"I never left Indiana," Ellsworth, a former county sheriff from Evansville, said in contrast. The critique irritated Coats, who had brushed off Ellsworth's criticisms for most of the evening but now stood on stage shaking his head. "You can shake your head all day long," Ellsworth said. "You said it."
"Brad," Coats said, sounding exasperated, "it was a second home."
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.
Coats, the son of a Swedish immigrant, said he has cast 12 to 15 votes against amnesty since the vote Ellsworth referenced. "That was 26 years ago," Coats said.
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.
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.
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 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, a kind of tax common in Europe that taxes products and services at different stages of production.
President Barack Obama's "summer of recovery" has been anything but, Coats said. Coats lambasted Democrats for spending at a pace that's unsustainable and piling up debt the nation cannot pay back. "There has to be a commitment to no new spending without it being offset and paid for," said Coats. "No more swiping the credit card and pumping and using debt to finance new spending."
This election, Coats said, needs to be relative to restoring the economy for future generations.
Coats appeared to claim he accepted the lobbying job only after leaving office. "I said, 'Under the laws, I'm not able to negotiate anything.' In fact, I took a month off after I left because I didn't even want t think about what was next," Coats said.
What's clear is that on Oct. 17, 1998, press reported that the firm was "quite intrigued by Coats." Coats' Senate office announced that the deal was done on Dec. 3. On Jan. 3, Coats' Senate term ended. In Feb. 1999, Coats began working for the firm, earning a salary over $400,000.
Coats' campaign said the former senator simply misspoke. By "after I left," the campaign says he meant after Oct. 21, when the Senate adjourned and Coats was through casting votes.
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 Daniel Coats.
Click here for a profile of Daniel Coats.
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