Coats said Ellsworth's support of Democratic programs such as the federal stimulus and health care overhaul are taking the country in the wrong direction.
Ellsworth said now isn't the time to raise the retirement age and that putting more people back to work would put more money into the system. Raising the retirement age would be fine for those who work at desks but "it's not fine for somebody who's on the end of a jackhammer," he said.
Ellsworth even earned an endorsement from the National Rifle Association because Coats voted in 1991 for the Brady Bill to institute federal background checks for most gun purchases.
Coats said he earned an endorsement from the Indiana and National Right to Life organization, mostly because Ellsworth voted for a health care law that did not prohibit taxpayer money being used for abortions.
Coats said voters are unhappy with federal government, and he accuses Ellsworth of being lockstep with his party leaders. "Clearly, a lot of Hoosiers are not happy with what's come out of Washington these last two years. 90% of what's come out has been supported by my opponent," Coats said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm for change in Washington."
Ellsworth said Coats' claim that he has voted in line with Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 90% of the time is misleading He said those votes could include anything from naming a post office to honoring a sports team. "I have one of the most independent voting records in Congress, and I had a more conservative voting record than four Republicans," Ellsworth said.
Coats battled back, saying that it was his law firm--not him personally--who represented clients on those issues. He pointed instead at Ellsworth, saying that the Democrat's votes for the bailout, health care law and stimulus bill put the country in almost insurmountable debt. "I can understand that someone who went to Washington talking like a conservative here at home--but followed the agenda of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama nearly 90% of the time--would not want to come home and talk about that," Coats said.
Ellsworth alleged Coats pushed for the cap-and-trade legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions during his former role as a lobbyist. "Even though Mr. Coats comes back to Indiana and tells Hoosiers he's against the legislation and it would be devastating and a job killer, what if it would have passed, Mr. Coats?" Ellsworth said. "We would have put Americans and Hoosiers out of work based on your lobbying efforts."
Coats responded that Ellsworth was wrong but didn't elaborate.
But Coats said governments must be careful not to choose the winning and losing technologies by subsidizing selected options. "Government and subsidies and politics destroys the whole process," he said.
Ellsworth said the nation needs to invest in a whole range of energy options--including nuclear power, wind and solar, and clean-coal technology. But Ellsworth said opposes President Barack Obama's cap-and-trade energy bill, which he fears will lead to higher rates for Hoosier households and businesses.
Ellsworth said he'd met with advocates for the FairTax, a proposal to essentially wipe out all existing federal taxes and replace them with a 23% sales tax. Individuals and businesses need "to know what to expect for years" from their tax bills, Ellsworth said.
Coats said he's open to the FairTax--but as just one idea among many to explore for making the tax code easier to understand. The tax system needs to be "fairer, flatter, simpler, and there a number of proposals out there that are sensible to take a look at." But Coats said he could not support a value-added tax.
Coats went on to say, "I said, 'Under the laws, I'm not able to negotiate anything." But Coats was still in the Senate when his office announced in Dec. 1998 that he planned on joining the firm.
[A Democratic spokesman] called Coats' assertion a "bald-faced lie." The spokesman stopped short of saying Coats violated any ethics rules. He said the "laws" Coats alluded to in his debate response were not in place when Coats was in the Senate. Coats may not have broken any rules, the spokesman said, but did lie "because he knows that his position as a lobbyist and the fact that he took advantage of the revolving door in Washington is a vulnerability to his campaign."
The above quotations are from 2010 Indiana Senate Debates.
Click here for other excerpts from 2010 Indiana Senate Debates.
Click here for other excerpts by Brad Ellsworth.
Click here for a profile of Brad Ellsworth.
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