Edwards, Pappas offer visions for Social Security, Medicare
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — While both Democrat Chris Pappas and Republican Eddie Edwards expressed support for programs like Medicare and Social Security, they clashed Thursday over the role government plays in people’s lives during a 1st Congressional District debate.
In an AARP-sponsored event in Manchester, Edwards repeatedly stressed he felt health care, family leave and other programs shouldn’t be left up to the government. Pappas, in contrast, repeatedly vowed he would do everything to protect government health care programs and reaffirmed his support for government-funded paid family leave.
The candidates fielded questions from the audience in the second of several debates ahead of the Nov. 6 election. They are competing to replace Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a seat that has swung back and forth between parties the last decade. Pappas has raised more than Edwards in the campaign and had a slight lead in a recent Emerson College poll.
“We have to get back to place where we believe in family and community,” Edwards, a former police chief and former chief enforcement officer for the state Liquor Commission, told the crowd at Saint Anselm College. “Almost everything you have heard is about the free market or government control. I’m hoping you’re looking for a place where you have more control over what happens in your life.”
Pappas, who serves on the governor’s Executive Council and runs his family’s restaurant, told the crowd he would do everything in his power to prevent efforts to cut spending in programs like Social Security.
“If the government does anything right, it does Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid right,” Pappas said. “I think we need to make sure we work to protect these programs.”
Both candidates said they wanted to control the rising cost of entitlement programs but Pappas mostly spoke on the proposals he wouldn’t support such as raising the age for retirement or Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program.
“I think there are ways we can strengthen the program, including allow negotiation of drug cost, going after waste, fraud and abuse,” Pappas said. “I will stand firm and not allow efforts to voucherize it.”
Edwards didn’t specifically say how he would control Medicare costs. But he expressed opposition to expanding the program to include those “who haven’t paid into the system” and alleged the federal government in the past had raided the program to pay for the Affordable Care Act. He was alluding to the fact the Affordable Care Act including a provision reducing the spending increases in Medicare over a decade by more than $700 billion, cuts supporters say wouldn’t impact beneficiaries.
“Until we hold government accountable for (the) management of our funds and our resources, we are never going to fix this problem,” he said.
The two also disagreed over the impact of the GOP’s tax plan, which has contributed to a ballooning federal deficit. Edwards suggested “tax receipts were producing greater receipts to the general fund,” despite the federal government finding this week the deficit worsened because tax revenues are not keeping pace with government spending.
“I find it interesting there are folks who believe if you get more money in your pocket, now you’re the problem ... you’re the cause of the debt and the deficit,” he said. “I don’t believe that at all.”
Pappas responded it was “not fiscally responsible” to cut taxes “for billionaires and big corporations permanently” at a time of strong economic growth.
If Pappas won, he would be the state’s first openly gay congressman. If Edwards won, he would be the first black member New Hampshire congressional member.