Warren and Brown pressed on key issues at 2nd debate - Worcester Telegram
LOWELL — Democrat Elizabeth Warren attacked Sen. Scott P. Brown's key claim of partisan independence last night in the second of four debates between the two Senate candidates, while the Republican incumbent continued pressing his case that she tried to benefit from her family's claim to be part Native American. Ms. Warren also broke new ground in the campaign, calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in front of a sometimes vocal crowd of more than 5,000 people in the Tsongas Center at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Mr. Brown voiced a different view of the war, saying he still supports the president's plan to leave troops in that country through 2014.
“I think it is time to bring our troops home and stop spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan,” Mr. Warren said when asked about the war. “The problem is, we can't stay and rebuild Afghanistan forever.”
Mr. Brown argued that he supported last year's troop surge and the president's timetable for a phased withdrawal. “Our goal is to make sure that the Taliban and al-Qaida do not once again join forces and export terrorism around the region and the world and potentially move on to Pakistan that has nuclear weapons,” Mr. Brown said. He said he would wait to hear recommendations from generals on the ground and from the president.
The two disagreed over immigration, income tax cuts and job creation policies, while Mr. Brown repeatedly claimed he was “independent” and Ms. Warren repeatedly described him as being “in lockstep with the Republicans” in the Senate on major votes.
Mr. Brown insisted that he was among the most bipartisan members of the Senate, saying he voted “half the time” with Democrats including a vote when he first entered the Senate for a Democrat jobs bill.
But Mr. Brown hedged without giving clear answers when moderator David Gregory from NBC's Meet the Press asked if he would be an ally of Republican Mitt Romney if he is elected president, or whether he would vote for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to lead Republicans in that branch..
“I don't work for anybody. I don't work for President Obama or Mitt Romney or Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid. I work for the people of Massachusetts,” Mr. Brown insisted. When asked directly if he supported Mr. Romney for president, Mr. Brown said, “When it comes to dealing with the economic issues, yes, absolutely.” He added, however, that he would still consider each bill on its merits.
Mr. Brown complained about partisan gridlock in Congress, insisting he was “completely disgusted as to what is going on down there,” and that Mr. McConnell “has a lot of work to do to earn my vote.”
Mr. Gregory pressed him on why he promotes his affiliations with President Obama on his website, with no photos of him with Mr. Romney. Mr. Brown said he would credit the president when he did things with which he agreed.
Ms. Warren, however, said Mr. Brown casts himself as a faithful partisan in fundraising letters around the country, emphasizing that his election could make the difference between a Republican- or Democratically-controlled Senate to block President Obama's agenda.
Ms. Warren homed in on the claim of independence, citing numerous votes Mr. Brown made against Democratic job bills and 16 votes Mr. Brown cast against extending unemployment benefits, making a case that Mr. Brown “voted in lockstep with every other Republican” on three major bills to help create jobs as well as bills to extend unemployment benefits and to extend income tax cuts for the middle class.
She said he supports tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires in line with other Republicans and complained that “He has signed an extremist right-wing pledge never to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires,” referring to a tax pledge Mr. Brown signed for Americans for Tax Reform, headed by conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist.
Mr. Brown countered, however, with claims that national health care reforms his opponent supports will impose 18 new taxes on people and businesses, while claiming he is opposed to raising any income taxes at this point. “I'm not going to be raising taxes on any Americans in the middle of a three-and-a-half-year recession.”
Ms. Warren said she supports a “balanced” approach to reducing the deficit with spending cuts and increased revenue and unlike Mr. Brown whom she said voted with Republicans to keep subsidies for big oil companies that she would vote to eliminate. Mr. Brown said if oil subsidies were eliminated the savings would not be passed on to consumers. Instead he said they would pay higher prices for gas and heating oil.
On immigration, Ms. Warren said she supports the Dream Act to allow children of undocumented immigrants to get legal status to stay in the country, while Mr. Brown said he opposes the Dream Act. “I don't support it. It's a form of backdoor amnesty,” Mr. Brown said drawing some howls from the audience.
Mr. Gregory opened the debate by asking the candidates about the controversy over Ms. Warren's claim of Native American heritage and whether she ever listed herself as a minority to gain advantages.
“I have never used the information about my Native American heritage to get any advantage, not for a private college, not for private law school and not in applying for any job,” she said.
Mr. Gregory challenged a presentation on the Brown campaign website inviting visitors to check whether she is “a liar” or “a fake Indian.”
“Is she a liar? Is that your judgment?” he asked Mr. Brown. The Republican said that when first asked by reporters why she was listed as a Native American in faculty directories that Ms. Warren “said she didn't know,” and misled the media for five weeks.
When pressed by Mr. Gregory if he had “any evidence at all” that she was hired because she was Native American or a minority, Mr. Brown did not cite any, but said the best way to answer the question was for her to get her personnel records publicly released.
Ms. Warren repeated past explanations that the people who hired her have said they were unaware of her heritage when they hired her. Further she said her initial comments came after she misheard a question at a press conference. “I wish I had been faster in answering the question,” she said, adding Mr. Brown was “just wrong” to claim she misled the voters when the issue arose earlier this year.
“I misheard a question at a very noisy press conference. I came back and I answered it when I understood and that's it. To try to turn this into something bigger is just wrong,” she said.
Mr. Gregory also asked Mr. Brown whether he was guilty of exaggeration in June when he repeated earlier comments that as senator he has had secret meetings with kings and queens. Mr. Brown said it was to make a point that he has met with people in leadership positions in other countries. “When I made a mistake, I immediately corrected it,” he said.
The debate was sponsored by UMass-Lowell and The Boston Herald. The candidates are set to meet for their next debates Oct. 10 in Springfield and Oct. 30 in Boston. Replay of debate live blog