforcement agencies] are looking for people who are not productive, not constructive ... they need to use all available tools to make the country safe,” he said.
Kyrillos said he would support repealing the Affordable Care Act if elected.
Menendez said no jobs were lost with the act’s creation and brought up the benefits it has for seniors and young people who can stay on their parents’ insurance policies for longer.
“Seniors should not have to choose between putting food on the table, keeping their homes, and access to lifesaving and life-enhancing drugs, and it does not cost jobs,” he said.