GOP Senate candidates discuss platforms

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Four of the five current Republican candidates for U.S. Senate stopped by Bogalusa on Saturday night for a two-hour forum to discuss immigration, the military and budgetary and financial issues, among other things.

The Senate seat currently held by Republican David Vitter will be open this year, and Vitter is not running for re-election. Currently, retired Col. Rob Maness, state treasurer John Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., U.S. Rep. John Fleming and former U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao are running for the Republican Party nomination.

All but Cao made an appearance Saturday.

The parish Republican Executive Committee organized the forum, and they provided the questions.

For the most part, the candidates stayed close to traditional, conservative GOP talking points, and no candidate was ever in much disagreement with another. Maness took a few jabs at the congressmen for being “politicians,” and during a discussion over the Puerto Rican debt crisis, Boustany took a soft swipe at Kennedy, whom he suggested was partly to blame for the state’s budget problems as treasurer.

The forum kicked off with several questions about border security and illegal immigration. All the candidates felt border security was important and that illegal immigration was a problem. The candidates called for the immediate deportation of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., and Maness said he believed college graduates would be able to fill the jobs currently held by illegal aliens.

“I know lots of Americans that will fill those jobs,” Maness said. “Lots of them. … I know folks out of college that would take two or three jobs if they could get them.”

Kennedy said President Barack Obama won’t secure the borders, and he also pointed out that Congress already passed a law to build a border fence, but the GOP-controlled Congress won’t fund it. He also pointed out that Saudi Arabia is building a wall, and Israel is also building a wall.

Next up was a discussion on the budget. All the candidates agreed that deficit spending is bad and the U.S. should reduce its debt.

Kennedy said the nation is insolvent and should stop spending money and he listed a number of programs or research initiatives he thought were of little consequence.

Boustany said, as senator, he’d pass a balanced budget.

“You’re going to hear a lot of cute speeches and empty talk. But you gotta get results,” he said.

The four men were also asked questions about the tax code. All the candidates agreed the current tax code is unfair and unclear and ought to be changed.

Fleming said the tax system is “a disaster,” and he recommended abolishing the IRS outright.

“We need to simplify. We need to do away with the deductions and the credits and things that create a huge mess,” he said.

Then the candidates addressed shoring up Social Security against future funding shortfalls.

Boustany said adding more people to the workforce is one way to add more money to the pool, and Maness suggested moving retirement age up for younger workers. Fleming said waste and fraud should be eliminated.

After that, the candidates discussed the Affordable Care Act. The candidates did not support the president’s healthcare plan.

Kennedy got in arguably the most memorable line of the day when he said, “I would rather drink weed killer than support Obamacare.”

He said the law has made everyone’s life worse. All the candidates generally agreed with this.

“I called it the most dangerous law ever passed,” said Fleming, adding that it is killing jobs.

Fleming said he’d work to repeal the Affordable Care Act and he supported replacing it with health savings accounts and allowing companies to sell insurance across state lines.

This last proposal was popular, and Kennedy also supported the idea.

Maness said the Veterans Administration, which oversees veterans’ health care, is “killing our veterans,” and he said a federal healthcare system would kill Americans, too.

“This election is about outsiders and leaders. We need to repeal Obamacare completely and get the government out of our lives and businesses and go back to a free market system,” he said.

There was talk about Puerto Rico’s impending budget crises and everyone agreed the federal government shouldn’t bail them out.

Kennedy pointed out that his father owned a lumberyard and the federal government would not have bailed out the lumberyard, so the government shouldn’t bail out big firms or even its own territories.

“I don’t believe in too big to fail. Unlike the folks in Washington, I don’t believe in too big to jail, either,” he said.

The candidates were then asked to list the three federal agencies or programs they would abolish or reduce. Many candidates gladly listed more than three, and popular departments they would like to see gone included the Department of Revenue, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Export-Import Bank. The candidates also roundly condemned the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“They can do whatever they want to do,” Fleming said.

Boustany, who is a doctor, called the bureau a cancer.

The candidates were then asked whether federal judges had too much power and whether they were making laws rather than interpreting laws.

All the candidates agreed making laws from the bench was bad and they seemed to agree that judges should be more like former Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I think every judge ought to be like Antonin Scalia. That’s my solution,” said Kennedy.

The candidates were then asked whether the Environmental Protection Agency had too much power. They agreed that it did, but while Boustany, Kennedy and Fleming supported some limits to the agency’s power, Maness supported getting rid of it altogether.

“We need to make the environmental decisions at the state and local level,” he said.
The candidates were then asked to name some of their important issues.

Boustany said national security is an issue as well as the economy. Maness also said national security is an issue and America has never been weaker.
“We’re not leading in the world and the world’s on fire,” he said. “Our allies don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us.”

Kennedy also agreed that national security is an issue, and he said the U.S. has trust issues.

“Our friends don’t trust us and our enemies don’t respect us and they certainly don’t fear us,” he said.

Fleming said that he’s worried more people are depending on the government as opposed to God. He said church attendance is down and that in Europe, very few people go to church.

“In Europe, the churches there are nothing more than museums,” he said. “We’re now turning to government for solutions and not turning to God.”