DEFOREST -- 2nd CD candidates Mark Pocan and Chad Lee
sparred over federal spending and health care during a largely cordial second joint appearance
of the campaign.
Pocan, the longtime Madison Dem state rep, said he supports the federal health
care reform law signed in 2009 and that one of his top priorities would be
protecting Medicare and Social Security.
"The talk to try to change those programs is very wrong-headed,"
Pocan said at the opening of the forum at the DeForest Public Library.
Lee, a Mt. Horeb Republican, said he would not touch those programs for
Americans over age 54 and rejected claims that he would offer subsequent
enrollees a "coupon" for coverage.
"Let's work on bipartisan solutions to make sure that it's going to be
strong and secure for them," Lee said.
The two are running for the sole open seat in Wisconsin’s
House delegation, seeking to replace Tammy Baldwin in the heavily Dem district
that covers the south-central portion of the state. Baldwin, D-Madison, is
running for the U.S. Senate.
Lee decried the budget impact of health care reform,
charging that the law would enact 12 new taxes on the middle class and raid
$716 billion from Medicare.
Pocan dismissed the Medicare funding claim as "political spin,"
saying the move would stop overpayments under the program and extend its
The candidates also disagreed on the best way to address the nation's fiscal
issues. Pocan touted his work on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee,
saying Dems closed a massive 2008 state deficit through a mixture of cuts,
federal recovery dollars and increased revenue.
"The way you really deal with the deficit is get the economy going
again," Pocan said.
Lee said the sluggish economy makes tax increases unworkable and called for
cutting back on federal programs that spend too much and ending duplicative or
Lee also said the country should look to get away from foreign sources of oil
to achieve energy independence and that he supports the controversial Keystone
XL pipeline and so-called "fracking" procedures to extract natural
"They can't hire people quick enough to fill those jobs," Lee said of
the natural gas industry in North Dakota. "I would love to see more
stories like that."
Pocan countered that fossil fuel-based energy is a "failed policy"
both environmentally and economically and that the country should be investing
in renewable energy.
The candidates did find common ground on the need to make the country's tax
code fairer, particularly relating to large corporations that aren't paying
normal tax rates. Both frequently made references to their small business
backgrounds and both also played up their efforts to reach across party lines.
"That's something Congress has been woefully missing," Pocan said.
-- By Andy Szal