SACRAMENTO, CA - Democrat Ami Bera and Republican Doug Ose engaged in their only scheduled debate to infuse on Oct 8. It was testy and at times personal, with the candidates clashing over jobs, immigration and foreign policy as they vie in one of the country’s most closely contested races for congress.
He focused on health care again in the debate, telling Bera who is a doctor, “You voted to cut $716 billion from Medicare.” Bera serving his first term in Washington, flatly accused Ose of lying about the health care law’s impact on Medicare. Recalling his tough race in 2012, when he unseated GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, Bera called the charge “déjà vu all over again.” Throughout the debate, he referred to Ose, who has been out of Congress for nine years, by his former House title.
“Congressman, how many times does someone have to call something a lie until you stop telling it?” Bera asked.
Bera mounted a forceful defense of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 legislation championed by President Barack Obama and upheld by the Supreme Court. The 49-year-old former county medical director and UC Davis medical school official said the law has provided more than 1 million Californians with health care coverage – challenging Ose on his pledge to repeal the law and replace it with a policy that provides customers with more options and insurance companies with more competition.
“As a doctor, I have taken care of far too many patients who may have lost their job,” he said. “And you can see the fear on their face.” While the law is not the solution he would have developed, Bera said, he said there was room to make incremental changes.
Ose “wants to take us back to a time when health insurance companies were in charge. When women could be charged more than men. Where if you had a pre-existing illness you could be denied coverage,” Bera added. “That’s not progress. That’s taking us backward.” Bera repeatedly cited campaign pledges he said he’s fulfilled, including not to take a pay raise and to back legislation that withholds congressional salaries if members don’t pass a budget.
On the drought and water policy, Ose said while he couldn’t make it rain, he could get federal officials to reduce the outflows from Folsom Dam. But Bera said he worked with officials to curtail releases to the lowest possible levels.
During his opportunity to ask Bera a question, Ose returned to health care, asking why he voted to protect legislation “that strips $716 billion in future funding from Medicare recipients.” Bera said he’ll leave it up to media fact-checkers to re-examine the claim. “My parents are on Medicare. We have to do everything we can to not only to protect Medicare, but to strengthen it.”
Both said they would support a federal policy modeled after California legislation Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed requiring California colleges to adopt rape-prevention policies that include an “affirmative consent” standard. It requires someone engaging in sexual activity to obtain an affirmative and voluntary agreement from his or her partner.
Bera also challenged the former congressman’s vote in 2003 which began the U.S. war against Iraq. “You voted for the biggest foreign policy failure of our lifetime,” rebuked Bera. Ose rebuffed the comment, saying he would vote to do it again, if elected to Congress. “I do believe that the president has not paid attention to ISIS, that it has manifested itself into something that is quite serious that is going to require a joint effort.”