BOISE -- Verbal barbs were exchanged in a fiery debate this morning between two candidates in the race for the GOP nomination in Idaho's 2nd Congressional District. It was all a part of a special edition of Viewpoint, moderated by Mark Johnson.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and challenger Bryan Smith covered a lot of ground, and it often got very contentious. They sparred over the bailout, the government shutdown, earmarks, the Environmental Protection Agency, taxes, and immigration reform.
Click the play icon above to watch the full lively debate. To see it on the app, go to the video tab.
First, on earmarks, Simpson believes funding research into potatoes in Idaho (to protect against invasive species) or research into other staples, like lobsters in Maine, is necessary.
Smith says the research is necessary, but that federal funding is not, and that earmarks are a gateway drug to overspending.
Smith says, You have become part of the problem after many years in government, congressman.
Simpson responded, You don't think we should do any research into potatoes and trying to eliminate the pale cyst nematode that will devastate the potato crops in Idaho?
We should absolutely do that. But, why can't the lobster industry do its own research on lobsters?
They do pay about half of it.
Why can't they do all of it?
All of these have to be match.
Smith said, This is the difference between you and me, you think the federal government should pick winners and losers, congressman.
Simpson said, We don't pick them, it's actually picked by the Agricultural Research Services that does this.
They also debated the Environmental Protection Agency. Smith says, if elected, he'd work to cut the EPA altogether.
Simpson says the EPA does good work, but overreaches, The reality is that EPA overreaches. I've been one of those that's been pulling back on the EPA and trying to defund them when they pull back. I've cut billions in funding out of the EPA. You make these statements that are just ridiculous.
Smith responded, Before 1969 we did not have an EPA and we know what's happened with the EPA, it's gotten completely out of control. What I would tell you is this, I believe in Idahoans. We believe in clean water and clean air just as much as centralized planners from Washington. I believe the people of Idaho are better able to manage their water and air, than somebody from Washington, D.C. who has probably never even been to Idaho.
Simpson responded, That's why the Department of Environmental Quality in Idaho does the air quality standards in the state of Idaho. That's why the Legislature this year voted to have primacy over the Clean Water Act. And, the state of Idaho will do that, rather than the EPA.
One of the most heated debates was over immigration reform. Simpson said, It is very difficult to do because it is a contentious issue. And when you vote for some common sense things you're always going to have some yahoo out there saying, 'Oh, he supports amnesty, which is just a bunch of nonsense.'
That was a jab at Smith, who said, When Republicans in Washington talk about immigration reform, that's Republican code talk for a pathway to citizenship and amnesty. That is absolutely true.
Smith says Simpson supported allowing illegal immigrants, or those who have overstayed their visas, to pay a fine, stay in the country, and begin a path to citizenship. Simpson says he merely supported extending their visas while the government got caught up on paperwork to review their requests for permanent residence. The American Conservative Union opposed that vote and Simpson says they were wrong.
Smith said, That is a pathway to citizenship. That is amnesty. That is what you voted for, and now all you can say is, 'Well, the American Conservative Union was wrong.'
Simpson said flatly, They were wrong.
Smith disagreed and Simpson said, I gotta tell you in all honesty when you say that I voted for amnesty, you're also saying that Ron Paul voted for amnesty.
Smith pointed out, Nancy Pelosi voted for amnesty.
Simpson responded, An awful lot of conservative Republicans voted for this because breaking up families is not a conservative value.