Tuesday night’s U.S. Senate debate was not as heated as the Oct. 8 debate. But, true to form, it did include Indiana’s Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly and Republican challenger Mike Braun directing jabs at each other, and Libertarian Lucy Brenton equating the jabs to the inefficiency of both political parties.
The debate, which was held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Toby Theater at Newfields, is the last official one before Tuesday’s General Election.
Debate host Amna Nawaz, national correspondent and primary substitute anchor at PBS NewsHour, and the League of Women Voters worked to keep Braun of Jasper, Donnelly of Granger and Brenton of Fishers to time limits and focused on answering the specific questions asked during the hour-long debate.
After each pledged to confine their answers to the question asked, the candidates were asked if they would vote to end birthright citizenship, a concept President Donald Trump said he will push for and that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, plans to propose with legislation.
Donnelly started by stating that he has voted for a border wall and sanctuary cities and increasing the number of border agents. “In regards to birthright citizenship, that is the 14th Amendment of our Constitution. How this should be handled is by the Congress,” he said. “We have to take a look at that legislation. I want to see that legislation, make sure that it is constitutional and review it first.”
Birthright citizenship, along with other issues “have accumulated over time,” Braun said. “I think the key difference is going to be, are you happy with the way results have happened in D.C.? Do you think the people that have been there have fixed these problems?”
Braun said he believes the country now has a leader (Trump) who is going to do something about it.
When asked directly by Nawaz if he would support legislation to end birthright citizenship, Braun said he would want to see the legislation first.
“If Lindsey Graham is introducing it, it will be something that I will take a look at,” he said. “I’m not going to say whether I’ll support it or not until I read the legislation.”
Brenton said the 14th Amendment allows birthright citizenship, and she would want to know if the legislation is going to be good for the United States and not violate the Constitution.
“No one is above the law. No one makes unilateral decisions in this country,” she said. “We got rid of King George for a reason. King George is gone. We’re not replacing him with King Trump.”
Braun and Donnelly addressed each other more directly during a question about what they will do to alleviate hunger in Indiana and support anti-hunger programs.
Donnelly said that as a member of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, they are completing a farm bill that will have in it provisions for farmers. It will also have provisions for nutrition programs, which are “a critical part in creating a farm bill.”
Braun indicated that government is a big part of the problem when it comes to hunger issues. “If I was really wanting to fix the issues with hunger, I don’t think I’d look to the federal government,” he said. “Those policies have not worked as they should. We’ve got to make sure that we fix these plans so that they work better for the people that need them. And I would trust what we do here in the state, than what I would throw onto a federal government that’s running trillion-dollar deficits.”
Brenton agreed with Braun that Indiana should feed its people. She also said that SNAP assistance funds should be used for purchasing nutritious food.
“You go and use SNAP benefits, and you can buy things with high fructose corn syrup; you can buy soda pop. What is that? That’s not something to help people and feed them,” she said. “It’s a gift to Coca Cola. It’s a gift to big businesses, to allow funds that should be set aside for real nutrition and real food, to just go down the drain with Doritos and soda pop. Stop that.”
Donnelly retorted that the federal government does have a role in the nutrition program. “A 7-year-old child doesn’t know the difference between state rights and federal rights,” he said. “They just know they are hungry.”
Other topics discussed Tuesday included immigration, affordable health insurance, low-cost and free contraceptives, taxes and government spending, Trump and his stance concerning Saudi Arabia, the rights of sexual assault victims, diversity in leadership and their staffs, and climate change. The last topic was brought back because viewers of the Oct. 8 debate were not satisfied with the trio’s previous answers, Nawaz said. All questions came from the audience, from residents who emailed questions and from the debate commission.
The candidates were also asked what their top-priority issue would be if elected. Braun said lowering the cost of health care. Donnelly said ending the opioid crisis. Brenton said reducing the size of federal government and making it meticulously follow the U.S. Constitution.