On Thursday evening 28-year Democratic incumbent Congressman Rick Boucher and Virginia Republican Delegate Morgan Griffith met for the first time. The 9th congressional district is normally considered safe for Boucher, but this election he has his hands full as Griffith is now leading the race according to a recent SurveyUSA poll.
Griffith was at the WSLS Channel 10 studio more than an hour before airtime. Boucher arrived about 10 minutes before the 6 p.m. half-hour debate, which led to a few anxious moments.
Both Boucher and Griffith were all smiles and cordial as they were outfitted with microphones. During breaks they relaxed, smiling and making idle conversation, but the contrasts between the candidates became clear as the questions came from WSLS anchor and moderator, Jay Warren. The half-hour whizzed by as Warren pressed the candidates on topics that included extending the tax cuts, balancing the budget and Cap and Trade.
How To Pay For A Balanced Budget:
Griffith said, “take the regulatory scheme off the backs of businesses.” This would encourage businesses to come back and expand in the U.S. Revenues will increase without raising taxes, according to Griffith. He suggested rolling back congressional pay and other perks as a way to reduce spending.
Griffith got a jab in here – “so Mr. Boucher doesn’t get a car paid by taxpayer expense.”
Boucher responded to Warren’s question saying, “extend the tax cuts for a limited period – perhaps for two years.” During an economic recovery period the last thing you want to do is raise taxes on anyone he declared.
Boucher advocated bringing noncombat troops home from Iraq as a way to reduce spending. Griffith wasn’t for bringing the troops out of Iraq just yet, saying the Iraqi troops were not yet prepared to handle the country by themselves.
Boucher wants a commission that would then report back to Congress on what it would take to balance the budget. “Then take an up or down vote in the house and the senate on the entire package of recommendations,” said Boucher. “No amendments and no changes,” he added.
Warren then asked the candidates, “if the commission recommended raising taxes would you agree?”
Boucher said he would consider it as long as expenditure cuts equally balanced with the increase in taxes. Griffith said, “Boucher has had 28 years to make that happen and wants to cede control of the budget to a commission.” Boucher objected to Griffith’s assertion. He then advocated for closing military bases as a cost cutting measure adding,“we were balancing [the budget] until 2001 when the administration of my opponent’s party came into office,” which caused budget deficits to follow, according to Boucher.
On social security (entitlements) Griffith’s solution was to eliminate fraud and waste. Boucher said the trust fund for social security is in sound condition until 2040 and adjustments now can prepare for solvency in later years.
Cap and Trade:
West Virginia Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall voted against Cap and Trade saying it would cost coal jobs and raise energy rates. Boucher said his Democratic colleague was wrong.
Boucher explained that the Environmental Protection Agency was getting ready to regulate utility companies to address greenhouse gases. “The EPA does not have the tools to protect coal and coal miners and to protect our coal economy and protect our electricity consumers,” said Boucher. The coal leaders came to him and asked that he negotiate protections for them. All the utilities endorsed the policy once he made the changes to protect them.
Griffith said, “absolutely I disagree with it – Governor Manchin (Democratic Governor of West Virginia) put that bill up on a tree and shot the thing.” He added that electric rates would go through the roof,” … kill coal jobs … kill manufacturing jobs.”
Time was up and they shook hands. Boucher wouldn’t reveal what they talked about during the break but he made it clear that he had “no doubt whatsoever” that the 9th district would remain his.
The Star-Sentinel would like thank our news partner WSLS for inviting us into the studio to cover this debate.By Valerie Garner [email protected]