Lee Terry, Tom White trade jabs in 2nd District debate

Terry leads White in fundraising

Published Thursday, October 14, 2010: By Don Walton, LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

OMAHA -- It got a little more combative when Rep. Lee Terry and Tom White met Thursday in their second debate this week.

The hour-long exchange at the Omaha Press Club was politely restrained, but definitely edgier.

Terry, the six-term Republican congressman, and White, his Democratic challenger, traded blows on health care reform, economic stimulus spending, financial regulatory reform and a string of other issues.

Both had plenty of opportunity to work in their campaign talking points about the role of government, the power of Wall Street, the meaning of leadership and the influence of lobbyists and special interests.

The $800 billion stimulus package designed to prevent a deep recession from slipping into a depression was "a complete failure," Terry said.

It grew government, not the private sector, he said, and it failed to reverse unemployment.

White said Terry ignores the fact that one-third of the stimulus dollars went to tax cuts for middle-income Americans and the reality that stimulus spending in Nebraska was "directed by Gov. Dave Heineman" through his state budget expenditures.

"The economy was completely crashing" when the stimulus package was enacted, White said.

And, he said, it collapsed "under the Republican watch" during the Bush administration.

Terry said the new health care reform law is enormously costly, places unreasonable mandates on small businesses and is funded in part by huge reductions in Medicare spending.

"Undo this bill," the congressman said.

Replace it with legislation that would give everyone access to the kind of large-pool coverage available to members of Congress today, Terry said.

White said the answer is not to go back to the day when millions of Americans could not afford health care coverage and seniors could not buy their prescription drugs, but to move on to the next step of controlling health care costs.

"We will need to take on vested and powerful interests to control costs," he said.

And that will take courage and leadership, he said.

"It will take backbone to look the pharmaceutical companies (in the eye) and say: ‘We're not your chump anymore.'"

Terry said critics of the industry fail to recognize that higher prescription costs in the United States help pay for expensive research to develop new drugs that save lives.

On another topic, White criticized Terry for not supporting recently enacted financial regulatory reforms.

Terry said White favors government over the private sector and engages in "anti-business rhetoric."

But it was Terry who opposed a recent bill to provide loans to small businesses, White said.

Both candidates said they support extension of Bush-era tax cuts.

Terry said the way to finally get federal spending under control is to enact a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

"I stand on my conservative principles," the congressman said.

White said Terry "will protect the corporations while I will hold them accountable."

Terry was a member of Congress while budget deficits soared and other issues went unresolved, White said, but "he acts as if he just came to the party."

The 2nd District House candidates will meet again Tuesday in a debate sponsored by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.


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