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Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Wilson talk pandemic, Trump’s response and health care in second debate

McMorris Rodgers  (SR)

The two candidates for Congress in Eastern Washington continued making their pitches to voters virtually Tuesday, with arguments largely tied to the policies of President Donald Trump.

In an online debate, District 5 incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers praised the tax bill passed by her party and signed by the president in 2017, noting that the economy was steaming ahead prior to the shutdowns brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Democrat Dave Wilson again attacked the president’s leadership style and accused the GOP – including the congresswoman – of being complicit in denying the “existential threat” posed by climate change and enabling a bungled response to the pandemic.

McMorris Rodgers, in a virtual candidate forum organized by the Lewis and Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of the LC Valley, said she supported a regionalized approach to reopening and responding to the pandemic.

“I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all,” McMorris Rodgers said, noting Congress’ quick approval of an aid package this spring that included loans designed to keep workers employed.

“This has been a federally supported, state-managed and locally implemented approach. Even in Washington state, there’s been frustration at times with a one-size-fits-all approach at the state level.”

Wilson said states had been forced to come up with plans due to a lack of clear guidance from the federal government, and noted that McMorris Rodgers voted against a Democratic proposal for a second round of assistance.

“I think the reason that this has become a real problem is a lack of a federal policy, or a federal-coordinated plan,” Wilson said.

Wilson has said his reason for quickly jumping into the Congressional race this spring was the president’s response to the pandemic. In introductory comments Tuesday, he continued to criticize the White House, and by extension the GOP and the congresswoman.

One question asked for the candidates’ positions on a plan floated by Trump to suspend payroll taxes during the pandemic in an effort to ease the financial burden on businesses.

McMorris Rodgers said her priority was on extending the federal Paycheck Protection Program to assist businesses, as well as implement liability protection for businesses, health care facilities and schools that choose to open their doors.

“I know the president has talked about a payroll tax holiday,” McMorris Rodgers said. “The goal is to get people back to work as soon as possible.”

Wilson said he opposed a removal of the payroll tax, citing concern about the loss of funding for Social Security and Medicare.

“I think it’s the wrong solution for the problem,” Wilson said. “We need to help the people that aren’t working, not the people that are working.”

The candidates were also were asked what type of health care plan they would support, should the U.S. Supreme Court choose to overrule the Affordable Care Act. McMorris Rodgers accused those who’ve said Republicans want to remove coverage for those with pre-existing conditions of “fear mongering,” noting an executive order signed by the president intending to protect that coverage. Health experts have argued that order, signed last month, will require additional and specific congressional action to match the coverage available under the Affordable Care Act.

“I think what we need to focus on is the reforms that are really needed today,” McMorris Rodgers said, citing efforts to increase the transparency of pricing in hospitals, more telehealth options and expanding training of doctors in rural areas to meet demand.

Wilson said the congresswoman had been part of efforts to dismantle or repeal provisions of the Affordable Care Act while in House leadership. While he said the law wasn’t perfect, it could be improved upon, rather than starting over from scratch.

“If we do away with the Affordable Care Act, where does that get us? Especially during the pandemic,” Wilson said. “That makes no sense.”

McMorris Rodgers and Wilson are set to appear in a third and final debate that will be broadcast by KSPS-TV. It is scheduled to be taped Monday.