WESTPORT, Conn. – U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz shared many similar views in their debate Wednesday night. But the candidates for the Democratic nomination in the U.S. Senate race differed on one of the race’s biggest issues: the economy.
Both candidates agreed that the U.S. government needed plans to bring more jobs to the country but presented different ideas on how to cut unemployment.
Bysiewicz proposed closing tax loopholes that encourage companies to set up shop overseas and making changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. She also advocated for more federal funding for scientific research and development.
“It’s that kind of investment that can help create jobs, and something that the federal government has not been doing, and should,” Bysiewicz said.
Murphy proposed stronger “Buy American” laws, which would have the federal government buy more U.S.-made products. He also pitched in repairs to roads and rail lines, which he said would not only create construction jobs but also improve the local economy in general.
“If you want to bring jobs to Connecticut, you have to focus on infrastructure,” Murphy said. “As long as we’re locked down in getting people and goods from the major economic hubs in New York and Boston, the jobs are locked out.”
Murphy won the state Democratic Party’s endorsement at the state convention May 12. But Bysiewicz picked up enough delegates to force a primary Aug. 14. The two candidates debated for the first time since the convention Wednesday evening at Westport Town Hall.
On education, both candidates agreed Congress should fight to keep interest rates on student loans from rising and protect the federally funded Pell Grant system. Both also advocated for holding colleges accountable for rising tuition, through laws that would limit federal funding for universities that do not limit tuition increases.
Both candidates also pushed for investment in renewable energy sources and limiting dependence on foreign oil. Murphy called for a cap on oil prices and letting the free market decide which greener technologies to invest in. Bysiewicz proposed forcing utility companies to buy back energy produced by homeowners and small businesses that install their own solar panels and windmills.
Murphy said he was “proud” to work on Connecticut’s laws calling for publicly financed campaigns and said Washington should follow the same model. He also proposed a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed the formation of political committees that could accept unlimited donations.
Bysiewicz also said she would propose a bill to bring public financing to federal elections similar to the ones that apply to Connecticut’s statewide races. She also pitched a plan to ban gifts and campaign contributions from lobbyists.
“Wealthy people have enough advocates in Washington,” Bysiewicz said. “That’s what this primary is about. It’s about who will stand up for the middle class.”
When asked about foreign policy, both candidates called for an end to the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible. Both also agreed that the U.S. should support at two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bysiewicz said war in Iran should only be used “as a last resort,” in talks to stop the country’s nuclear weapons plan. Murphy said he thinks Iranians should “know it’s always on the table. But both agreed that economic sanctions should be the United States’ main tactic.
“The embargo that President Obama has worked out, and that the Foreign Affairs committee has supported, will essentially stop the Iranians from being able to find marketplaces for their oil,” said Murphy, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “That brings them to the table.”