The two candidates in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District race discussed the times for war, times for compromise and a variety of other subjects throughout a head-to-head debate on Tuesday night at Pitt-Johnstown’s Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.
U.S. Rep. Mark Critz,
D-Johnstown, and Republican Keith Rothfus met in a one-hour event, sponsored by The Tribune-Democrat, WJAC-TV and UPJ Student Government Association.
The candidates addressed the $16.2 trillion national debt, budget plans, local economic needs, the war in Afghanistan and campaign finance reform.
In a lengthy exchange about the Middle East, both said if Israel ever invades Iran then the United States would have to support its ally in the conflict. However, they differed on what role the United States could have played in recent years to prevent Iran from being a threat to Israel, with Rothfus partially blaming President Barack Obama.
“This is a very dangerous situation, and it’s frustrating to me how really there has been very little progress made with Iran,” said Rothfus, an Allegheny County lawyer.
“We had an opportunity, a couple years ago, with the so-called Green Revolution that this administration did not take advantage of. I think the president was afraid to offend the mullahs in Iran. You have to show leadership and strength. If you show leadership and strength, you eliminate the problems.”
His statement led to one of the few sharp responses in an otherwise cordial debate.
“I actually take sort of offense at that comment that the president was afraid to offend the mullahs in Iran,” said Critz. “These are big decisions when we’re talking about possibly putting people in harm’s way. This isn’t Monday-morning quarterbacking. These are big decisions. Israel is our strongest ally in that region. We had a lot of things happen with Egypt, now with Syria, with Libya. There are lots of things going on in the Middle East, not just Iran. We will be with Israel because they are our strongest ally. This is about the national security of this country, and I really take offense to that last comment.”
At other times, Critz and Rothfus discussed when politicians need to work together to achieve goals.
Both candidates oppose the Independent Payment Advisory Board, an agency put into place by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in order to reduce Medicare expenses.
Critz, however, voted against repealing the IPAB because the proposal was joined with a piece of tort reform legislation, an issue the congressman believes should be handled by individual states.
“I find fault with adding a bill that has nothing to do with the first bill,” said Critz. “It’s not compromise. That’s a poison pill. That’s what that’s called.”
Rothfus countered by saying, “Sometimes, congressman, you have to compromise. When there is something as dangerous as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is going to cut care to seniors and require a two-thirds vote of Congress to override that, you’re locking in a very dangerous situation.”
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