COONS: I'm interested in hearing whether it's the Constitution as passed by the founders, the Constitution of 1920, the Constitution of 1975, the Constitution of today. Because to me, protecting a woman's right to choose, protecting reproductive freedom, and making sure that we've got on the record O'Donnell's views on things like prayer, abortion, evolution, is important. These aren't just random statements on some late-night TV show. These are relevant to her service in the United States Senate, what sort of judges she would confirm, what sort of issues she would take up. I'm someone who stands firmly behind the constitution as it stands today. I respect stare decisis, the decided cases, the case law that governs the United States
COONS: I would support stem cell research.
Q: We're talking about embryonic stem cell research.
COONS: Correct. I would support federal funding for medical research that includes embryonic stem cell research. I think there are critical advances that are being made and can be made in addressing some of the most difficult diseases that affect millions of Americans, and I frankly think if it is possible to do so, we ought to be investing and making progress in this critical area of research.
O'DONNELL: I think if we took an intellectually honest look at the research that's been put out there, you will see that there is incredible advances with adult stem cell research, not as much with embryonic stem cell research, because that is where this went on in the private sector. That is where investors would be putting their money.
COONS: I'm not sure I understand what Ms. O'Donnell means that her primary objective would be to end the endless regulation and red tape. She denounces the Obama administration, says it's done nothing to promote job growth when frankly, just a few weeks ago, a new bill that would provide expanded SBA loan capacity, $30 billion worth of new lending capability, TARP funds that have been repaid, and are being repurchased towards small and midsized banks all over the United States. Real and concrete steps are being taken.
COONS: No. It's not true that we proposed a tax on the calls to the 911 center. Today, New Castle County has a surplus. When I became executive in '05, it had a deficit. I have worked hard over six years to defend a very significant reserve, which has made it possible for us to continue to have a Triple-A bond rating. Out of roughly 3,000 counties in America, roughly 30 have a Triple-A bond rating, and I reached a bipartisan solution that cut more in spending than was raised in taxes.
O'DONNELL: You've been criticized for saying that you brought the county to Triple A bond rating. You inherited that good rating.
COONS: Each time you go to the bond market, you are re-rated. Moody's said that it was because of the conservative fiscal policies of my administration that we have re-earned a Triple A bond rating.
COONS: The Citizens United decision was an unfortunate and ill-decided decision. One that opens the flood gates to increased corporate contributions that could have, as an unintended consequence of the decision, significantly distorting out electoral process. I would support reforms that further disclose who is behind these shadowy groups? Whether individuals, or corporations, that are trying to influence our elections by pouring money into it. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. And in politics it is best for us to disclose as fully and as broadly as possible who is making contributions.
O'DONNELL: And yet the legislative efforts to do exactly that has failed to do that. The Disclose Act, put out there to do just that, has exempted the major corporations from disclosing it. Instead, what these efforts do is only serve to infringe on the First Amendment right of private citizens.
COONS: I've complimented both Delaware's teachers and Delaware's governor for their remarkable progress under the "Race to the Top" program. The Obama/Biden administration set a very high bar. They offered a federal pot of money that was available for those states that were willing to make significant changes and Delaware made that progress. Delaware's teachers union, the DSEA, came to the table and made significant changes: to embrace charter and to make them more powerful, to make it possible for schools that are underperforming to be shut down or restructured and to change a system so that teacher compensation could be tied towards improvement by students in the classroom.
O'DONNELL: If you notice, he didn't answer the question as to whether or not he thought the teacher unions were too powerful, and that's probably because he got their endorsement.
COONS:As someone who spent 20 years working with a non-profit foundation, the I Have a Dream Foundation, that raises money from private individuals and helps provide scholarships for students, for teachers, and for a college education, I've been hands-on and engaged with some of the toughest schools in America and some teachers who are significantly under-supported and who needed additional resources. I think there's a significant role, though, for the federal government in providing financial support and encouragement, scholarships for those teachers in science and math. We need a new generation of teachers who are fully prepared to teach to the standards that No Child Left Behind established. And we frankly need to use collaborative learning techniques.
COONS: The most effective investment in reducing emissions of CO2 and other things that cause greenhouse gas warming is energy efficiency and conservation. There was a significant investment in the stimulus bill in getting municipalities, local governments, the private sector, to invest in efficiency and conservation. And those are investments that reduce emissions, put people to work, and can develop cutting edge technologies that make our systems operate better and to reduce, not just the emissions, but also the operating expenses.
O'DONNELL: The best way to address that is to talk about Cap and Trade because the winner of this Senate race can be immediately sworn in and serve it in Harry Reid's lame duck session and vote on Cap and Trade. While I do believe that we have to be good stewards of this earth, we don't need to do it at the expense of our citizens and Cap and Trade will do that.
COONS: Faith is a central part of how my wife and I are raising our three children, of why we decide to do the community service and the outreach that we do but ours is a faith that we think a general motivation towards public service, towards trying to create a community that's more tolerant, inclusive, and just, and towards the sort of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation that we think is the central message of our faith. But I also think, as someone who has been elected ten years I've learned to reach a balance where my private faith, the aspects of my faith that are religious doctrine, don't influence the decisions that I've made for the public in my ten years in county office.
I've proposed expanding the home office tax credit, & for starting a new business that employs folks within the first couple of years, fighting harder in trade policy to make sure we're not letting our trading partners take advantage of us in trade deals that were signed over previous years, doing more in investment and innovation.
O'DONNELL: That's a great question because first of all we have got to tackle the deficit because our deficit is almost becoming equal to our national GDP.
Q: So what would you cut specifically?
O'DONNELL: First of all, cancel the unspent stimulus bill. Second, put a freeze on discretionary spending, put a hiring freeze on non-security personnel. And then, of course, when we're talking about cutting government spending, we've got to talk about waste, fraud and abuse.
COONS: Let me get back to the focus of the question, is what would you do to tackle the deficit? I would seriously consider supporting a freeze on non defense discretionary spending for three years, which would achieve significant reductions. I've also identified on my web site a series of reductions that I would support. Some of them are in agricultural price supports. Some are in federal office space, for example, or hiring. And several are in defense programs.
COONS: I think it is critical that folks in this country be able to stand up to and take on powerful interests. And where individuals are harmed, that they're able to go into court and to seek redress. I don't support putting caps on liability because it is only the threat of a significant recovery that allows protection for consumers, for patients, for investors. I think that's an important part of the American legal system.
O'DONNELL: Those are very important things that are part of insurance reform, not health care reform. I want to fight to fully repeal that so that we can begin to enact real reform.
COONS: I support the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I think it made significant advances, and you outlined many of them. I argue for extending, perfecting, and implementing this landmark bill. It's not perfect. There are problems with it. But I think rather than turning it back and repealing and going for another year or two of endless partisan bickering, this was a critical piece of legislation
COONS: That's a great slogan. You toss it around everywhere you go. How does this bill actually put Uncle Sam in the examination room between doctors and patients?
O'DONNELL: It dictates what kind of treatment a doctor can and can't do, what kind it will fund.
COONS: So why did the organization that fights for and represents America's nurses, America's seniors, America's hospitals, and America's doctors, all endorse and support this bill?
O'DONNELL: Many of those branches on the state level, including here in Delaware, have said we don't support what the national office has done.
COONS: Christiana Care hosted a debate earlier today. I was sorry you chose not to join us. It would have been great to hear the response of the physicians and the nurses and the hospital administrators to your suggesting that they didn't support a bill they lobbied for.
COONS: I would move swiftly as a senator to repeal don't ask, don't tell. I think it is discrimination, plain and simple. I've met with and spoken to veterans here in Delaware who've served our nation honorably for decades, several with top-secret clearances, but who could do so only at the expense of denying who they were and the relationships that they wanted to have. In my view, we should be making progress in this country towards recognizing the full range of human experience, and repealing don't ask, don't tell to me is an important next step in the civil rights movement.
O'DONNELL: The military already regulates personal behavior because it feels that it is in the best interests of our military readiness. I don't think that Congress should be forcing a social agenda onto our military. I think we should leave that to the military to decide.
COONS: No. I support a pathway to being here legally. We've got roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the US today. This is a huge problem. And immigration is a federal responsibility. But we need to recognize the situation we're in. There are whole industries that rely on the labor of those who are here illegally. My path forward on immigration would be, strengthen the borders. Second, hold employers accountable, particularly those who routinely employ folks who are here illegally, by giving them Real ID that can work. And then allow those who are here illegally and do not commit further crimes to come out of the shadows if they will pay taxes, learn English, pay a fine, and go to the back of the line. I would give them a path towards legal residence. I think there's more they'd have to do to ever earn citizenship.
O'DONNELL: Again, he's back tracking on things that he had said earlier on the campaign trail.
COONS: I also frankly can't imagine where she found the numbers that unemployment doubled in just the past year under my watch. I suspect we're going to need to keep a close eye this evening on the numbers that go flying back and forth.
Q: Let's ask her, where did you get those numbers?
O'DONNELL: The Department of Labor statistics. And we'll have them on our web site by tomorrow.
COONS: I think it's important to look closely at some of the things Ms. O'Donnell's thrown out on her new web site. Most of them are untrue. Some of them are flat-out lies. Some of them are mischaracterizations. Much of how you've characterized my record is incorrect.
Q: You did once describe yourself when you were in college a long time ago as a bearded Marxist?
COONS: [That was in] an article that I wrote the day of our commencement, and the title and the content of that clearly makes it obvious that it was a joke. My roommates in the Young Republican Club thought when I returned from Kenya and registered as a Democrat that doing so was proof that I had gone all the way over to the far left end, and so they jokingly called me a bearded Marxist. It was a joke. I am not now, nor have I ever been, anything but a clean-shaven capitalist.
O'DONNELL: You wrote that you learned your beliefs from a Marxist professor; that should send chills up the spine of every voter.
COONS: If it were true, I'd agree. But it's not true.
COONS: I support extending the Bush tax cuts for the overwhelming majority of Americans. I don't think we should draw an arbitrary line at $250,000. But th value that I will apply as deciding how much to extend, whether it goes up to $1 million or $2 million, is that we've got a tough choice to make. Every increased tax cut, every extension that's given, is going to increase the deficit. The primary value I would apply in deciding whether to extend all the Bush tax cuts & for how long [is that] we should do those tax cuts that have the best chance of getting our economy going again.
O'DONNELL: You have said that you will stop the tax cuts for the so-calle rich. What you fail to realize is the so-called rich are the small business owner. small business owner, the dry-cleaner down the street, the pizza shop owner who makes $300,000 before they pay their four employees, before they feed their own family.
O'DONNELL: If he's serious about making sure that Afghanistan doesn't become a safe haven for terrorists, why he has said that he supports this random time withdrawal? When we've reached benchmarks [for self-defense], that's when we withdraw.
COONS: I question whether your standard gives us any hope of winding up this war on any reasonable timeline.
O'DONNELL: How would you explain what is happening when unemployment is leveled out, but more and more people are on food stamps? We've got to ask ourselves, what do we want Delawareans to be receiving, food stamps or paychecks? I say paychecks.
COONS: Obviously paychecks. We'd like to have Americans able to receive the benefits they need to get through incredibly difficult times But to simply denounce people as being dependent because they're applying for and receiving food stamps in the worst recession in modern times is frankly slandering people who are in incredibly difficult times.
O'DONNELL: I'm not the person who would cut the tax benefits for disabled and low-income senior citizens, as you did as county executive. You have said that you will stop the tax cuts for the so-called rich. What you fail to realize is the so-called rich are the small business owners.
Coons has agreed to eight debates before November 2nd. He says he rejected a debate hosted by the 9-12 Patriots for one reason only. "The 9-12 Patriots Group has endorsed her and is an issue group. We're looking for and have accepted opportunities for debates at independent venues like the University of Delaware, the Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters."
And when it comes to Christine O'Donnell's decision to black out national media, Coons says she can do whatever she wants. "That's her choice. If my opponent decides to stop answering questions from the national media, I hope Delawareans will take that into account."
O'Donnell denies doing anything wrong, saying there is, "No truth to it."
To be fair, O'Donnell's opponent is also facing scrutiny. Chris Coons finds himself having to answer questions about an article he wrote in college, where he described himself as a "bearded Marxist." He talked about it earlier tonight on CNN.
The Democrat pitched himself as independent of his party in Washington, saying, "I would not have supported the bailout," because he said it was done too fast and "put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at risk."
But O'Donnell called for the "full repeal" of the healthcare law, saying that "the federal government was never intended to be as invasive and intrusive into our lives as it is now."
Coons noted the state's long tradition of "constructive and civil debate," emphasizing, "I have not been worried about who would come in from out of state to endorse me or not."
Borrowing a line from Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Coons suggested the race would be fought on issues important to Delaware voters, rather than in the national media spotlight. "It's often said that this is Joe Biden's seat," Coons said. "It's not. It's Delaware's seat."
The above quotations are from 2010 Delaware Senate Debates.
Click here for other excerpts from 2010 Delaware Senate Debates.
Click here for other excerpts by Chris Coons.
Click here for a profile of Chris Coons.
Chris Coons on other issues:
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