Missouri’s two major U.S. Senate candidates clashed over tariffs, tax cuts, the minimum wage and guns during a televised debate Thursday night in St. Louis.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and GOP Senate nominee Josh Hawley debated before a live studio audience of Missourians at the KETC-TV studios.
Some analysts believe Missouri’s race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate in January.
The Trump Administration’s tariffs highlighted a key difference between the two candidates, a difference both highlighted during separate August presentations to the Missouri Farm Bureau in Jefferson City.
Senator McCaskill says tariffs are “brutal” for Missouri, adding that there’s not a bean farmer in the Show-Me State who’s going to break even this year.
“Our economy is so dependent on the exporting of agricultural goods,” McCaskill says. “These tariffs have killed commodity prices.”
McCaskill also says tariffs have hurt manufacturers, saying that the Mid-Continent nail factory in southeast Missouri’s Poplar Bluff is “hanging on by a fingernail.”
GOP Senate nominee Hawley, the Attorney General, notes that he’s been endorsed by the Missouri Farm Bureau, adding that McCaskill won’t return Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst’s phone calls.
“We are in a trade war,” says Hawley. “It’s a trade war that we did not start. Certainly our farmers didn’t start it, China started it many years ago. But if we’re going to be in the war, I’m for winning it.
Hawley also praises President Trump’s recent trade deals with Canada and Mexico, saying 75 percent of our ag exports go there.
The two candidates agree on one key issue: both oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare.
That was the first issue that PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff, the moderator, asked about during the debate. Hawley says Americans have paid into the system.
“I don’t support any changes to those programs for anyone who is currently receiving benefits or who is going to be receiving benefits,” Hawley says.
Hawley tells the audience that Senator McCaskill voted to cut $716 billion from Medicare in order to pay for the Affordable Care Act. McCaskill responds by saying that was not a Medicare cut, but instead was a cut to the profits of health insurance companies.
“And what did we do with that $715 billion, we filled the donut hole for Medicare prescription program part D,” says McCaskill.
McCaskill says Missouri seniors can now enjoy more prescription benefits.
While both say they support the Second Amendment, McCaskill and Hawley also clashed over the issue of guns during the debate.
McCaskill notes she was raised in rural Missouri, and that her father was a hunter. She notes she supports universal background checks and a ban on bump stocks.
“But what the NRA (National Rifle Association) has peddled for years is that you can’t support the Second Amendment and gun safety at the same time, and you can,” McCaskill says.
Hawley favors legislation to include health records in the background check system, and says McCaskill voted against that.
“I think we need to fix the national background check system,” says Hawley. “We have a background check system, a national system, but it doesn’t work that well because there’s a giant loophole right in the middle of it. And that is, it doesn’t include mental health records.”
Hawley also calls for guns to be kept out of the hands of criminals and “dangerous people.”
The two candidates also clashed on the federal tax cut and on the minimum wage. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the Brett Kavanaugh hearings came up during the debate.
The “Missouri 2018 Senate Debate” was presented by KETC, St. Louis Public Radio KWMU and KSDK Channel 5. KETC is St. Louis’ PBS affiliate.
In addition to facing questions from Woodruff, KSDK’s Mike Bush and KWMU’s Jo Mannies, McCaskill and Hawley also took questions from the audience.
(audio is courtesy of St. Louis Public Radio, KWMU)
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