Sen. Baldwin, Vukmir discuss during Marquette Law School’s US Senate debate

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Sen. Baldwin, Vukmir discuss during Marquette Law School’s US Senate debate

Sen. Tammy Baldwin talks to the media after the debate. Vukmir did not stay for the press conference.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin talks to the media after the debate. Vukmir did not stay for the press conference.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin talks to the media after the debate. Vukmir did not stay for the press conference.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin talks to the media after the debate. Vukmir did not stay for the press conference.

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Marquette University Law School hosted the final debate Friday in the race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Republican challenger Leah Vukmir, a current member of the Wisconsin State Senate.

The debate marks the approximately two-week mark before the midterm elections Nov. 6.

Mike Gousha, host of Marquette Law School’s series “On the Issues,” moderated the debate, and WISN televised the debate live.

The two candidates discussed several topics during the one-hour event, including student loan debt, healthcare, immigration reform, foreign policy in the Middle East and the opioid crisis.

Student debt and federal loans

Vukmir said the federal government needs to “get out of the loan business” and allow banks and private lenders to saturate the market. She said the existence of federal financial aid passes on costs from universities to students.

“(Federal aid) incentivizes universities to increase tuition,” Vukmir said.

Baldwin countered that Wall Street is the issue, not the universities. She said those banks and lenders will take advantage of young people, increasing interest rates.

Cutting federal spending

Both candidates agreed government spending must be cut back, but they disagreed over recent tax cuts. Vukmir supported a bill passed by Wisconsin legislators in January 2018 that would include large tax breaks for both businesses and families, while Baldwin spoke out against it.

Vukmir said letting states allocate their own funds instead of allowing disbursement of funds at the federal level would help control overspending and guide money to where it’s needed most. She also said under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin employment rate has dropped 2.7 percent across the state and the Wisconsin legislature gained surpluses rather than deficits.

The January bill permanently cut corporate tax rates down 21 percent from 35 percent and included provisions that would temporarily reduce individual tax rates for families across all tax brackets.

Baldwin argued that the middle and working classes in Wisconsin are being forgotten “despite their employers paying less taxes.” She said leaders of large corporations like ExxonMobil, which she claimed has received more than $1 billion in tax cuts, are not passing down those profits to their employees and instead are putting the cash into their own pockets.

Immigration policy

The candidates also talked about immigration, and both agreed there should be a clear path to citizenship. Border policy, however, was not agreeable to both sides.

Baldwin said the immigration system must be overhauled to create clearer, more transparent passage to U.S. residency and citizenship. She said while Vukmir is focused on supporting President Donald Trump’s initiative to build a wall spanning nearly 2,000 miles, the wall is not a solution to the cultural and social implications of immigration issues.

“The current system is broken and needs fixing,” Baldwin said.

Vukmir’s father was a Greek immigrant who came to the United States in 1954. She said she believes those coming into the country should follow the rules and not skip lines illegally, saying too many people are asking for asylum. She added that the lack of border security invites drug and human trafficking.

“Senator Baldwin believes we should have open borders,” Vukmir said. “We need to increase border security. … It’s a health risk.”

Healthcare

Single-payer versus multi-payer healthcare took up a majority of the debate. Vukmir supports private, multi-payer healthcare plans and said Baldwin’s plans to convert to a single-payer system supported entirely by the federal government would lead to a $32 trillion deficit and would leave 3.4 million Americans without health insurance at all.

Vukmir said most individuals are already covered by Medicare, Medicaid or their employers’ health insurance.

Baldwin disagreed, saying the problem with a free health insurance market is that many private companies will not cover those with pre-existing conditions, while the Affordable Care Act bars insurance agencies from charging more or refusing to cover those with pre-existing conditions. With a single-payer system, Baldwin said healthcare would be a universal right for all citizens.

Current polling

According to the October 2018 Marquette Law School Poll, Baldwin is leading Vukmir by 10 points in the midterms, 53 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters. The margin of error is about plus or minus four points. The poll also showed 49 percent of likely voters favor Baldwin, while 30 percent of likely voters favor Vukmir.

Both Trump and former President Barack Obama will be campaigning for the candidates of their respective parties in Wisconsin next week. Trump is set to rally voters at the Central Wisconsin Airport outside Wausau Oct. 24. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin will host Obama on Oct. 26. Details on the location have not been released yet.

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