JENKINS TWP. — The stark differences in views between U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright and Matt Connolly, the Republican who wants Cartwright’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, were made crystal clear from the get-go in a live televised debate on PBS affiliate WVIA Wednesday night.
Just about the only thing the two-term Democrat and his challenger for representing Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District agreed upon during the hour-long forum was that the earnings cap for Social Security taxation should be lifted to help keep the trust fund solvent.
Hosted by WVIA-FM program manager and classical music host Larry Wojtko at the station’s Sordoni theater, the debate format allowed the candidates 90 seconds to answer questions posed by a three-member panel consisting of Pottsville Republican Herald Daily Editor Brian Smith, University of Scranton Political Science and Women’s Studies professor Jean Harris and Scranton Times-Tribune writer Borys Krawczeniuk. An additional 30 seconds was allowed for rebuttals at Wojtko’s discretion.
In his opening statement, Cartwright said he continues to have the same priorities he had when he first went to Congress: “getting good-paying jobs back to Northeastern Pennsylvania, protecting Social Security and Medicare, standing up for the veterans and keeping America safe.”
He noted his recent appointment to the powerful Appropriations Committee and his intent to drag “as many federal tax dollars back to our area as ever I can … because the more federal dollars we have in the area, the more dollars, period, and that turns into jobs, and that’s how we keep our young people wanting to stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
Connolly, who described himself as a Constitutional conservative, said the Constitution most importantly brought “checks and balances to government” and helped America surpass Britain as the world’s greatest economic superpower over the next 100 years.
Now, he said, America is “in the position we’re in today” because of “the ability of government to go into our private lives, to intrude, to make laws that make them the person that’s important.” He pointed to “overburdening of regulations, of taxes, the disaster known as Obamacare, which has to be repealed. We need to get our lives and our country back and our freedom back,” he said.
Here’s where the candidates stood on these issues posed by the panelists:
Q. Does Congress have a role in producing jobs?
Connolly: “Government cannot create jobs, but it can create a climate for jobs,” he said. He found it “disconcerting” that Cartwright was “so excited about spending someone else’s money” via his Appropriations seat. “You cannot grow the government and grow the private sector,” he said. Despite a $20 trillion deficit “there are still bridges and roads that need to be fixed and low employment. Spending is not the answer. Entrepreneurship and a limited government — that’s the answer.”
Cartwright: Pointing out that unemployment locally is 32 percent higher than the rest of the nation and 16 percent higher than across the state, Cartwright said, “Absolutely. I am unabashed about telling you that I’ve got to bring as many federal tax dollars back into our district so that we get at least our fair share of what we’re paying in to the federal government. We’re talking about grants and loans and contracts for the defense contractors in our region.”
Q. Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants?
Connolly: “The people involved are good people. But let’s not forget something: they broke the law coming into this country. We all know why — America is the land of opportunity, etc. But then they break another law when they go work. … If we make it tougher for them to get jobs, they will go back to where they came from. … Amnesty is another way of rewarding them for breaking the law and I have a real problem with that because it’s also a slap in the face of all the people who did it the right way.”
Cartwright: “Moody’s Analytics looked at what we would do in this country and (to) our economy if the plan to deport 11 million people went through and what they found was that over the next four years, we would lose as many as 3.5 million jobs as opposed to if we passed a comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, we would gain about 11 million jobs. … We want to see comprehensive immigration reform. … It shores up the borders, puts a lot more money into border enforcement … and makes taxpayers of these people who are working in this country.”
The candidates also disagreed over the following:
• Support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is intended to make women’s pay more equal to men’s for the same job: Cartwright supports it, Connolly does not.
• Increased federal funding for early childhood education, with Cartwright supporting it and Connolly calling it a state decision.
• Increasing the minimum wage: Cartwright favors it, Connolly does not.
• Changing federal law to allow the sale of health insurance across state lines to increase competition and lower premiums: Cartwright is “open to examining that” and Connolly supports it.
Reach Steve Mocarsky at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @TLSteveMocarsky.comments powered by Disqus