Barletta, Kanjorski Spar as Contest Winds Down

October 29, 2010

JENKINS TWP. – Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski and challenger Lou Barletta fought to outmaneuver each other on the major issues of the day during a Thursday evening debate and the final days of the congressional contest.

The Nanticoke Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger and Hazleton mayor sparred over the long-term impact of health care reform and the validity of man-made global warming, challenged each others’ commitment to immigration reform and were able to agree that they both approved tax increases in their roles as elected officials.

While heated almost from the start, both agreed at the debate at WVIA-TV’s Sordoni Theater that voters on Tuesday face one of the most important elections in their lifetimes.

Mr. Barletta challenged the change Democrats had promised in 2008.

“Americans voted for change, but Americans didn’t want to change America; Americans wanted to change Washington,” he said.

While Mr. Kanjorksi acknowledged the “angst” over a slow recovery, he said the actions of Democrats saved the economy.

“Two years ago, we went to the edge of a cliff and we survived by not going over the cliff. But we have not fully recovered from the threat of that cliff,” he said.

Candidates differed on the importance of a House bill Mr. Kanjorski supported which would seek to curb the nation’s carbon emissions, a bill that could be acted on next year. Mr. Barletta warned the American Clean Energy and Security Act, known for its cap-and-trade system, would threaten jobs in Pennsylvania, while Mr. Kanjorski said the bill represented the nation’s attempt to slow down man-made global warming. Mr. Barletta challenged whether man-made global warming has been proven.

Mr. Kanjorski accused Mr. Barletta of passing for “purely political purposes” the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, an ordinance that would penalize Hazleton residents for employing or renting to illegal immigrants. The ordinance has been overturned by a pair of federal courts that found it violated the U.S. Constitution.

Mr. Barletta said he had to take action as mayor because Congress failed to reform immigration rules. If elected, he vowed to take action, something he accused his opponent of failing to do.

After challenging each other to admit to increasing taxes, both acknowledged it. Mr. Barletta said he increased property and income taxes for Hazleton, while Mr. Kanjorski acknowledged and defended in 1993 a tax hike on the wealthiest Americans and an increase in the federal gas tax.

Though rhetoric in campaign advertisements might suggest otherwise, both candidates agreed that parts of the federal health care reform law are good – including covering pre-existing conditions for patients and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 26 years old.

But Mr. Barletta vowed to fight to repeal the law because he said it could lead to medical care rationing and a government takeover of health care, and was passed without bi-partisan support. Mr. Kanjorski, while saying the law needs to be tweaked, defended and promised no senior citizen would be negatively impacted by the health care reform.

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