In their only live joint appearance before the March 18 primary election, Republican congressional candidates Erika Harold and Rodney Davis clashed over Davis’ vote to trim veterans’ benefits in a federal budget deal.
BLOOMINGTON — In their only live joint appearance before the March 18 primary election, Republican congressional candidates Erika Harold and Rodney Davis clashed over Davis’ vote to trim veterans’ benefits in a federal budget deal.
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The one-hour debate was held at 7 a.m. today at Bloomington-Normal radio station Cities 92.9 FM, a station whose signal doesn’t reach Champaign-Urbana or any of the larger communities in the 13th Congressional District. Only a portion of Bloomington-Normal is in the district, which is represented by Davis of Taylorville.
“I voted for the budget because it saved $24 billion and put us back on the pathway to get into our constitutional appropriations process,” Davis said of a budget agreement vote last December, “rather than relying upon continuing resolutions which the president which the leaders of the House and the Senate actually then spend all the money that the hard-working American taxpayers send to Washington.”
No legislation is perfect, Davis said, “and you have to make a judgment call. There was a provision in that bill that would have reduced future (cost of living adjustments) to veterans who are at a young age. I voted for the bill in spite of the fact that I was against that provision, and what we’ve done since then is that we’ve fixed that provision. And that’s exactly what you do in Washington. You make judgment calls and you take the good parts of that bill and you judge the totality of that piece of legislation. And than those negative parts, you go and you try to fix them. And I helped lead the charge to help fix that.”
But Harold, an Urbana attorney who is challenging the freshman lawmaker, said she would have voted against the budget bill “because it did very little to address what I consider to be the drivers of our national debt and deficits.”
The budget cuts in the bill, she said, would go into effect 10 years from now “and the spending increases would begin right away.
“I think it’s unconscionable to have voted for something that cut veteran’s pensions. And I would disagree with Congressman Davis, he was not the person who led the charge on restoring those benefits.”
She said Davis defended the cuts in a television interview.
“That’s not true,” Davis interjected.
“He was justifying the cuts as saying that they would not apply to disabled veterans, and he said that they would be applying to people who could have a second job. I think it’s a mischaracterization to say that he was the one who led it,” said Harold, a Harvard Law School graduate and former Miss America. “Finally I would say that if members of Congress fixed it, what was the point of having those cuts in the first place? Either they didn’t read the bill carefully or, what I think happened, is they understood after the American public responded negatively that this is unacceptable and they went back and fixed it.”
Davis said that Harold’s interpretation of the television interview “is just not true.”
He said he was asked what the impact of the cuts would be “if they weren’t fixed.”
“And that’s the quote they used and that’s where you say that I support these cuts, and that is just wrong and disingenuous and frankly dishonest,” Davis charged.
The two soon were talking over each other while the third candidate in the race, Moro veterinarian Michael Firsching, sat by silent but bemused.