By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
BRISTOL — Even though they agreed on some issues, the two candidates for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District offered very different views on the role of the federal government.
U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Kathy Boockvar, the Bucks County attorney who hopes to unseat Fitzpatrick on Election Day, took part Thursday morning in front of about 200 people at Bucks County Community College.
Fitzpatrick said he wants government to “do for individuals what they cannot do for themselves,” including investments in infrastructure and national defense. Other than that, he said, the role of government should be limited so people can make their own decisions.
“We need a federal government that spends less and taxes less,” he said. “And a federal government that expects great responsibility of the individual citizen.”
Boockvar told the Bucks County crowd the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire for individuals making more than $250,000 a year, effectively raising taxes on high income Americans and many businesses.
But, she said, corporate taxes should be lowered to make the nation more business-friendly.
She said it was necessary for government to compromise in solving the national budget deficit and touted her experience as an arbitrator.
“My motivating philosophy has always been that we’re all in this together,” she said. “America is stronger when we abide by that philosophy.”
Boockvar said she wanted to end subsidies for oil and gas companies and try to end unnecessarily duplicative government services.
On taxes, Fitzpatrick said he would not vote for tax increases, though he was also against cutting taxes on businesses – a popular economic maneuver for Republicans.
Government should be doing for people what they are unable to do for themselves, Fitzpatrick said, citing President Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a transcontinental railroad in the 1860s.
But Boockvar criticized Fitzpatrick for his support of the budget offered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Mitt Romney’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket. The budget would make cuts to Medicare and other government programs, hurting individuals while maintaining tax breaks for millionaires and big business, she said.
“That does not make America stronger. That’s not a way that we are all in this together,” she said.
Fitzpatrick pointed out that every child born today is saddled with $51,000 in debt “before they take their first breath,” and argued that balancing the budget is imperative – something the Ryan budget aims to do.
He also attacked Boockvar’s support for President Obama’s $850 billion stimulus bill, which, he said, represents a flawed argument for economic growth.
“When she says she wants to boost the economy, it means she wants to reach in your pocket, tax you higher and send the dollars to Washington,” he said.
Both said they favored closing tax loopholes and reforming the tax code to keep corporations from dodging taxes.
Both also agreed to support “No Budget, No Pay” bill, which would deny members of Congress their paychecks if they failed to pass a budget. Fitzpatrick is a sponsor of the populist proposal.
The 8th District represents Democrats’ only real chance to cut into the GOP’s 12-7 edge in the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, thanks to redistricting last year that shored up districts won by Republicans in the 2010 cycle.
But national groups are apparently tepid on Boockvar’s chances – Democrat-backing PACs have withdrawn planned advertising from the district. Republican groups soon followed suit.
Fitzpatrick was first elected to Congress in 2004, but he lost a bid for re-election in 2006. He returned to win the seat again in 2010.
Edward Mackouse, a 69-year old retiree from Doylestown, said both candidates were impressive, but he favored Fitzpatrick because of his experience and his views on tax policy.
“We should level the field so the rich don’t have an advantage,” he said. “Simplify the tax code so people and businesses can plan for the future.”
Melissa Montney, 39, a resident of Philadelphia who is a student at the college, was impressed with Boockvar’s command of the issues.
“I thought she had more to say and she was more on top of the issues,” Montney said, adding that she also favored the elimination of tax loopholes for the rich.
The third and final debate between the two candidates is Friday morning at 9 at the Waterwheel Restaurant in Plumstead, Bucks County.
Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for breaking news