Full transcript of the Wednesday, September 29, 2010 debate between Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer and Republican Carly Fiorina.
Patt Morrison: Hello, I'm Patt Morrison. Welcome to a special U.S. Senate debate co-presented by the Spanish-language daily La Opinión and by public radio station 89.3 KPCC. The debate's being broadcast on public radio stations throughout California and streamed at KPCC.org and also at LaOpinion.com. Joining me to ask questions is Gabriel Lerner. He is a news editor at La Opinión and writer of a weekly column. Thanks for being here.
Gabriel Lerner: Hello.
Morrison: And of course, we have our candidates: the incumbent Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer, seeking her fourth term. She's at the NPR studios in Washington. Senator, thank you for being here.
Barbara Boxer: Thank you, Patt.
Morrison: And her challenger is the Republican Carly Fiorina, here in studio. Thank you so much.
Carly Fiorina: Great to be with you both. Thanks for having us.
Morrison: So, Senator Boxer has opted to take the second question in our debate. The first question will go to Miss Fiorina, and it will come from Gabriel Lerner.
Lerner: Miss Fiorina, on the economy and jobs, you are a big advocate of cutting government regulation of business. Can you give us some examples of regulations that you think should be reduced, or eliminated? Would you include any regulations designed to protect the environment, worker safety or product quality?
Fiorina: Well certainly there are many reasons for a rational regulatory policy. But unfortunately we see too many cases where regulations have run amok, and they are costing us jobs. Let us just start with the most obvious example: that of water in our great Central Valley.
In 2008, a nameless, faceless bureaucrat decided that the smelt was endangered. The remedy for this was to turn the water off flowing through the pumps in the delta, and with that decision, hundreds of thousands of acres lay fallow, tens of thousands of people at the height of it were out of work. Of course it is important to protect our environment, it is important to protect our fish and our flies and our frogs, all which are endangered in California, but it's important to protect our families as well.
And unfortunately in this regard, Senator Boxer refused to step forward and help. As chairwoman of [the U.S. Senate Committee on] Environment and Public Works, she had the opportunity – I would argue, the obligation – to step forward and put an amendment on the U.S Senate floor that would have waived that assessment.
Lerner: Excuse me for the–
Fiorina: She refused to do so, and so the water stays off, and we have families out of work.
Lerner: Excuse me for the interruption. Could you please detail more of those regulations that you think should be reduced, without mentioning Senator Boxer?
Fiorina: Well, I'm using this example to say that when we have something like the Endangered Species Act, is just one example, of course we need to protect our endangered species. But when, by statute, that law requires someone to disregard all social and economic impact; in other words, when the regulation says that we should protect species at any cost, and we are costing people jobs, which is what is happening today, then that would be an example of where I think common sense should, and compassion should prevail. And it's relevant, of course, because the Endangered Species Act has spawned many regulations in California, no pun intended, and it has made, for example, the building of new manufacturing facilities very difficult.
Morrison: Miss, here, I do want to ask you a tax question, because we have two questions about the economy, and I'm sure we'll get into that. In 2000, at the Aspen Institute, you said that an Internet tax was probably unrealistic not to tax it forever and ever. How would you institute an Internet tax, and when would it begin?
Fiorina: Well, I have never been in favor of an Internet tax. I said it's a bad idea.
Morrison: But you said it's inevitable.
Fiorina: What I said was, in the year 2000, you must remember that in the year 2000, at that time, sort of at the height of the dot-com boom, the concern that many Republicans, as well as Democrats had – it turned out to be an unfounded concern – was that brick-and-mortar businesses were going out of business and that everything was going to go onto the Internet, and so there was a concern that tax revenue would plummet.
It turned out to be an unfounded concern. I was working on a bipartisan basis to try and find the right answer, and what I said at the time was that the only way we should ever consider taxing the Internet, something I oppose, was to first overhaul the entire tax system–
Morrison: All right.
Fiorina: Because we were damaging businesses of all kinds with our tax structure.
Morrison: Great. Thank you so much. The next question is for Senator Boxer, also from Gabriel Lerner.
Lerner: Senator Boxer, also on the economy, some liberal economists are saying that the economy is so weak that we need another large-scale government stimulus package. Do you agree with them? And if so, why this package wasn't enough.
Boxer: Very good question. I would answer it this way. When President Obama took over and the Democrats joined him in theCongress, we were facing a bleeding of 700,000 jobs a month. We were facing a situation where credit was frozen, and so we stepped forward and we did pass– we took a number of actions.
We did pass a stimulus. And I would say this: I voted for that, it is creating jobs. I have gone all over the state. Our Republican governor says it is creating tens of thousands of jobs and saving others. But here is the thing, I believe we needed an objective analysis of whether we did the right thing.
And Alan Blinder, a Democratic economist, teamed up with Mark Zandi, who was actually John McCain’s economic adviser. They said, had we not taken the steps that we took, we would have lost another 8 million jobs on top of the 8 million that were lost.
Lerner: Senator, excuse me for the interruption–
Boxer: Yes. Yes, certainly.
Lerner: But, after those two years of a Democrat in the White House administration, we are saddled with a federal deficit around $1.3 trillion. What will you do as a member of this Senate to shrink this deficit?
Boxer: Yes. That is what was inherited from George Bush. He took a Clinton surplus and 23 million jobs created – I am the only candidate in the race who actually voted to balance the budget – and we were handed that $1.3 trillion deficit, and I do have many ideas.
The first thing is, you have to pay as you go. In other words, as you spend new programs, you've got to pay for those programs. That's very important. You’ve got to cut out the wasteful spending. We've got to end the two wars. That will be a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. You've got to recover money from contractors who are ripping us off, like Halliburton overcharged $200 million for fuel for our troops in Iraq.
Morrison: Senator Boxer, but–
Boxer: And Hewlett-Packard, Hewlett-Packard just settled $55 million of overcharges, and that came from the time that my opponent was the CEO there–
Morrison: Senator Boxer, still–
Boxer: So we can gain about a trillion on that.
Morrison: A trillion dollars. Yes, that'll help to pay down this deficit. But the ongoing concerns are about what problems must be cut or scaled back in order to meet these deficit concerns. Apart from what you’re talking about, where are these cuts to be made?
Boxer: The war will be a trillion dollars; collecting from people who are ripping off the government and other uncollected payments to the government is another trillion dollars. Stopping tax breaks to the millionaires, and the billionaires, tax breaks that my opponent supports – that’s almost another trillion. So you go on and on. We should end tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas.
Lerner (crosstalk): Would you cut federal spending, senator?
Boxer (crosstalk): Tax breaks that– yes.
Lerner: Would you cut federal spending, would you freeze the pay of civilian government workers? Those are ideas from Mrs. Fiorina.
Boxer: Yes. I’ve seen her budget recommendations – they're a disaster for California. They would cause draconian cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and that's not from me, it's form the Center on Budget Priorities. She said she should wouldn’t even ask for or fight for local spending priorities.
Morrison (crosstalk): All right. Let's– Senator, let me go to Miss–
Boxer (crosstalk): So, we are very different on this, yes.
Morrison: Let me go to Miss Fiorina, then, and find out how different you are. Miss Fiorina, you talk about extending the Bush tax cuts to everyone, also cutting the deficit. There have been analysts, including the Tax Policy Center, that said you cannot do both at the same time without virtually shutting down most of government. Where do you make those cuts to make both of those things happen?
Fiorina: Well, let me respond to a couple things that the senator said. First of all, with, I am not an apologist for the spending in the Bush years, but let us remember that our deficit has grown from $10.7 trillion, roughly, to $13 trillion in just the last two years. Let us remember that, with regard to the stimulus, both the mayor of San Francisco and the controller of Los Angeles has said it was a failure, and since the stimulus bill passed, our unemployment rate has grown from 10.2 percent to 12.4 percent. Let us remember that Senator Boxer has voted against a balanced budget amendment six times. She has waived PAYGO 12 times. She has voted against a bipartisan effort to curb federal government spending, the Sessions-McCaskill bill. She's voted against that four times, and it is one vote short of passage. That means Barbara Boxer–
Morrison: Apart from her record, where is it that you would cut? Would you cut the military? Would you cut Social Security? Would you cut Medicare? Homeland Security has accounted for some of the biggest federal growth in the last 10 years.
Fiorina: Let me tell you exactly where I would cut, but with all due respect, her record is the issue. She has been in Washington, D.C. for 28 years, she had plenty of time to give middle-income Californians a tax break, but right now, as of January 1, middle-income families in California will be faced with a $1,600 tax increase, on average, because she hasn’t done anything about it, and here we are at the end of September.
Where would I cut? First, let's institute a spending cap in Washington, D.C. I would return spending, as a beginning, to 2008 levels. I would call on the federal government to freeze pay. I would call on the federal government as well to only hire one person for every two that leave government service.
Second, let's give every American the possibility of designating up to 10 percent of their federal tax dollars towards paying down the debt. If every single American designated 10 percent of their tax dollars, we could reduce the deficit by $95 billion a year. Third–
Morrison: But still, that's $95 billion. I have to ask you, would you cut military, Social Security and Medicare? These three programs that seem to be very important to Republicans.
Fiorina: I believe that there is many, much opportunity to save money in the Defense Department. I served on the Defense Business Board. However, I believe our military needs support. I would not cut funding for national security,
Senator Boxer has campaigned since 1992 on a platform of cutting the military budget in half. She's refused to support money for body armor for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us start, however, with the 22 percent of the programs that GAO has demonstrated over the past five years do not meet their objectives. And let us remember that the government has grown every year for the last 60 years, and most especially, and most dramatically in the last two years. We need to get spending under control. Washington has a spending problem, we need to hold our representatives accountable, and Barbara Boxer in her 28 years in Washington, D.C. has done nothing to curb spending and everything to vote for increased spending.
Morrison: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina. Senator Boxer, you have criticized Ms. Fiorina for outsourcing jobs. Before we get to that, though, I do want to get to a question from one of our listeners, because we did ask our listeners to call in with their questions–
Morrison: So here's a question for you, Senator Boxer.
Gary Causman: Hi, my name is Gary Causman, and I live in Los Angeles. Senator Boxer, you've strongly criticized Ms. Fiorina for outsourcing jobs. My company licenses web-based services to schools and nonprofits, and we would have a really tough time remaining competitive if we couldn’t outsource our Web development work. For us, it’s a choice between paying a single U.S. programmer $80 to $175 an hour or paying a team of skilled workers in India or Russia $17 to $20 an hour. Are you against outsourcing in absolutely all cases?
Morrison: Senator Boxer, that question from Gary Causman of Mission Hills.
Boxer: It's a good question. The fact is, our nation needs to incentivize companies like yours to hire American workers. We need to see the words “Made in America” again. Right now, tax breaks that my opponent supports – she would not do away with them – are giving big tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas.
Now I know that’s what she did. She laid off 30,000 workers, shipped their jobs to China, to India, to Malaysia. She said she’s proud of what she did. The fact is, I've met some of these people who she laid off. I’ve heard their stories. We have the most productive workers in the world.
It seems to me there are ways we can go. When we just had a vote on the Senate floor, I was proud to stand there and say, we're taking away tax breaks from companies that ship jobs overseas. We want to give them to companies right here.
Morrison:At the same–
Boxer: And I do have to say, if I could just say one thing here, my opponent has gone off on a lot of tangents on budgets. Let's be clear. The only candidate in this race that ever voted to balance the budget and create surpluses is me. I did that under Bill Clinton. I supported those policies – 23 million jobs, and surpluses. And the way you do it–
Morrison: Senator, I have to ask you–
Boxer: And the way you do it is not voting for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, it's voting for a balanced budget, and that's what I did.
Morrison: Senator, that having been said–
Morrison: As we heard Mr. Causman, he's competing against people who are earning $17 to $20 an hour versus $175 here. Is it time for American wages to float, to go down to adjust to some of these world standards, to keep the jobs here in this country? "Made In America" is a brand you've talked about; is it time for wages to adjust to a more realistic level?
Boxer: Absolutely not. If we were to lose our middle class – and it’s starting to happen right now – we lose America. You know, I am a first generation American on my mother's side. My mother never graduated from high school, 'cause her dad got ill and she had to work. The fact is, the middle class is what built our nation. And when you have CEOs like my opponent, who, while she was laying off 30,000 workers, enriched herself–
Lerner: Senator, Sen–
Boxer: That is not the kind of model that we need.
Lerner: Senator, excuse me. Ms. Fiorina is not running for the head of HP right now, she's running for the Senate, and there is a big difference between running a company where you have to make those choices and running the government. So, what is the approach to wages? What is the approach to taxes that could save us from this crisis?
Boxer: Wages are set by the private sector. We have a minimum wage. I support it, I don’t know if my opponent does or not. But the fact is, she is still supporting tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas, so this is a very relevant conversation. The fact is, I believe in collective bargaining, I believe in an educated workforce, I believe that it is very important that we not lose the middle class. And the words "Made In America" can be real again. For example–
Morrison: All right, senator, thank you very much.
Morrison: We don't have time for your examples examples right now.
Boxer (laughing): OK.
Morrison: The next question from Gabriel Lerner for Ms. Fiorina.
Lerner: Ms. Fiorina, on immigration, in June you said on Fox News that the Obama administration has defunded securing the border. You also said that a Latino told you that crossing the border is the question of criminals crossing the border, but the Department of Homeland Security says that President Obama is spending more on border security than President Bush did. How do you square your statement with the statistic from Homeland Security?
Fiorina: You know, I think however much money is being spent, the facts are clear, the border is not secure. And when we see murder and mayhem being committed just south of our border, that is increasingly a national security problem. I met recently with some sheriffs, from Fresno County, and they told me that the drug war has reached California. I met with an Iraq war veteran who was told he could not go hunting in Mendocino County by local law enforcement because they could not guarantee his safety, because drug cartels from Mexico are growing marijuana in California. We have a border that is insecure. And I believe that it is the worst form of politics to–
Lerner (crosstalk): Ms. Fiorina, let's say that the border is secure.
Fiorina (crosstalk): But it isn’t. (laughs) It isn't!
Lerner (crosstalk): It could be. It's going to be, and–
Fiorina (crosstalk): But it has never been.
Lerner (crosstalk): Why don't you want to confront the question of what to do with 12, 15, 20 million immigrants that are unauthorized immigrants in this country?
Fiorina: Gabriel, the reason I don’t want to breeze past border security is because we have not secured it. And the reason we have not secured it is a matter of political will. It's not money, or manpower, or muscle; we have all those things.
It's matter of political will, and people are playing politics with it. So we have to secure the border, and frankly, I believe the answer is to have governors certify that the border is secure. However, I must also say this: we need a temporary worker program that works in this state. We don’t have one. Agriculture depends upon it, restaurants depend upon it, technology depends upon it. And when we had an opportunity to have a guest worker program with bipartisan support in 2007, Barbara Boxer was the deciding vote that destroyed that guest worker program. She voted for something called the Dorgan Amendment, and when she cast her vote that destroyed the guest worker program, her comment was that immigrants are a source of cheap labor that threatens the American worker.
Morrison: Ms. Fiorina, that having been said, there's still 12 million people living in this country illegally. If the border were sealed tomorrow, what would you do with those people?
Fiorina: But the border isn't sealed, and many of those–
Morrison (crosstalk): On the presumption that you could, we have to act on the idea that we would, that you could close the border, and then, what do we do?
Fiorina: You know, I don't think– I think that's what people are tired of about Washington. We always skip over the problem that's right in front of us and want to talk about something else. The problem right in front of us is the border is not secure, and we don’t have a temporary worker program that works. We have people here who want to work legally. We have farmer who have to–
Lerner: What do you say to the illegal people that are working here, and to their friends, cousins, brothers, fathers, who are many millions of people here in California? And they are listening.
Fiorina: You know, I am very proud that I have received the endorsement of so many in the Hispanic community and so many in the agricultural community. And the reason I believe I have received their endorsement and their support is because they understand that you have to deal with the most pressing problems in front of us.
And the most pressing problems in front of us are: we do not have a secure border, and Senator Boxer vilifying people in Arizona doesn't help with that, and we do not have a guest worker program that works–
Morrison (crosstalk): All right.
Fiorina: Our state depends upon it.
Morrison: Ms. Fiorina, we've heard– OK. We have to move on to Senator Boxer with a question about immigration as well. It will also come from Gabriel Lerner.
Lerner: Senator Boxer, you have the opportunity to answer because, it's true that in 2007, you cast a key vote for the amendment that phased out the guest worker program, and you said you opposed it because it would provide a pool of cheap labor. You repeated that in your meeting with us in La Opinión, and it will take jobs from American workers. Ms. Fiorina says that your vote essentially killed the chance to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Your response?
Boxer: My response is very direct. The temporary worker program that my opponent supports and that I opposed was so draconian that one of the newspapers said it was indentured servitude. The way it was drawn up was not like the Feinstein-Boxer ag jobs bill, which is a very good bill. The way it was drawn up, and imagine this: you get to be sponsored by your employer, you work for two years, then you had to leave the country.
Now, it could well be at that point you were leaving your family, and you had to leave for a year, and then you had to beg your employer to take you back, that same employer. Otherwise, you couldn’t come back. And we were told, in writing, that it would lead to an additional 1 million illegal immigrants because people simply would’ve gone underground.
It was not the solution. I believe in a guest worker program that is humane, I believe in a guest worker program that is clear, I believe in a guest worker program that Senator Feinstein and I put hours into, which will put people on a path to legality–
Boxer: And I believe in comprehensive immigration reform. I don’t vilify anybody–
Morrison: OK. Senator–
Boxer: But I believe in comprehensive immigration reform.
Lerner: The other part of the question: what about security? What about border security? What part does that play in your plan?
Boxer: It's a very important part, and we have to stop this arguing. We have to come together. You know, the way my opponent treats this, she's, she’s pitting border security against everything else. As a matter of fact, she said anything else is a distraction. She doesn’t want comprehensive immigration reform. Now, it is not a distraction to make sure that 11 or 12 million people, the vast majority of whom are part of our community. You know, if you follow her line of thinking, they will all have to be deported. We need to take care of this.
Lerner (crosstalk): What about sealing the border?
Lerner: Sealing the border and having the governors certified like Ms. Fiorina asked?
Boxer: I– Since I came to the United States Senate, we have increased border patrol five-fold, we have sent the National Guard there, wee have built fencing there. We just got a report from the California border patrol that says that they have that border in far greater shape then they ever did before. They said the apprehensions were down 80 percent.
So yes, there is still slippage, and we should get it so that there's nobody coming over. But I'll tell you the best way to do it: comprehensive immigration reform. We need to come together.
Morrison (crosstalk): Senator, very quickly, why not simply close the border as has been suggested and reset our whole immigration policy from there?
Boxer: Well, I don’t know who's suggesting closing the border. We have tremendous commerce with Mexico. They're our neighbor, and I don’t think we should close a border with a country– actually, it's California’s first or second biggest trading partner.
Morrison: Senator, thank you very much. Another question, this one for Ms. Fiorina, about the environment. In the first debate, Ms. Fiorina, you said Senator Boxer supports extreme environmental groups. What groups are those?
Fiorina: All I can tell you is that it is the only explanation I can come up with for–
Morrison (crosstalk): No, what are the names of these groups?
Fiorina: (laughs, pause) The only explanation that I can come up with for Senator Boxer's refusal to step forward and help tens of thousands of people who are standing in food lines in the middle of the most productive farmland in the world and being handed canned goods from China is that she must feel that she is beholden to a set of contributions coming from a variety of organizations.
I think, if you will look, you will find that Barbara Boxer is perhaps the largest recipient of money from environmental interests. Now I'm not saying every one of those interests is extreme, but I can only–
Morrison (crosstalk): So, but please, if you're going to name, you have to single them out as to which are extreme and which are not, because to say "extreme" without singling them out, that raises the question that they may all be. So are there some that you were thinking of when you said this?
Fiorina: I think the point here is not what various organizations have in their charters, I think the point here is, what is it that Senator Boxer believes she is supposed to be doing in Washington, D.C.? Is she supposed to be serving the interests of the people of California, tens of thousands of whom were thrown out of work, or is she supposed to be representing the interest of those special interests like big labor leadership, or like a set of environmental groups. Who is it that she’s representing – the special interests, or the interests of the people of California?
Lerner: Ms. Fiorina, excuse me. Let's go more specific. You opposed– I think you opposed Proposition 23, and that will stop AB 32 from starting in California, and from addressing our nation's climate and energy challenges. Why is that, when this law can develop a new industry, a new industry dedicated to green energy and put California back in the front of the country?
Fiorina: Well first, we are falling behind in innovation and we are falling behind in energy innovation. All of these thousands of clean green jobs that Senator Boxer keeps promising, the reality is that we spend less on energy [research and development] than many other nations in the world.
We must be the leader in innovation, and we must be the leader in clean green technologies. And we are not on a path to do so, because we don’t spend as much, our federal government doesn't spend as much on federally-funded energy R & D. We have great research research institutions here who could use the support, and because our R & D tax credit is now 17th in the world, not first in the world. However, the reason I believe AB 32 is a bad idea is because to deal with global warming requires a serious global solution. AB 32–
Morrison: So Ms. Fiorina, that being the case, if AB 32 is a state issue and you talk about this needing a national, global solution, so would you oppose cap-and-trade? What is a competent national solution, and how does it address states' rights issues, like California, to set its own policy?
Fiorina: So, scientists agree that a single sate, or a single nation acting alone can have no impact on global warming. I would immediately engage in serious bilateral discussions with China, a nation that uses more coal than we do, but also that researches more into clean coal.
I oppose Barbara Boxer's cap-and-trade bill. It has been called the most expensive piece of legislation in U.S. history. Economists agree it would cost this nation millions of jobs. Economists agree it would cause us trillions of dollars of lost economic output.
Morrison (crosstalk): All right.
Fiorina (crosstalk): And, by the way, Barbara Boxer has been chairwoman of Environment and Public Works. We don't have a national, rational energy policy–
Morrison (crosstalk): All right, Ms. Fiorina.
Fiorina (crosstalk): We don't have a solution to global warming. She has failed in her leadership responsibilities.
Morrison: I would like to take off that point about the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Policy, for Senator Boxer. One of your colleagues, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, who headed that committee, said he thinks that your committee's accomplished very little under your leadership. He was concerned. He said he found it disconcerting, that the message amendments and bills were coming through and not actual policy leadership, to the extent that John Kerry, in a sense, was taking through the cap-and-trade bill rather than yourself. Have you been ineffective in that leadership when your own members have said that you've not accomplished what you should?
Boxer: Well, Max is one of my strongest supporters, and he was misquoted, and of course, you didn't get the corrected quote. The fact is, I’m the only chairman in the Senate who ever got not one, but two comprehensive energy, clean energy bills out. And every one of them was deficit neutral, and every one of them would have created millions of jobs.
The fact is Lieberman, Senator Lieberma and McCain had two votes on their bills. They got in the 30s and once got to the low 40s. I got to 54 supporters. We fell short.
The fact is, big oil and dirty coal, very strongly supporting my opponent, weighed in, and I understand that. So we're trying to broaden our reach. We're trying to broaden the group that's working on this. It took 10 years to pass the Clean Air Act.
But I have to say, you know, I'm proud to have the support of the Sierra Club. I'm proud to have the support of the League of Conservation Voters. And I have had to go back and search through history–
Lerner (crosstalk): Senator–
Boxer (crosstalk): – to find a Senate candidate, Republican or Democratic, who was so hostile to the environment, when actually, a clean environment–
Lerner (crosstalk): Senator–
Boxer (crosstalk): – protects our health and creates jobs.
Lerner: Senator, excuse me. Can you answer to Ms. Fiorina's assertion that the only way to impact global warning is to act globally? You said that if California doesn't take the lead, then China and others will. But doesn't Ms. Fiorina have a point when she says that the global approach would be more effective?
Boxer: Our president has met with China; they've reached some tentative agreements. We have had conference after conference. The fact is, we have to act. California is not a state that sits around and lets anybody else lead. That's why I so strongly oppose Prop 23.
And I have to say, again, it is shocking to me to see someone try to get to the United States Senate, from California, who would turn her back on the environment. She actually was named one of the "dirty dozen" by the League of Conservation Voters. They looked over all of the candidates for the Senate, all of the candidates nationwide, and she made that list. This is bad for our state.
Just take our coast. Our coast, as pristine as it is. It supports 400,000 jobs in recreation, and tourism, and fishing. My opponent would actually open up federal waters to drilling, even after the BP nightmare. SO she stands with big oil, she doesn't stand with the people of California. They revere their environment. It is a God-given gift and it also is an economic asset, and we have to fight to make sure that the air we breathe is clean–
Boxer: – that the water we drink is pure, and that we preserve our coastal economy.
Senator, thank you very much. We'll be back in a moment with more questions from our candidates, Ms. Fiorina and Senator Boxer. This is a special U.S. Senate co-presented by 89.3 KPCC and the Spanish-language daily La Opinión. We'll have more questions for the candidates in a moment.
Morrison: I'm Patt Morrison. Welcome back to a special U.S. Senate debate for the seat occupied at this moment by the incumbent, Barbara Boxer. And we're talking with her at NPR's studios in Washington, D.C., and here at KPCC with her Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina. My college, Gabriel Lerner, is an editor and columnist at La Opinión. I'm Patt Morrison, the host of this program and also a columnist at the L.A. Times. The next question goes from Gabriel to Carly Fiorina.
Lerner: Carly Fiorina, on health care – you have pledged to try and repeal and replace the huge health are law passed earlier this year. But would you vote for a bill that would at least guarantee that some of the 50 million Americans without health insurance would be able to get it?
Fiorina: Of course, we need health care reform in this country, and we need to be sure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care. I am a breast cancer survivor. I take this personally.
But, this bill has created a host of problems. First of all, we were promised initially that it would help reduce the deficit; we now we know that it contributes to the deficit. We were told that health insurance premiums would stop rising; they are now rising.
And it is not compassion to throw 16 million uninsured people into Medicaid, a program that is already virtually bankrupt. It is underfunded in the state of California. We have yet another $3 billion unfunded mandate that has just been handed to the state of California.
And just the other day I read the heartbreaking story of a woman in Los Angeles who discovered a lump in her breast and was told that she would have to wait five months for a biopsy. She was on Medicaid, she was on a state plan. In other words, we're not helping people.
Lerner: How would you grant health insurance to those that don't have it right now?
Fiorina: First, we missed an opportunity in this bill. The health insurance companies are regulated oligopolies. We have 50 state markets. The insurance companies are regulated as oligopolies. In other words, they're not subjected to real competition. So let's open up the health insurance market for real competition.
Let us subsidize a high-risk pool, for high-risk individuals. It would cost us much less money than this health care bill. Let's–
Morrison: Ms. Fiorina, we, we have the biggest competitive market in California right now, and we also have questions about quality and affordability. One of our callers who was herself a cancer survivor asked how you could justify your opposition to allowing any insurance companies to discriminate in any fashion, or to price out of the market people who have pre-existing conditions.
Fiorina: I certainly don't support that. I certainly don't support that. Let me state at the outset–
Morrison: But that's part of the provision of the health care law.
Fiorina: But what we have done with this health care law – think about what we're learning about this health care bill. When President Obama first stepped forward and said our goals was, were to make sure every American had access to quality, affordable health care, I cheered. But what have we done? What we have with this bill now, are people are being thrown off their insurance, premiums are rising. People are not–
Morrison (crosstalk): This is before the bill went into effect.
Fiorina: No. I'm sorry, that is not correct. We are learning now of health insurance companies saying they are increasing premiums as a direct result of this health care bill. We are being told that patients are being denied care under Medicaid, because Medicaid cannot handle the influx of patients that they are now being asked to deal with.
We are being told by small business owners all across the state that suddenly they're being asked to fill out a 1099 for everyone with whom they do more than $600 worth of business a year–
Lerner: Ms. Fiorina.
Fiorina: – to help pay for this health care system. We've created a huge host of problems and we haven't solved the fundamental problem.
Lerner: First, on the public option, the supporters say that it will increase competition and keep the private insurance companies honest.
Morrison: And if we can get a quick answer from you, thank you.
Fiorina: I know that the breast cancer survival rates in this country are 30 points higher than in the U.K. and in Canada. We have seen the outcome of public option plans. Now, Senator Boxer has supported a public option since 1992, but I think we have plenty of evidence to suggest that we have the highest quality health care in this country. Let us not destroy that.
Morrison (crosstalk): All right. Thank you.
Fiorina: Let us instead make it more accessible and more affordable.
Morrison: Thank you. A health question for Senator Boxer from Gabriel Lerner.
Lerner: Senator Boxer, on the same issue, you were an advocate of the public option in the debate. And you said it would reduce the deficit, increase competition. If you are re-elected, would you support an effort to add the public option to the law?
Boxer: I would. And here's the good news: the way we drew up this law, it allows the states a lot of flexibility. The states each can decide how best to do this. I like that provision, and that would include their version of a public option. But I think it's important for people listening to understand this: when somebody says repeal and replace, watch out.
Because once it's repealed, you're not going to see a very quick replacement. And I would have to just say, right now, if you have a child who's up to 26 years of age, you can keep them on your policy. Right now, seniors are getting back $250 to help them with their prescription drugs. Does my opponent going to take the checks away?
They're going to be able to get two treatments, prevention treatments. There are no more rescissions. People, the insurance companies cannot walk away from you when you get sick.
Lerner: Senator, but they–
Boxer: And if you have an already, there are, my opponent says let's put high-risk pools in place. I don't think she understand that that is in place now. Part of the law that she wants to repeal–
Lerner (crosstalk): Senator, excuse me for the interruption.
Boxer: Yeah. That's OK.
Lerner: But, OK. You know, the call for repealing is not just s. Fiorina. It's wide. Why do you think all this health care law is so unpopular among so many people in the public?
Boxer: Well I think most people want us mend it, not end it. And you know, clearly, we can make it better, and I'm very willing to do that. But I'll be darned if I'm going to go back to where we were before. Sixty-two percent of our people were going broke due to a health care crisis. You know, like, I don’t want to go back to the days when thousands of people died every day because they had no insurance.
We have community health care centers in this bill. California's going to get about 800 of them to take care of our working poor.
We had gender rating, where women were paying twice as much as a man. That is outlawed, and if you had a pre-existing condition, such as cancer, or anything else, you were out of luck.
Boxer: Now a child, if you have a child with asthma, you can get– now, you must get insurance.
Morrison: Bur senator–
Boxer: So, it isn't perfect, and we need to mend it, but don't end it, because it took a hundred years to get this done, since Teddy Roosevelt.
Morrison: Senator, Ms. Fiorina said that there are now some companies who are refusing coverage. For example, to children, because they say that they can't manage it under the terms of the health care bill. She says we need more competition than we have already built into that bill. How would you address these concerns, when companies do refuse coverage, and when the competition doesn't seem to be up to snuff?
Boxer: Well, right now, an insurance company cannot turn away a child. So, if there is someone that my opponent knows, please have them call us, because we'll get right on the case.
Morrison: There have been stories about new policies not being issued, senator.
Boxer: Yeah. Well, they, a child has to be able to get coverage. And they can be on their parents' policy until they're 26, so if a company is not taking your child, they are disobeying the law, and we have to enforce the law. So, I'm just saying–
Morrison (crosstalk): All right, senator, we'll have to leave that point right now and move on.
Boxer: Yeah. Can I make one last point? And that is this.
Boxer: Yes. My opponent says we're doing great. Do you know we're 29th on infant mortality, behind Cuba? We can do better. We really can.
Morrison: Senator, thank you for that. The next question is for Carly Fiorina. In the debate, Ms. Fiorina, you said that you are not running on the issue of Roe versus Wade, but, quote, "if there were an opportunity," you would overturn that decision. How would that work if you went to the United States Senate? Would you introduce or support legislation to overturn Roe?
Fiorina: I certainly would not introduce it, and by the way, the way this actually works, it would have to be the Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade. But let me just say, something else happened in that last debate. Barbara Boxer engages frequently in a shocking misrepresentation of my record, but nowhere is that more unconscionable than her continued assertion that I support the criminalization of abortion.
She knows very well that this is not true. There are no circumstances under which a woman in California would be denied an abortion. She knows this very well. Barbara Boxer is engaging in this kind of misrepresentation to change the subject. To change the subject from her own extreme views, which are that a baby doesn’t have rights until it leaves the hospital. To change the subject from her own extreme views that a girl seeking an abortion at 12 shouldn’t have to notify her mother.
Morrison (crosstalk): Ms. Fiorina, though–
Fiorina: And the subject of this election is not abortion, every voter in California agrees it's jobs, it's out of control government spending.
Morrison: But Ms. Fiorina, the question that you had talked about, about criminalization, we're talking about a ban, rather than necessarily making it a crime. Now, you have talked about your experience with–
Fiorina (crosstalk): Senator Boxer has indicated that I support criminalization of abortion, and that is false, and she knows it.
Morrison: All right. So that's false. Now, one of the points that you make up is that your husband's mother was advised by doctors to have an abortion. She chose not to. Of course, you're married to your husband, who, as you've said, you love very much. Why would you deny those two aspects to other women? The idea of a choice, and doctors who advise women whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy.
Fiorina: I'm sure that you didn't mean this, Patt, but what you said was, a story that I made up.
Fiorina: It is not a story that I made up. That is a fact.
Morrison: In any case, this is the fact of your husband and your mother-in-law's lives.
Fiorina: I understand that not all women agree with me. I understand that this is an emotional issue for many women. I happen to be pro-life. Barbara Boxer holds a very extreme view. That taxpayers should pay for virtually any abortion, any time, anywhere, for any reason.
Morrison (crosstalk): That's banned by the Hyde Amendment for right now, Ms. Fiorina. What about the choice that women make with their own money?
Fiorina: But, I'm only, I'm only describing her views on this subject–
Morrison: And I'm asking you about yours.
Fiorina: – And there is no question that in California, there is no circumstance under which a woman would be denied an abortion.
Morrison (crosstalk): So what about other states?
Fiorina: But I think this is typical, typical politics, when people want to talk about the issues that matter most to them – where is my job? Why is government debt out of control? Barbara Boxer always punts–
Lerner: Ms. Fiorina.
Fiorina: – to the divisive issue of abortion to try and change the subject.
Lerner: Ms. Fiorina. You said that it's a question for the Supreme Court. Let's say that, come January, you sit in the Judiciary Committee and it's considering a new candidate for the Supreme Court. Will his or her position on abortion be a litmus test for your vote up or down?
Fiorina: Absolutely not. And I have said publicly for many, many years that I do not have litmus tests for any Supreme Court justice.
Morrison: All right. That's that question for Ms. Fiorina. On the same subject, the question for Senator boxer is the point that was made about funding abortions with federal money. The Hyde Amendment is in place. Would you change that? Especially under the health care law, would you have women able to use federal money or to access federal money for abortions?
Boxer: For rape, incest and life of the mother, absolutely. But the Hyde Amendment allows for those exceptions, and we all supported the current law. Now, I just have to say, and we just have to take a deep breath here, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. My opponent says she would quote, "absolutely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade." Now, what does it mean? It means that women and doctors could be put in jail in any state of the union. That is the fact, and we have voted on Roe v. Wade on the United States Senate floor. Luckily, we were able to stop those who want to overturn it and criminalize abortion.
Morrison (crosstalk): But senator, what about–
Boxer: And the fact is, my view, my view is that I have respect for everyone’s views, and I'm not going to put my views on anyone else, on my opponent or anyone else. I support them completely. And Roe v. Wade, I believe, is a decision that brings us all together and says look, this is a tough, tough personal, religious and moral decision. It says, in the early stages, a woman, her doctor, and her god, and her family will make this decision.
Morrison (crosstalk): So senator–
Boxer: And I don't want to see the Senate in the middle of this personal decision.
Morrison: So Senator Boxer, then, when Ms. Fiorina says she is concerned about your regard for the rights of babies that may not exist until they are born and leave the hospital, what about her criticism?
Boxer: Well I really don't even understand what she's talking about. I gave birth to two premature babies who are now my beautiful kids who've given me grandkids. And I cared about them for the entire time that I was pregnant, and the entire time that they were in that hospital for a month until they came home.
Lerner: Senator Boxer, about the Hyde Amendment, would you try to overturn it?
Boxer: Well, at this point, there's absolutely not point in going down that road, because I do believe there are these exceptions, and I think it's a good compromise right now. So that's my position, and that's why, in the health care debate, not one pro-choice senator or a member of the House that I know tried to overturn Hyde.
Lerner: So it's OK for you to ban federal funding of abortion?
Boxer: Except for life, incest, rape of the mother. At this point, it's a compromise. And by the way, the states take this up in their way, and they can decide, state by state.
Morrison: Senator, thank you very much. The next question goes to Ms. Fiorina, and it's from Gabriel Lerner.
Lerner: About Mexico. The fight against drugs in Mexico became increasingly bloody and could spill across the border into California, which you mentioned on Friday. Do you think the United States should consider providing military assistance to the government of Mexico in its war against the drug cartels?
Lerner: So, what can we do about it?
Fiorina: I think we must provide to the government of Mexico all the support that they are asking for, and frankly, we have not yet done that. We haven't provided all the support. You know, my, Senator Boxer mentioned NAFTA a while ago. She said, oh, Mexico's one of our largest trading partners. She is correct. She hasn't supported trading agreements in the past, but making sure that we are living up to our end of the bargain, both with regard to NAFTA, as well as with regard to supporting the government in Mexico, is an important first step.
Lerner: Ms. Fiorina, one of the things they really ask is about weapons. It's about firearms. And recent studies concluded that most of the traceable automatic weapons used by the cartels are bought here in the United States, in the border towns, and then smuggled into Mexico. And, assuming that, why do you oppose reinstatement of the federal ban on assault weapons?
Fiorina: Well first of all, you know, assault weapons and semiautomatic weapons are not the same thing. It's a definitional issue. There are– but here's the important point: it's illegal today to be buying semiautomatic weapons. Most of these guns are purchased illegally, and that's a huge problem. So of course, we should be enforcing the laws that we have, because when drug cartels are buying semiautomatic weapons in the United States and transporting them across state lines, they are breaking multiple laws, and we need to make sure that we hold them accountable and make, prosecute the laws that we have.
Fiorina: Owning a semiautomatic weapon is illegal today.
Morrison: Ms. Fiorina, in the last couple of years, the Supreme Court has extended the Second Amendment right to individuals to keep and bear arms, but you said in the first debate, the government's curtailing citizens' lawful rights to carry guns. How's it doing that?
Fiorina: I don't believe I said that. I believe I answered a very specific question, which was, you know, Senator Boxer likes to confuse things. Purposely. She likes to say that the Terrorist Watch List is the same as the No Fly List. She knows very well, I hope, that they are not at all the same things. The question was about the No Fly List, which is an overly broad, bureaucratic list. My sister-in-law was on it, my best friend's husband was on it, Ted Kennedy was on it. When the TSA keeps a list that doesn't work, you shouldn't be denying American citizens their right to bear arms. If someone is on the Terrorist Watch List–
Morrison: There are ways to get off the list.
Fiorina: Oh, have you ever tried? It took my sister-in-law years to get off that list (laughs), and she's a 72-year-old grandmother.
Morrison: Thank you very much. The next question goes to Senator Boxer, and it is from Gabriel Lerner.
Lerner: Senator Boxer, also on Mexico.
Lerner: In the four years since Mexico militarized its drug war, the death toll is close to 30,000, the cartels are running rampant, and the police forces are riddled with corruption. What do you say to those who argue that that military approach had only made the problem worse?
Boxer: Well let me say this. I... Mexico is its own country with its own elected leaders, and the best thing we can do is try to work with them and help them. I would never tell Mexico the way to go after these drug cartels, but clearly we have to make sure that we help Mexico in their efforts.
Lerner: Very fast, senator, your opponent said that you want to give terrorists the same constitutional rights as U.S. citizens. Your response.
Boxer: I don't know in what context she's talking about. Why would I ever want to do–
Lerner: That was in the first, in the first debate.
Boxer: Oh. Well, if she's talking about the ability to get a trial, this is my opinion: I would leave it to the prosecution. Either go to a military court or a civilian court, wherever you can get justice, and swift, and fast, and the ultimate penalty
Morrison: Senator Boxer–
Boxer: Give them the flexibility.
Morrison: Senator Boxer, is the government in Afghanistan worth supporting?
Boxer: I think we have to make sure that everything we do with Karzai and the Afghan government is transparent, because I worry about the corruption. I worried about the corruption in Iraq. The fact is, I don’t believe in nation building, I believe in nation helping, and if they can't get their arms around the corruption, then I don't see why we would send them our hard-earned dollars. We've got to rebuild America. We're going through tough times here, and we shouldn't have an open–
Lerner: So should we bring the troops back because of that?
Boxer (crosstalk): Yes, I believe we should–
Lerner (crosstalk): Is there any chance of– Yeah, go ahead.
Boxer: Yes, I support President Obama beginning to bring the troops back in 2011. I'm on a bill called the Feingold Bill which would state that let's have a very clear exit strategy. That's what I wanted for Iraq. I didn't vote for the war in Iraq, I did vote to go after bin Laden, and I believe it is very important that America not have an open checkbook. We cannot do this forever. We have to take care of our own.
Morrison: So, senator, the line to be drawn in Afghanistan is the line of corruption? How do you decide when it's time to pull the backing form that government? You talk about transparency.
Boxer: You need an exit strategy, you have benchmarks. We've talked to the president. The president knows what he's trying to do, which is to get the Afghan people to stand up, defend their own country, go after the Taliban. We can be there to help them, but we cannot, we cannot be their military. And so I am encouraging the president to continue his plan to begin bringing home the troops in 2011, that's his goal, and then ask for a very specific exit strategy with benchmarks.
Morrison: Senator, thank you very much. In the course of a coin toss we have given, Ms. Fiorina has won that, and she gets to get the last closing statement. We go to Senator Boxer in Washington, D.C. for her closing statement.
Boxer: Well thanks so much to all of you for this opportunity. This race presents one of the clearest in the nation. These are very tough times. We need job creation, and I'm fighting for those jobs every day, right here in America and in California. And when my opponent had her chance as the head of Hewlett-Packard, she laid off 30,000 workers, she shipped their jobs overseas, she enriched herself and she says she's proud of her record. That is her record.
I want to see the words "Made In America" again. I want to stop the tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas and give them to companies here. And my opponent supports those tax breaks, and she was proud to stamp "Made In China," "Made In India" on her products.
So, the fact of the matter is there's a huge difference on other areas. My opponent is fighting for tax breaks for billionaires and millionaires, and these companies who ship jobs overseas; I want to extend the tax cuts to the middle class, and I did vote for the biggest tax cut in history for the middle class. It was part of the Economic Recovery Act, and I do want to extend all those tax cuts.
And I just voted for a small business bill; my opponent opposed it. She even opposed the teacher bill. We paid for that bill, and we're putting 16,000 teachers back in the classrooms, and she called that "disgraceful." My opponent doesn’t represent the people of California when it comes to the environment.
Morrison: Quickly, senator.
Boxer: And we need to have a fighter for that environment, and the jobs that go with it.
Morrison: Senator Boxer.
Boxer: Thank you.
Morrison: Senator Boxer in Washington, in the NPR studios there. Closing statement from Ms. Fiorina here at KPCC.
Fiorina: You know, I started my working life as a secretary, and when I was a secretary, I was held accountable for my work by my boss. And when I became a CEO eventually, after many, many years of hard work, I was held accountable by millions of customers, and thousands of shareholders and tens of thousands of employees. Senator Boxer has been acting for the last 28 years in Washington, D.C. as if she is not held to account by anyone other than herself.
She voted for her own pay increase to increase her pay by 40 percent. She’s become a multimillionaire while she's in Washingotn, D.C. She’s written three books. But let's look at all the things she hasn’t done. She hasn’t helped prvent a massive tax increase to the middle class. Our farmers still don’t have water, our children aren’t getting educated well, our small businesses are being crushed. People can’t find a job. Our debt is spiraling out of control.
And that is why a woman came up to me recently and said I'm voting for you because I’m afraid for my children’s future. Please don’t forget about us here in Washington, D.C. Barbara Boxer has had 28 years to serve the people of California, and ask yourself, what has she accomplished? Her own hometown newspaper would not endorse her because they described her as "an ineffective leader." And I think the results of her 28-year tenure in Washington, D.C are crystal clear. She has been ineffective. She hasn't solved the problems of the people of California, and we have many. We can get out economy going again, we can help small businesses begin hiring again, we can become the most innovative state and the most innovative nation in the world again, and we can change Washington and hold them accountable, but first we have to change the people we send to Washington.
Boxer: Ms. Fiorina, thank you very much. Appreciate it. My thanks too to Gabriel Lerner. This special U.S. Senate debate presented by La Opinion and 89.3 KPCC in Pasadena. It was broadcast on public radio stations throughout California. Coverage and audio of the complete debate will be available at LaOpinion.com, KPCC.org. Don't forget, Election Day is November 2. Beginning next week, you can request those vote-by-mail ballots. Either way, be sure to vote. I'm Patt Morrison. On behalf of my colleague, Gabriel Lerner, and the candidates, Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina, thank you all very much for listening.