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Loebsack (D) and Archer (R) Debate | Oct. 16, 2012

posted on October 12, 2012

New territory.  Iowa’s second congressional district stretches from the Mississippi to mid-Iowa.  Democrat Dave Loebsack and republican John Archer campaigning to represent it in new Congress.  We’re questioning Archer and Loebsack on this special hour-long debate edition of Iowa Press, live from Newton.

Reapportionment of Iowa’s congressional districts reflecting shifting population creates a dramatically different second district, including Davenport and Burlington along the Mississippi, westward to Iowa City, Grinnell, Knoxville, Ottumwa and Newton.  Newton is where we are tonight questioning democrat Dave Loebsack and republican John Archer, who are campaigning for the second district seat in the new Congress.  Loebsack is the second district incumbent, winning that seat four years ago by defeating veteran republican Congressman Jim Leach.  Davenport corporate attorney, John Archer, is carrying republican hopes now for reclaiming that seat.  It’s his first try at elected office.  But four years ago, Loebsack was running for the first time himself.  Gentlemen, welcome to this special debate edition of Iowa Press. 

Thank you, Dean.

Good to have you here.  I said your first time in elected office, and you have served on a school board and that’s in elected office.

That is right, Dean.

And you are familiar with the Iowa Press format, but we’re in a different setting here in Newton with an audience in addition to our TV viewers, but the audience here, they will be watching and listening without cheering.  As usual, I will be moderating our discussion on this hour-long debate edition of Iowa Press. The questions will be coming from James Lynch, Political Writer from the Gazette published in Cedar Rapids, and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.

Mr. Loebsack, Secretary Clinton has given an explanation for the security situation at the embassy, the consulate in Benghazi.  Are you satisfied with her answers or, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, do you need to have more questions answered?

As a member of that committee and as a member of Congress and as an American citizen, I’m interested to get to the bottom of what happened there.  And when we look at what happened in Libya, the first thing we need to do is find the folks who did this, who perpetrated this terrible terrorist act, bring them to justice just as we did Bin Laden, just as we would in any situation like that.  That is I think happening as we speak.  We know that we’re seeking those folks out.  We’ve got to bring them to justice.  Beyond that, we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure that the mission there is secure.  I’ve worked in the embassy in Africa.  I’ve traveled to a lot of embassies and lots of consulates around the world.  While I was at Cornell College, took students abroad a number of times.  I understand the security situation in these places.  It is absolutely critical that we do everything we can to make sure that those facilities, those missions are secure, and we’ve got to make sure that those governments do the same thing.

So quickly, if you understand the security situation in those instances, was there adequate security there?

As I’ve just said, we’ve got to have a whole investigation.  I hope that after the election when I go back and I’m on the Armed Services Committee, I would like to see Congress carry out a full investigation.  I think that’s what we have to do.

Mr. Archer, were you to become a member of Congress, what questions would you like to have answered in regards to this situation? 

Obviously the first question is why wasn’t security provided.  I believe reports have come out indicating that our ambassador did in fact request additional security, and that security was not provided, so that’s the number one question that we have to ask.  We have to protect – excuse me, we have to protect our men and women who are representing this country as best we can and that’s the number one question, why wasn’t security provided when asked.

What other questions might you have about this situation?

Well, we have to get to the bottom of it as well.  It’s now five weeks since four Americans have been killed.  Why is it taking so long to get to the bottom of this?  We have assets abroad that we have to protect and we have to make sure that any questions that we have, have to be answered in the most expeditious manner possible. 

According to the industry, Iowa is number one in wind energy jobs.  The failure of Congress to extend those wind energy tax credits is a major concern here.  Since then we’ve seen job losses at Mount Pleasant, and there’s concern about job losses spreading to Axiona, TPI Composites here in Newton.  Make the case for extending those tax credits.  Should they be extended and for how long?

Mr. Archer?

As a matter of fact, about two weeks we had the opportunity to visit TPI right here in Newton.  Where the technology is it advancing to the point where in two or three years those wind energy tax credits might not be needed.  But what we can’t do with this industry is we can’t pull the rug out from underneath their feet right now.  You mentioned a job loss of 500 individuals down in Fort Madison.  That’s because of a dysfunctional Congress right now.  There’s so much uncertainty with respect to the wind energy tax credit and the business environment generally speaking that employers aren’t going out and investing and creating the jobs that are needed here in southeast Iowa.

What do you say to fellow republicans who don’t like this tax credit, including the standard bearer of your party, Mr. Romney?

Well, this is one area where I disagree with Governor Romney.  He would be in favor of expiring those tax credits almost immediately, where sitting down and talking to the factory manager at TPI several weeks ago, we have to allow them one or two more years.  We can’t allow an unending tax credit to continue, but we have to give them three or four more years.

Congressman, is this a case of a dysfunctional Congress?

No doubt that farm bill, any number of things.  The fact that Congress is dysfunctional is not news.  This is something that’s being going on for quite some time.  So I hear every time I’m back here every weekend – as far as the wind energy tax credit is concerned, I’ve been a champion of the wind energy industry since long before I got into Congress.  I know John has not said unequivocally that he would have voted for that particular tax credit in the first place.  I think that’s unfortunate.  It was Chuck Grassley, after all, in the 1990s that was the father of that tax credit.  It received strong bipartisan support here in Iowa.  In fact, if you were to canvass Congress and the House of Representatives, there’s bipartisan support for extension of that production tax credit.  It is unfortunately the republican leadership in the House of Representatives that has not brought it forward in spire of the fact that on a bipartisan basis here in the state, we’ve been pushing for it.  I got the wind energy association award as a wind energy jobs champion.  I’ve been through every one of these plants in the district and in many cases more than one time.  This was a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.  We’re talking over 6,000 jobs in the state of Iowa.  We’re talking about clean energy.  We’re talking about the right thing to do.

But, Mr. Loebsack, then if you feel that way, why isn’t the wind energy credit being extended?

When John is with Speaker Boehner tomorrow at the Davenport country club, I hope he’ll bring that up because Speaker Boehner is the person who controls the floor of the House of Representatives, as you know.  HE is simply refusing to bring this to the floor of the House of Representatives.  I think part of it – not unlike a lot of things that are happening in the House of Representatives, the farm bill included, is there are a lot of Tea Party folks in the House of Representatives who simply don’t like this kind of program.  They think it’s a big government giveaway.  That’s the problem.

Mr. Archer, would you have that sort of leverage with Speaker Boehner?

This is failed leadership.  Keep in mind that my opponent has been in office for six years.  He’s been ranked the most ineffective member by the Iowa delegation by Des Moines Register.  He’s not a champion for Iowa values.  He’s not been a champion for agriculture here in Iowa.  We need real leadership representing the people of the second district that can go to leadership on both sides and move Iowa values forward, Dean.

I think we’ll speak to that in some television commercials that you’re airing, both of your campaigns, and those supporting your broadcasting commercials seeking to identify each other in the voters’ minds.  We’re going to see a couple of those commercials now, beginning with one Mr. Loebsack’s campaign.

“Iowa lost over 11,000 jobs due to unfair trade, outsourced overseas.  And John Archer is part of the problem.  Archer is an executive for the global division of a corporation that shipped 900 jobs to Mexico, and Archer supports more unfair trade with South Korea.  Worse, Archer has personal investments in manufacturing companies in Asia.  John Archer, international corporate executive at our expense.”

Mr. Archer, the first time you’ve seen that, I’m sure.  Are you part of a corporate culture that is building overseas and moving industrial production off of the United States?

James’ newspaper just reported that’s mostly false.  I’ve been proud to work at John Deere for the past twelve years, one of Iowa’s largest employers.  And when that advertisement came out in 1998 or 1999, I was clerking for an Illinois Supreme Court Justice.  I was not even with the unnamed corporation when those alleged jobs went overseas. With respect to the latter part of that commercial, we all have mutual funds.  We all have holdings in international companies around the world.  So, yes, I’m guilty as charged and I would guarantee that many of the people in this audience and watching this program have diversified.  As a matter of fact, my opponent has diversified his portfolio and has holdings overseas, Dean.  So that ad, unfortunately, is mostly false, and it’s that type of shenanigans that the people of the second district of Iowa are really tired of.

Mr. Loebsack, I guess the question to you is what were you thinking attacking John Deere?

This isn’t about John Deere. 

Well, what global corporation were you referencing?

It’s not about John Deere, Kay.  It’s about the policy differences that John Archer and Dave Loebsack have.  That’s what this is about.  It’s about the NAFTA style free trade agreements that John supports that I don’t support.  I voted against three NAFTA style so-called free trade agreements because, as I mentioned in the ad, 11,000 jobs were shipped overseas, Iowa jobs, as a result of NAFTA.  As I look at the so-called free trade agreement or any other policy, for that matter, I have to take into account all of Iowa and all of Iowans, especially in my particular district.  I man not going to vote for something that’s going to ship jobs overseas.  I didn’t vote for those particular so-called free trade agreements.  And it goes beyond that.  It has to do also with the kinds of policies that incentivize and encourage companies to take jobs overseas.  John is for those policies.  I’m not.  That’s what that commercial is about.  It’s about our differences.

Mr. Archer?

But what corporation are you talking about if it’s not John Deere? 

It could be any corporation.  The fact of the matter is these policies that John supports, as I said, incentivize and encourage corporations to take jobs overseas.  I think what we have to do is have the policy environment that encourages corporations to bring jobs back, encourages corporations to keep jobs here.  John Deere is a wonderful company.  I’m a native Iowan.  I grew up in Iowa.  I have a John Deere toy in my office.

Then why talk about him being an executive at John Deere in your ad if you weren’t targeting John Deere?

It is his particular policies that we’re talking about here, Kay.  It’s his policies that encourage companies to make those decisions to ship those jobs overseas.

Mr. Archer said a moment ago, guilty as charged.  I believe I heard you say that.  But Mr. Loebsack says this is more than John Deere.  This is a philosophical difference on free trade.

I haven’t heard my opponent said John Deere.  And I think that’s very telling that he will not mention the company that he’s attacking in this ad.  But, yes, it is bigger.  It’s about three free trade agreements.  A trade agreement between South Korea and the United States, Panama and Columbia, which were all supported by former Governor Tom Vilsack, current Ag Secretary Vilsack, supported by the United Auto Workers, specifically the South Korean trade agreement was support by the auto workers, signed by President Obama.  These free trade agreements create thousands of jobs here in America and thousands of jobs here in Iowa. My opponent voted against those jobs.  I find that absolutely wrong.

You’re shaking your head yes.  Go ahead, Jim.

What I was going to say, if I may, it’s not a philosophical difference with respect to free trade.  In theory free trade is a wonderful thing.  The thing is it’s fair trade, and in these particular instances, just like with NAFTA, we’re not talking about fair trade.  We’re talking about agreements that are so-called free trade agreements that will ultimately send thousands of jobs overseas just like NAFTA did, and that’s where were have the difference.

Mr. Loebsack, where do we draw the line?  We’ve seen a lot of foreign investment in Iowa in – or Siemens – wants to invest $1.4 billion in southeast Iowa.  Do we turn that away?  Where do you draw the line?

It’s about making things in America again.  That’s the bottom line.  It’s about having the right policies where they’re going to hopefully get our manufacturing industry back on its feet.  That’s what this is about.  It’s also about making sure that we deal with our trading partners in a way that makes certain that we hold their feet to the fire.  If the Chinese are artificially devaluing their currency and manipulating their currency – and I believe they are – then we’ve got to get tough with them.  I’ve been one of the folks leading the charge in the House of Representatives on that front.  The Senate already passed a bipartisan bill that would hold them accountable.  That’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about.  We have IPSCO and Comanche.  We have SSAB outside of Muscatine.  We have steel plants throughout the second district of Iowa.  I’ve been working hard to make sure that we hold our trading partners accountable so we don’t lose those jobs, so we keep those jobs here, so we expand jobs here in America.  That’s what this is about. 

Isn’t trade and investment a two-way street?

There’s no doubt about it, but we have to make sure that if we’re going to play by the rules, our trading partners have to play by the rules as well.

Fair trade here is also watching a commercial that you produced.  We’re going to see a message from the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, one that they’re running, supporting Mr. Archer’s candidacy.

“Is Dave Loebsack asleep on the job?  The media says Loebsack fell asleep at a critical meeting about Obamacare.  Was Loebsack asleep when they voted to cut Medicare?  Did Loebsack sleepwalk when he voted to raise taxes on agriculture and manufacturing?  The Des Moines Register says Loebsack is Iowa’s least effective congressman.  Now you know why.  Send Loebsack to bed.  Send someone stronger to Congress”

Mr. Loebsack?

There are four or five things that I can respond to.

But you’ve already admitted that Congress is dysfunctional.  Is that an indication?

If you were to product a television ad responding to that, what would it say?

Well, I don’t intend to produce one to respond to that, I intend to produce one that speaks to that issue, and I have.

The only thing that’s tired in this whole process is the policies that got us into this position in the first place that John supports.  I’m talking about the policies that have led to the financial meltdown, the policies that led to the economic recession, and that we’re just now beginning to get out of.  That’s the only thing tired in all of this debate.  Also, $716 billion in cuts, if you will.  There are no cuts to Medicare.  There are inefficiencies.  There are savings that, according to the bill that I voted for, the policy that I support, goes back in to further benefits for Medicare.  John supports the Ryan plan.  What the Ryan plan does is finds the exact same efficiencies, but it doesn’t put that money back into the Medicare program to support seniors.  It cuts benefits for seniors and supports the richest among us in tax breaks.

We’re going to be getting into Medicare, but we were just wondering about how did they catch you sleeping?

What I can say is, as I said, the only thing tired is the commercial like that, obviously.  I had 400 meetings this last year in my congressional district.  I had over 100 in Scott County.  I’ll put my record of activism up against anyone’s.

Gentlemen, let’s shift to the pocketbooks of voters in this district.  Mr. Archer, would you vote to continue all the Bush era tax cuts for individual income taxes?

I would.

Why?

Now is not the time to raise taxes on any group.  Kay, this gets back to what we’ve talked about before.  Right now with January 1 of next year approaching very rapidly, Congress has once again done absolutely nothing.  That’s providing the uncertainty that exists.  Unfortunately the uncertainty that exists so individuals can’t go out and live their lives.  I was talking to a small business owner just the other day who wants to invest, who wants to hire two new people, but he’s not doing that because of the uncertainty that exists with respect to this uncertainty with the tax structure.

Mr. Loebsack, would you follow the President’s lead and maintain the Bush era tax cuts for middle and lower income people and go back to the Clinton era tax rates for higher income Americans?

I have my own bill that I’m actually putting out there as an attempt to have a compromise to get exactly past the dysfunction that we’re talking about.  The problem at Washington, D.C. is there are people on the other side of the aisle who don’t want to talk to each other and don’t get along with each other and in the end, the people’s business is not done, whether it’s the House or the Senate.  My bill, in fact, which I did introduce, which essentially what it does, it takes the tax cuts for the middle class because that’s really what we have to protect is the middle class here more than anyone else.  It takes those tax cuts from the middle class and extends them for a year.  It, of course, goes back to the Clinton era tax rates for the 250 and above.  But it doesn’t exempt just some small businesses, it extends all small businesses.  It also exempts all family farmers.  I think this is a decent compromise.  This is something I’m offering when I get back after the election.  I plan to propose that again, get it out there and try to get as many people on board as possible and bring both sides together.  That’s what we need to be doing.

You mentioned farmers.  The estate tax is something farmers talk about as well.  What would you do and how would you vote in regards to the estate tax?

What I’ve already done and what I have in my particular bill is to keep for one year the estate tax at the 35 percent rate.  That’s what people are telling me they would like to see for some kind of certainty that we can all agree has to be there.  Keep the exemption at 5 million and actually tie it to the land values that we see here in Iowa skyrocketing.  It doesn’t take long for a family farm to be worth $9 million or $10 million if we’re talking about $9 million or $10 million an acre value for farmland.  If you’ve got a thousand acres, it adds up.

So you would add some inflationary factor.

Right, inflation but I think also tying it to the value of farmland as well. 

Here we keep kicking the can down the road for one more year, for one more year.  We need to stop this.  We need to provide certainty.  We need a five-year farm bill.  We need a six-year transpiration bill.  We need certainty in individuals and businesses so they can once again go out and invest and create the jobs.  These one-year extension must come to an end.

What about transportation?  You mentioned it.  What about the gas tax?

Right now, Kay, the time is not right to raise the gas tax.  We’re paying $3.75 a gallon at the pump.  A gallon of milk is $3.70.  A loaf of bread is $2.00.  We need infrastructure improvements in southeast Iowa, no question about that as farmers are transporting their grain to the market.  Our rural infrastructure is terrible, but right now is not the time to raise the gas tax.  We can find savings elsewhere and divert those savings into the infrastructure improvements here in southeast Iowa.

Mr. Loebsack, would you vote to raise the federal gas tax?

Not the federal, no.  There are negotiations going on right now, discussions at the state level.  Let me just address the long-term stuff that John is talking about.  I’ve signed onto a bill that would extend permanently the estate tax at 35 percent and keep the exemption at 5 million.  I’ve signed onto that bill.  I was simply talking about my proposal.  I’m trying to bring people together as best I can in a dysfunctional Congress where people don’t want to talk to one another on a transportation bill, I worked across the aisle with the republican congressman from Illinois.  We worked together to make certain that in that transportation bill, in that reauthorization – yes, it should be five years but it was two year – that we get a portion of that bill in there, which designates projects like the I74 bridge as projects of national significance.  We worked together in a bipartisan basis.  That does happen.  I’ve done that on any number of bills over the course of the last six years.  I’m going to continue to do that, but we worked for that particular piece of legislation and it’s there.

Let’s talk about another tax, the lower income tax.  The U.S. has one of the highest, if not the highest corporate tax rates, and both President Obama and Romney have talked about lowering that.  How far would you go in reducing the corporate tax rate, and should there be special consideration given to manufacturers to help stimulate their business activity and job growth?

I think it’s a question of discussion as to how low we go.  I talked earlier about how we’ve got to make things in America again.  I think we can all agree on that.  That’s something when I talked to republicans they’re for, when I talk to democrats they’re for, when I talk to Tea Party folks they’re for.  They’re tired of importing things from around the world.  They want us to make things here in America again.  So, yes, I can be in favor of that.  I think that makes a lot of sense, but it goes back to making things in America again and there are a lot of other things we can do to make that happen as well.

So how low should the rate go?

I think it should be negotiated.  I think that there’s a lot of good ideas out there.  I don’t have a particular figure that today I’m going to say I’m for, but I think i8t’s something that we’ve definitely got to do.

Mr. Archer?

With respect to the corporate tax rate, you’re exactly right.  America has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, which is not making us competitive with the rest of the world.  We need to lower that corporate tax rate somewhere around the 22, 23 all the way up to 27 percent range.  Simpson Bowles had a proposal out there that the president could have in 2010 embraced.  But keep in mind back in 2008, this president had a super majority in the Senate and had the majority in the House of Representatives and could have passed a lower corporate tax rate, could have done a lot of things, but yet he did not do it.  There’s so much dysfunction in Congress right now, that we need new leadership here in the second district of Iowa.

Mr. Archer, please give voters an idea of your view of the role of government. 

The role of government.  My job as an elected official is not to create jobs.  My job is to create the environment, so businesses and entrepreneurs and individuals can go out and invest their hard-earned dollars to create the jobs that are needed here in southeast Iowa and all across America.  How do we do that?  We do that by providing them certainty, certainty with respect to the regulatory environment, certainty with respect to the tax structure, certainty with respect to affordable energy.  We talk about manufacturers here in southeast Iowa, and we have world-class manufacturers here in southeast Iowa they require affordable energy to make things.

But how do we provide that certainty?

Let’s just talk about energy.  Let’s set a strategic energy policy, by 2020 this country should be energy independent.  We set the goal and then working from a business experience, we worked backwards, we set benchmarks.  How do we achieve that goal of energy independence by 2020?  That’s what we’re talking about. 

Mr. Loebsack, a cautionary tale to the former college professor.  There’s no credit hours on this question, but briefly describe what you believe the role of government is.

Actually, there’s very little disagreement on this issue between democrats and republicans.  I know that folks try to make it sound as if there is.  Anyone who knows anything about what’s happening out there in the real world of business and the real world of individuals understands, of course, that we’ve got to do everything – we can to get to this fiscal cliff – we can’t let that happen by January of next year.  There’s so many things that are being held up and I would love to see a farm bill passed.  I would love to see any number of thing s passed, but we’re getting these things held up by the success of partisanship that we see.  That’s why I’ve been working across the aisle with my friend, Bobby Schilling.  I’ve been working across the aisle with other folks in the House of Representatives on a number of bills.  I think we’re going to have this election that’s going to happen in three weeks.  We have our differences and we’re going to go back and forth, but when the election is over, people are going to have to sit down in Congress and Washington, D.C. and the President is going to sit down with folks and say, you know what, the game is up here.  The American people told us running up this election that they’re sick and tired of all this excessive partisanship.  John, we all try to think as rationally as we can about the process.  It’s one thing to think rationally about what a policy ought to be and what the outcome we think is going to be in all the rest.  It’s another thing entirely to work with folks on the other side of the aisle because that’s where the political irrationality –

You’re implying that Mr. Archer can’t do that.

What I’m saying is I’ve got a proven ability to do it.  That’s what I’m arguing, whether it was respect to the nationals or a number of other things but –

Can a newcomer, what you’re saying is I have a proven ability.  I’ve had four years there.  You come in as a neophyte.

I don’t know how proven his ability is when the Des Moines Register ranks him from the most ineffective member of the Iowa delegation.  I’m going to draw upon my business experience.  MY twelve years at John Deere, the last three years I’ve been negotiating global contracts on behalf of John Deere, where parties sit down and negotiate.  When I present a contract to a supplier, when a company presents a contract to a supplier, they enter into negotiations.  Both those companies realize that they’re not going to get everything that they want, but at the end of the day, they come to an agreement for the betterment of both parties.  That’s the experience I’m going to bring to the United States Congress.

Jim, take us internationally. 

We’ll jump across the ocean.  The U.S. has left Iraq and we have a withdrawal plan in Afghanistan.  Are we leaving that region, creating a power vacuum there to be filled by an ever-increasingly aggressive Iran?

Are you talking about in Afghanistan, for example?

Afghanistan, Iraq, that whole region.

No, I don’t believe we are.  First of all, we never should have been in Iraq in the first place and I’m glad that we are now out of Iraq.  They didn’t cause the problem.  They didn’t attack us on 9/11, and it didn’t come from there.  With respect to Afghanistan I think that we’ve done everything that we set out to do and everything that we can possibly do.  I think it’s now time to disengage.  We’ve still got 66,000 troops there.  I think it’s time we bring them home.  We’ve obviously brought Bin Laden to justice.  The Afghan National Security Forces have been stood up.  And so clearly it’s time to bring those troops home.  We’ve got a lot of other threats, whether it’s Iran or other places around the world.  As a member of the Armed Services Committee I’m very aware of what those are.  I’ve traveled to Afghanistan six times and to Iraq three times and other places as well in support of our troops and in every instance I hear what our troops have to say, I hear what our generals have to say and I hear what our experts have to say.  We really cannot afford to keep 66,000 troops in Afghanistan in the event, God forbid, that we have another contingency, another operation overseas.

But Afghanistan doesn’t seem much more stable than it did two years ago when the surge started.  Have we accomplished our mission there?

I do believe we have, as a matter of fact.  I do believe we have because Al Qaeda has been disbursed.  They do not pose a threat to us at this point in time.  We’ve done what we have to do with respect to Bin Laden.  We’ve, as I said, stood up the Afghan National Security Forces.  It’s time to bring troops home.

More specifically on Iran, you mentioned it only tangentially.  Target in on Iran.  How do you prevent Iran from being a nuclear power?

I think first of all you say that that is the goal, to make sure that they do not acquire a nuclear weapon.  We can all agree on that across the aisle.  I think there’s bipartisan support for that.

How?

Then there’s support across the country for that too.  Clearly the best way to do it, again, we have to keep the military option on the table at all times.  There’s no doubt about that, but for now, I think we’ve got to let sanctions work.  That’s what our military leaders tell us.  That’s what our diplomatic leaders are beginning to tell us.  They’re beginning to have an effect.  That’s what we have to do.  If down the road we have to think about other things, then of course we have to have all those options on the table, but that should not be there now as a live option.

Mr. Archer, jump in here.  Have we accomplished our mission in Afghanistan?  Are we better off than we were two years ago or eleven years ago?

Well, this is one area where I think Congressman Loebsack and myself disagree.  I think he has an artificial timetable of withdrawing our troops by 2013.  He’s on the front of the President in this.  The President has said that by 2014 we will start a withdrawal of our troops.  The mission, the best I know, was to prevent Al Qaeda or prevent the terrorists from using Afghanistan as a safe haven.  If that mission has been accomplished according to our generals on the ground in Afghanistan and our generals here in the United States, then by all means we should start that withdrawal as soon as possible.  But don’t get out in front of our commander-in-chief who has the absolute best knowledge as to what’s taking place in Afghanistan.

When you say commander-in-chief, who is that?

President Barack Obama.

So you think he’s out in front of the president?

Absolutely.  When Congressman Loebsack says I want to withdraw our troops in 2013, he’s out in front of President Obama, which is a dangerous proposition because when we are discussing these highly sensitive areas, we have to leave that conference room aligned and in complete agreement so as not to put our men and women in harm’s way.

One of the republican congressmen that you hope to join, Tom Latham, on this program last week said that he believed that troops should come out tomorrow from Afghanistan because of the terms of engagement that soldiers are required to adhere to in Afghanistan.  Do you share that view?

I share the view that once I have all the information, the best information which I don’t as a civilian sitting right here today.  There are individuals that have better information than I do right now.  But we have to listen to our commanders on the ground, and when they say that our mission is complete, then we start the systematic safe withdrawal of our troops.

Let’s shift to Israel in that region and how it feels about Iran and its nuclear capabilities.  Let’s say Israel decides it’s going to strike Iran.  Mr. Loebsack, would you vote to go to war with Israel against Iran?

I’m sorry, Kay, but I’m not going to engage in a hypothetical like that.  Israel is one of our greatest allies, if not our greatest ally.  There’s no doubt about that.  I’ve support Israel through the various appropriations processes.  The bills that I’ve supported – ballistic missile defense for Israel.  Israel, of course, is a sovereign nation state.  They have to make their own decisions as to what’s in their interest.  I would never attempt to tell them what to do but I’m not going to engage in a hypothetical if something were to happen, what would we do.  We have to look out for our national interests as well.  That’s something that we have to keep in mind.  I think that’s paramount.

Mr. Archer, under what conditions would you vote to go to war?

If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, which we both agree cannot happen, then, yes, we need to back our closest ally in that region, Israel.  And I will engage in your hypothetical.  If Israel takes the unilateral action against Iran because based upon their best intelligence they believe that Iran has acquired a nuclear weapon, then we must, we must stand with our closest ally in Israel and engage in that process.

Talking about the military, President Obama has eliminated the Clinton administration’s don’t ask don’t tell policy, and now gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military.  You’re a member of the House’s Armed Forces Committee.  Do we have to go back to some prior policy?

It’s working.  I think what’s important is if someone wants to serve in the military, if they’re qualified, then they should be allowed to serve in the military.  I have two kids in the Marines, as you know, James.  My stepson and his wife are in the Marine Corps.  They’ve been deployed overseas a couple of times.  In the case of Mark and Michelle, I think if someone wants to serve his or her country and is willing to go and make the ultimate sacrifice, then they ought to be able to do that.  There’s been at least a preliminary study done within the military that has shown that it has not had the negative effects that many people thought were going to be there in terms of morale and what have you.  So I think repealing don’t ask don’t tell was the right way to go.

Mr. Archer, do you support that move by the President?

Again, I get back to what our commanders are telling us.  If our commanders are telling us that don’t ask don’t tell is no longer the policy and that openly gay men and women can serve in the United States military then I have no problem with that.  But again, we must listen to our subject matter experts, our generals and our commanders that know best.

Let’s turn to immigration in this country and specifically people who have come here illegally.  If the border is secured by either border patrol agents or even U.S. military soldiers along the border, as a member of Congress, Mr. Archer, what policy would you vote for in terms of immigration reform for the people who have come here illegally?

This is one area where the federal government has under reached its authority.  Securing our borders is in fact a national security issue, so anytime we talk about immigration, we must talk about securing our borders first.

So would you send soldiers to the borders?

I do not believe we but send soldiers to the border right now, but we must do everything we can to secure our borders to prevent individuals that want to inflict harm upon this country from doing so.  Once we secure our borders, then we have to deal with the millions of illegals that are here.  Mass deportation I’m not in favor of.  They know that they are here illegally.  I know why they’re here, because this is the greatest country the world has ever known.  We are still the land of opportunity, but the question if or how much longer if we continue down the path that we’re on.  So we have to have alternative needs in which to integrate these individuals into society.  Is it a work visa permit but not a path to citizenship at this time?

Mr. Loebsack, how would you answer that?

Well, I’ve already voted on a number of occasions to beef up security on the border and we’ve done that.  Beyond that, we have to make sure we do everything that we do everything to enable employers to make sure that they are employing legal immigrants, not illegal immigrants, the e-verification progress, for example, something I voted to reauthorize  But those employers who are employing folks illegally, we’ve got to crack down on them.  There’s absolutely no doubt about it.

So what about people who are here illegally?  He would make them apply for a work visa.

Even before we get to that, the President took action recently with respect to young folks.  My answer to that is if someone is willing to fight for this country and is willing to go to Afghanistan and serve in a unit with my stepson or my daughter-in-law and lay their lives down on the line and have their backs, when they come back to America, they ought not be sent back to their country of origin.

Often that’s referred to as the so-called Dream Act.  Mr. Archer, do you support the concept of the Dream Act, whereby people who serve in the military would become automatic U.S. citizens?

Let’s talk about what Congressman Loebsack just said.  We have employers that must crack down on illegal aliens, illegal immigrants.  The Department of Defense is an employer.  So it’s inconsistent to me listening to Congressman Loebsack say that we should crack down on employers from hiring these illegal immigrants.  I do not support the Dream Act in its current form.

What we do with all those other folks who really aren’t eligible to serve in the military?  I mean that provision only applies to a small part of the 12 or 15 million people here illegally. 

Well, I think what we have to do first and foremost is make certain that we don’t make this a political football like everything else in Congress.  Again, we’ve got to find a bipartisan way forward on this.  There’s no doubt about that.  Hopefully after this election, again, we’ll be able to sit down and talk to one another and think about this in a rational manner.  I think John and I both agree that it’s not feasible to round up 11 or 12 million people.  We don’t have the wherewithal to do it.  I think we have some agreement on that issue.  What we do from there is going to be a real question.  Where do we go from there remains to be seen.  I think John’s idea, I think when he’s talking about, this work visa, I think that’s a possible way forward on this.  But, again, we’re going to have to make sure that we get past the hyper partisanship in D.C. in the first place so we can find a way forward on this.

Returning to that dysfunctional Congress once again, one of the many pieces of unfinished business – one of the many pieces of unfinished business when Congress left Washington to go home and campaign for re-election was the farm bill, which despite its title, about 80 percent of the funding in it is for nutritional programs.  I’m wondering should the farm part of the farm bill stand on its own merits and be separated from nutrition programs and, like I say, rise and fall on its own merits?

No one I’ve talked to in Congress, no chairs of the committee or ranking members of the committee – no one I’ve talked to thinks that’s a good idea.  It’s simply not going to work.  We’ve got to move the whole thing forward.  When I was – when I was there in July, and the farm bill had been – late July the farm bill had been passed out of the Housing Ag Committee on a bipartisan basis, the Senate had passed a farm bill on bipartisan basis.  Again, Speaker Boehner – I hope you bring this up with him tomorrow as well – Speaker Boehner held up the farm bill.  He wouldn’t allow it to come to the floor.  I led a bipartisan delegation of Iowans to do what we could to get a disaster relief bill, even if we couldn’t get a full farm bill to the floor of the House of Representatives.  I was happy this summer to go out.  I contacted the Farm Bureau.  I visit farms all the time but I visited even more to find out exactly what was happening with the drought.  The Farm Bureau cooperated with me to set me up with some of these meetings.  What happened eventually is that there was a very stripped-down disaster relief bill that was passed in early August.  The Senate said we’re not going to do anything because we already had that as part of our bill.  The full House bill had that as well.  John Boehner brought us back in September.  The same thing happened again even though there’s bipartisan support to get a House bill on the floor.  He simply didn’t listen to the folks in the House of Representatives. 

Mr. Archer, the basic question though, from Jim is should the farm bill as it pertains to production agriculture, and the nutrition programs, which account for 80 percent of the cost of what is known as the farm bill, that’s Jim’s question – isn’t it, Jim – just be disconnected.

I hope my opponent, when he is with President Obama tomorrow, tells President Obama to call Congress back to get their job done.  That’s what I hope.  But that’s part of the problem, Dean.  It’s called governance.  When we have Congress passing bills that are 2700 pages long that congressmen don’t read or don’t fully understand, the Affordable Health Care Act, that’s part of the problem.  We need to separate these bills, make these bills simpler, more easily understood.

So are you saying that disconnect, the production agriculture in what is known as the farm bill from the nutritional programs, food stamps, now known as SNAP – should they be disconnected and passed on their own merits?

Absolutely.  I’m saying let’s give it a try this Congress is so dysfunctional, we need to innovate.  We need to try new things, to move this country in the right direction.  We can’t continue down the same path that we’re on and think that we’re going to do any better in the next two years or four years.

Do you mind if I just say something?  It’s all well and good for me to talk to President Obama about bringing Congress back.  He doesn’t have the power to do that.  Speaker Boehner has the power to bring us back.  Nonetheless, I hope you will speak to Speaker Boehner about bringing us back because that’s what I ought to be doing.  This is all well and good to be campaigning for re-election, but Congress ought to be dealing with this issue.  It ought to be dealing with the production tax credit.  It ought to be dealing with the Violence Against Women Act.  It ought to be dealing with all of these issues.  Speaker Boehner has the power to do this.  He sent us home because he was afraid of the Tea Party folks in his party who don’t want any government involvement in anything.  They don’t even want government involved in crop insurance, let alone the SNAP program.  That’s the basic problem here.  It has nothing to do with President Obama calling us back.  It has to do with the republican leadership calling us back into session to get something done.

You have a voice.

I’ve been exercising that voice throughout.

Mr. Loebsack?

I’ve been doing everything I possibly can to get them to respond.

Let him respond.

You have a voice in Congress and it’s fallen on deaf ears for the past six years.  It’s now time to provide new leadership to the people of the second district of Iowa.

John, you need to pay a little bit more attention to my record and to what I’ve gotten accomplished instead of engaging in platitudes and referring to this particular article in the Des Moines Register about being ineffective because, as you know, that’s simply a beauty contest playing to Des Moines and Washington, D.C. pundits.  That’s all that is.  I challenge you to go out into the district.  I challenge you to go to Burlington this week when we’re there and we’re commemorating the opening of the BNSF Bridge over the Mississippi River.  You talk to them about the $28 million that I was able to secure in the recovery act to complete that bridge, which then leveraged tens of millions of more dollars to make sure the BNSF completed the approaches.  Those folks will talk to you about effectiveness.

A bridge that has been completed for over a year now, and you and Senator Harkin are going out on political shenanigans to get more publicity here in an election year.

I understand why you don’t want to give credit where credit is due.  It’s not in your interest.  I understand that, John. 

Let’s switch to an issue that is of great concern to many people in the district.  That’s the future of Social Security.  Mr. Archer, what changes would you make in the Social Security system?

The last time Social Security was changed, it was done bipartisan between Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan.  That’s what needs to take place.  Iowans are ready for some real leadership.  They understand that we cannot continue down the path that we’re on with respect to Social Security and expect it to be solvent in twenty or thirty years.  The congressional budget office has said that Social Security will go bankrupt in 2024 or 2025. 

So what changes would you support?

When you start talking about changes, individuals starting being demonized.  I have said that all things have to be on the table.  Does that mean we have to start tweaking the retirement age, make minor tweaks to make sure that Social Security is solvent for this generation and generations to come?

So would you support younger workers invest in their own retirement savings account and opt out of Social security, as some have suggested?

Within the Social Security system, I would be in favor of allowing younger workers to have a personal savings account to take some of that money and invest it by themselves.

Mr. Loebsack, what changes or tweaks would you support?

First, let me just say I don’t know what this means when John says within the Social Security system because what he’s saying is taking the money out of the Social Security system.  This is doublespeak.  That’s what it is.  It’s privatization.  That’s what it is.  We know that’s wrong.  George Bush – George W. Bush tried that in 2005 when he thought he had political capital built up as a result of his re-election.  It was rejected by the American people.  I understand why you don’t want to call it privatization, because it’s not popular with the American people because t he American people know that it’s the wrong thing to do.  When I was a kid, when I was in the fourth grade, we moved in with my grandma.  She was getting Social Security survivor benefits because my grandpa had died.  When I was a senior in high school, my dad died.  My parents were divorced.  I made it through Iowa State University because of Social Security survivor benefits.  What I know I won’t do is ever turn Social security over to Wall Street and gamble away the future and in fact threaten the very middle class status of –

He’s shaking his head no and saying no on privatization.  I need to give you a chance to explain that.

I’ve just started articulating my position.  Allow individuals my age and younger to take part of the Social Security and put the money in a savings account themselves. 

Why isn’t that privatization?

No, that’s not privatization.  That’s allowing individuals to make their own choice.

Kay?

Let’s shift to another system which many argue is insolvent or headed that way, and that is Medicare, which is government insurance for our nation’s elderly.  Mr. Loebsack, what is the prescription for ensuring that that system remains solvent?

I already voted for the Accountable Care Act, which adds years to the system.  John has voiced his support for the Ryan budget, which will in effect mean that that Medicare program will be insolvent by 2016.  Beyond that, what I think we need to do – and I think we’re on the path to do that, we’ve got eight years to figure this out – is move the Medicare reimbursement rate system from one based on fee for service to one based on actual quality or value of care.  This is something that all the experts understand.  It will, in fact, bend the cost curve in the long-term when it comes to Medicare.  It will also assist Iowa.  Right now Iowa is a model.  We handle the best healthcare delivery in the entire country.  Every healthcare provider in Iowa will tell you that.  Yet we have about the worst reimbursement rate.  The Healthcare Act –

Reimbursement rate for Medicare.

That’s right, from Medicare.  The Affordable Care Act did provide some relief for some hospital and some providers.  We’ve got to make sure we deal with that geographic disparity.  But the point of this is not only will it benefit Iowa, but it will benefit the taxpayers as a whole if we actually look at what happened in Iowa and apply that as a model.  Let me just say one more thing.  John made a statement recently about 50 percent of Americans, and he’s talking about Medicare beneficiaries.  He’s talking about veterans.  Those folks he calls a real weakness in this country.  I don’t hesitate to really wonder if John was a congressman, whether he will be out of touch on this issue, whether he’ll be able to fight for those Medicare recipients, those Social Security recipients, those veterans, and do what we need to do to make sure that Medicare is solvent in the long-term and not voucherize it and turn it over to private health insurance companies.

There’s one individual at this table that has voted to take $716 billion out of Medicare to fund the Affordable Care Act and that’s my opponent.  He’s also voted for 15 unelected bureaucrats between you and your doctor, the independent payment advisory board, which will in fact cut services to seniors.  The Affordable Care Act is unraveling right before your eyes.  A 2700-piece of legislation, form 1099 has been taken out of it, the class act that has been taken out of it.  Now they’re talking about taking out the Medical Device Act.

Let me just ask, do you regret that vote for the Affordable Care Act?

Of course not.  Let me just say, when he talks about the IPAB, that’s not mostly false, that’s completely false.  That’s a pants on fire lie that’s been proven by all the fact checkers out there that are independent fact checkers.  When people talk about, as he does in his commercial, about rationing, that’s specifically prohibited by the law.  IPAB cannot ration.  Let me tell you what will happen if the Affordable Care Act is repealed as John wants it to be.  That 24 year old who couldn’t have health insurance in the past because he couldn’t find a job where he had a health insurance plan available, is now on health insurance, he’ll be kicked off that immediately when the bill is repealed.  Or a 14 year old who has a pre-existing condition and can now get health insurance, that person will be denied health insurance.  Of course I don’t regret that vote.

Mr. Archer, before you move on, I’d like to give you a chance to respond to that 50 percent allegation.

By no means did my comment mean to insult any military veterans, anybody on Social Security.  My point was that we have more people that are unemployed today, 7.8 percent.  We have more people – almost one in six Americans are on food stamps.  We need to grow this economy.  We need to have pro-growth measures to take those people off of food stamps and get them into the workforce.  That’s what I’ve been talking about.  We need to reduce regulations.  We need to provide certainty with respect to the tax code.  Affordable energy so manufacturers have stability to create jobs, to get people off of welfare and onto the employment line.

John has – when asked about what are the strengths and weaknesses in America right now – John said one of the weaknesses is that 50 percent of the American people believe that they are entitled to a government handout.  Now, 50 percent of the American people are those veterans, those Social Security recipients, those Medicare recipients, those women, infants and children –

Mr. Loebsack –

Talking about unemployment.  We’ve seen rate over 8 percent for months.  The latest numbers that look a little bit better.  But given the extent of the unemployment, should we extend those unemployment benefits, which are 99 weeks now in Iowa between state and federal benefits, extend those indefinitely until we see dramatic turnaround in the jobless numbers?

No, I think 99 weeks is plenty.  What we need to do, again, is we need to provide a pro-growth message.  I’ve been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses.  I’ve been endorsed by the United States Chamber of Commerce because of my pro-growth message.  We need to allow employers the opportunity to invest and create the jobs that are needed here in Iowa.

But not add an item, extend unemployment benefits, is that what you’re saying?

Correct.

Not add it as an item, but folks do need those unemployment benefits.  They should be extended, of course, if the economy doesn’t recover as it should.  But we have to get people back to work.  That’s the bottom line.  No one wants to extend employment benefits or anything else added an item.  I think we’ve got to have stronger work requirements.  Actually, when it comes to this, I think what’s happening here in Iowa might be a model for the rest of the country.  Keep people on unemployment benefits, but get them out there and get them into the educational system through community colleges, engaging and learning those technical skills, which is exactly what my bill – my sector’s bill is the great intersection between what the state wants to do and what the federal government can do.

Thank you.

Mr. Archer, a lot of republicans say that government should be run like a business.  If that’s the case, why not turn the post office to a private sector enterprise?

I wouldn’t be an advocate for turning the post office to a private sector enterprise, but having business experience, working at John Deere and being a part owner of a manufacturing company, we can find efficiencies in the postal process.  We need to scale back.  We can’t continue to spend the type of money that we’re spending.  Perhaps we have to take a look at reducing some hours to the United States Postal Service.  Perhaps we have to look at Saturday delivery.  The fact of the matter is, we just cannot continue to spend trillions of dollars more than we bring in and not expect bad things to happen.

Mr. Loebsack?

I think this is another example, unfortunately, where John cannot relate to seniors because seniors in the rural areas of Iowa where I grew up and where I’ve traveled over the course of the last six years to virtually every small town in my district, those seniors need those post offices to stay open.  Small businesses – we’re all concerned about small businesses.  I’ve voted for Eric Cantor’s to cut taxes on small businesses by 20 percent, one of 18 democrats to do it.  We have to have the postal service in the rural areas for those cottage industries and those small businesses.

We have just a minute remaining and I’m going to give each of you thirty second to answer.  If you were re-elected, within that next term, what bill would you most likely like to get on the President’s desk for signature?

Well, my sector’s bill in particular, but I’m working in a bipartisan way with republicans on that bill.  I’m in the minority now.  That’s to match up the jobs that are out there with the workers who have the skills for those jobs.  We have a real skills gap.  I’d like to see that incorporated into the law as much as possible.  I’ve already gotten it into the House bill in the committee and we’ve got to get that out there because that’s going to get people back to work.

Mr. Archer, what bill on the President’s desk within your first term?

Number one is jobs and the economy.  Until we get serious about a balanced budget amendment, this country will continue to spend the type of money that we’re spending.  That’s not good for the economy.  We have to get spending under check to provide a more secure and safe American for my children. 

Gentlemen, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today.

Thank you.

Next week we’re going to be taking our special congressional debate editions of Iowa Press to Carroll in western Iowa.  At that time you’ll see fourth district congressional candidates, republican Steve King and democrat Christie Vilsack, at 7:00 Thursday night live from Carroll’s Santa Maria Winery.  We’ll be showing the King/Vilsack debate twice, again at the usual Iowa Press times, at 7:30 Friday night and again at noon on Sunday.  For DMACC and the entire Iowa Public Television crew here in Newton, thanks for joining us today.


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