Congressman Joe Walsh and opponent Tammy Duckworth face-off in one of the most highly contested congressional races in the country. We break down some of the key issues at the forefront of tonight's 8th District forum.
Simpson-Bowles is the name of a debt-reduction bill. In February 2010, President Barack Obama created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by Alan Simpson, a former Republican Senator, and Erskine Bowles, a former White House aide to Bill Clinton. The bi-partisan group was created to address the nation’s mounting debt. In December of 2010, the commission took a vote on a proposal that would cut spending and include tax increases. It failed to receive a super-majority of at least14 of its 18 members to issue a final report. Its recommendations stayed, but President Obama didn’t embrace Simpson-Bowles and has received a lot of flak for it. The President says his $4 trillion deficit reduction plan is similar to the Simpson-Bowles proposal. When asked at the first presidential debate if he supported Simpson-Bowles, Gov. Mitt Romney stated, “I have my own plan. It's not the same as Simpson-Bowles. But in my view, the president should have grabbed it. If you wanted to make some adjustments to it, take it, go to Congress, fight for it.” President Obama responded saying, “That's what we've done, made some adjustments to it, and we're putting it forward before Congress right now, a $4 trillion plan..." The Simpson-Bowles proposal calls for a 3:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, also voted against the proposal.
The commonly used term “fiscal cliff” describes the series of tax increases and spending cuts all due to come into effect at the same time on January 1, 2013 if Congress doesn’t act to pass legislation to reduce the budget. These budget cuts were agreed to in order to raise the debt ceiling last year. It’s projected that these mandatory cuts will cause a double-dip recession in the beginning of 2013. Both Democrats and Republicans want to avoid the fiscal cliff, but compromise could be difficult to achieve, particularly in an election year. Republicans want to cut spending and avoid raising taxes, while Democrats are looking for a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The current national debt is topping $16 trillion.
Since 2004, the U.S. has been conducting drone strikes primarily in Pakistan’s northwest. The strikes are targeted to kill al Qaeda and Taliban commanders. The current discourse on drone strikes include those who view the use of drones as morally and legally unacceptable and those who reason it’s effective and necessary. However, a main concern is targeting, making sure that the intelligence on the ground is reliable, and trying to minimize civilian casualties. Drone strikes also contribute to a rising anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. Another criticism of drone strikes is that they distract from other pressing issues, and are serving as short-term solutions to long-term problems.
Tammy Duckworth served as the head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from December 2006 until early 2009. In January, 2009, two employees filed a suit against Duckworth, claiming that they had been wrongfully terminated. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is representing Duckworth and has filed to have the case dismissed. The complaint was dismissed from federal court but again filed in state court. It’s now being handled out of the First Judicial District in Union County. Duckworth has called the lawsuit a distraction, and defended herself saying that “When you’re the head of an agency especially one with a thousand employees, it is common to get sued in the name of the agency.”
Joe Walsh and SuperPacs
Allegations have been made against Congressman Joe Walsh that he has close ties to his top contributor, Americans for Limited Government. The group is the biggest donor to the Now or Never SuperPAC that has spent about $2 million in support of Walsh and on attack ads against Duckworth. It’s illegal for SuperPACs and candidates to have direct contact. Walsh helped found the nonprofit Americans for Limited Government in 1996. Walsh’s campaign denies involvement with the group. Duckworth’s campaign said they plan to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing him of illegal coordination. Walsh also filed an FEC complaint against Duckworth for being late in filing a complete third-quarter campaign finance report, which her camp says was a mistake that has been fixed. According to OpenSecrets.org, Walsh’s campaign has raised $1,794,628 and spent $1,211,026, while Duckworth has raised $4,018,264 and spent $3,262,115.