U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., Democratic challenger John Delaney and Libertarian candidate Nickolaus Mueller debated on issues including the federal deficit, health care costs, infrastructure, the economy and immigration during a forum Wednesday night at Hagerstown Community College’s Kepler Theater as the three prepare for the Nov. 6 general election.
One of the more spirited moments came near the end of the forum when Delaney referred to Bartlett’s affiliation with the Tea Party. Delaney talked about how the organization has done nothing in Washington, D.C.
A round of applause followed Delaney’s comment.
Bartlett responded by saying the Tea Party was founded because of the federal government getting away from the U.S. Constitution.
Bartlett supporters then clapped.
The forum, which attracted about 125 people, was sponsored by WHAG-TV and League of Women Voters chapters in Washington, Frederick and Montgomery counties.
C-SPAN is expected to air the forum later, said Barbara Rice of the League of Women Voters of Washington County.
Moderated by WHAG’s Pieter Bickford, questions for the candidates came from League of Women Voters members and people in the audience.
The three candidates were asked about how they feel about the nation’s deficit and Bartlett said he signed onto the Ryan budget plan to control spending.
Although the deficit needs to be reduced, Bartlett said more income is problematic because Americans are already taxed enough. The country needs to reduce spending and “everything has to be on the table, including defense,” Bartlett said.
Mueller said he agreed with some of Bartlett’s points but he has not seen Republicans reducing anything.
“Defense certainly needs to be cut heavily,” Mueller said.
Delaney said he supported the Simpson-Bowles plan as a reasonable approach to addressing the country’s deficit. Delaney said it is a plan that “won’t shock the economy.”
Regarding the country’s infrastructure needs, Mueller said the government doesn’t need to be in the business of building roads and bridges.
“I can guarantee you that (some) roads and bridges existed before the government did,” Mueller said.
Delaney said the government inherently has a duty to build infrastructure, saying it also is a way to generate jobs.
Bartlett said an important point about infrastructure is that energy needs to be part of the picture. Bartlett predicted that the country’s energy needs will be an “over-arching issue” in coming years.
When the three candidates were asked how the federal government can help create jobs, Mueller said the government has no business in that area. The government needs to get out of the way and let the private sector work, said Mueller.
Delaney argued the government does have a role in job creation because it levels the playing field for business, puts infrastructure in place and puts necessary regulations in place.
Bartlett said the nation’s trade deficit is crippling to the country. He also suggested the government should let the private sector do its work on new jobs.
Regarding immigration reform, Delaney said he supports a fast track to citizenship for undocumented people in the country and securing borders. Immigrants can also play an important part in making the country more economically competitive.
Bartlett said a fast track to citizenship for undocumented people is basically an amnesty program that “rewards bad behavior.”
Mueller said he not in favor of the country saying who can and cannot get in. The government can’t tell who is not working or “who is going to be a terrorist,” Mueller said.
Editor's note: Debate moderator Pieter Bickford's first name was misspelled in the print version and earlier online versions of this story.