Idaho Senate candidates discuss the federal government’s role in health and social care

The candidates in the race for one of Idaho’s Senate seats in the United States Congress covered a wide range of issues in a debate held Monday night, focusing on inflation, the national debt and abortion.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is running for his fourth term in the U.S. Senate, a seat he has held since 1999. His opponents, Democrat David Roth and independent candidate Scott Cleveland, taped a debate Monday afternoon on Idaho Public Television , which aired Tuesday night due to scheduling issues. Cleveland owns an investment and brokerage firm in Eagle, and Roth is executive director of the Bonneville Youth Development Council in Idaho Falls.

Crapo has defended many aspects of his congressional record from both opponents, including criticism of his vote on the bipartisan Cleveland infrastructure bill and his votes against the CHIPS Act and the Roth Pact Act. Cleveland said any bill that would increase the federal deficit must be voted down in Congress.

Crapo said he has effectively and aggressively fought for Idaho’s principles and said he has voted against every spending bill in Congress. What America needs, Crapo said, is to return to a Republican-controlled government to continue the successes the country enjoyed before President Joe Biden was elected, when inflation was much lower and statistics on crime was lower.

“The solution here is to give the GOP and the Republican Senate control of the agenda so that we don’t continue to see Biden, (Sen. Chuck) Schumer and (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi manage this insane spending, driving those open borders and causing all the difficulties we’re talking about today,” Crapo said.

Roth said that while it’s important to examine what’s causing inflation and the national debt, he criticized Crapo’s support for tax cuts passed by former President Donald Trump that added $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade and said, that more needs to be done to invest in local communities.

The federal government should not interfere in the health care market, Crapo says

The candidates raised questions about health care and prescription drug costs, including Crapo’s vote against the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to lower Medicare costs for seniors through negotiated drug prices and slightly lower premiums.

Crapo said he voted against the bill because it would not reduce inflation and said he has consistently opposed efforts to increase federal involvement in the nation’s health care economy. Crapo said he has his own account this would reduce costs without government intervention by increasing the options for alternative medicines which would increase competition in the market.

Roth said that as the world’s largest buyer of prescription drugs, the United States should have more power over drug pricing, and as a person with type 2 diabetes, he supports efforts to lower the cost of insulin.

“Health care should be affordable,” Roth said. “We need the support of the Affordable Care Act … and options to reduce these costs for Americans across the country.”

Cleveland said more competition would be effective in lowering drug prices and improving quality, and said the same should be done for school choice.

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On gay rights, abortion, the candidates disagree with state’s rights

The candidates also discussed gay marriage, and Crapo said he would not vote in favor of the bill that would codify gay marriage nationally, saying the U.S. Supreme Court was right to define it as a state’s rights issue and should stay that way.

Roth said that as a member of the LGBTQ community, he will vote in favor of the bill so that all people have equal marriage rights, regardless of their status.

Cleveland said he’s “okay with gay people” and doesn’t believe gay people should face any kind of discrimination in housing or employment, but he doesn’t think they should get special treatment like celebrating Gay Month. gay pride or a rainbow flag to represent gay pride.

“If we want to reduce discrimination in America, we have to treat everyone equally, including the gay community,” Cleveland said.

On abortion, the candidates were similarly opposed, with Crapo and Cleveland saying it was a state’s rights issue that each state should decide on its own.

“Anything that’s not in the United States constitution is for the state to decide,” Cleveland said.

Roth said abortion laws should be applied consistently across the country.

“I believe that these fundamental rights, those rights that make up who we are as Americans, are not left to the states. They should be the same no matter where we are,” Roth said. “It’s completely ridiculous that two people sitting at the moderator’s table have less rights here than they would if they drove an hour west. We are the United States of America, we are one country, so who you are as a person should not vary from place to place.

From left: Independent candidate Scott Cleveland, Republican Mike Crapo and Democrat David Roth answer questions from reporters at the Idaho Public Television debate Monday afternoon. (Aaron Koontz/Idaho Public Television)

On affordable housing, two candidates see a need for expanded tax credits in Idaho

The candidates also touched on affordable housing in Idaho, and all three acknowledged it’s an important issue. Cleveland said the poor will always be among them society no matter what we do, and there are social safety nets with nonprofits, but he sees no role for the federal government in building affordable housing.

Crapo said he favors expansion and strengthening the low-income housing tax credit to spur more affordable housing construction.

“We need to direct more capital in the United States to building affordable housing, and that’s exactly what this tax credit has a great track record of,” Crapo said. “I think that’s one of the most critical things we can do at this point.”

Roth said that as a board member of Habitat for Humanity in Idaho Falls, he is familiar with the problem, and tax incentives should be matched by companies that will pay their workers a living wage to avoid compounding the problem. He wants to see more partnerships between private companies and local governments, as well as tax breaks for first-time home buyers.

Other Idaho congressional candidates are refusing to debate

The debate is the only one that will be held for Idaho’s congressional seats because Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher, both R-Idaho, refused to participate in debates with his opponents. Simpson also declined to participate in the Republican primary debate in May.

Idaho Capital Sun reporter Clark Corbin was a member of Monday’s debate panel, fielding questions from the candidates.

Two other debates are also planned:

  • At 8:00 PM Mt / 7:00 PM PT on October 24th, the Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Debate featuring Republican Debbie Critchfield and Democrat Terry Gilbert will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television and streamed on YouTube.
  • At 8:00 pm Mt / 7:00 pm PT on October 28, the Idaho Lieutenant Governor debate featuring Republican Scott Bedke and Democrat Terry Pickens Manweiler will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television and streamed on YouTube .

The general election will be held on November 8, and the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is October 28.

To watch a recording of the debate, go to Idaho Public Television YouTube channel or archived records. Idaho debate producers will also rebroadcast the debates with Spanish subtitles for the first time, and Spanish versions will also be available online.


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