U.S. Rep. Hill, R-Little Rock, and state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, sparred over health care and tax cuts during their debate hosted by Arkansas PBS in Conway on Monday (Oct. 12).
The two face each other in the race to represent central Arkansas’ 2nd District in Congress. The debate was livestreamed on Arkansas PBS and was to air on the television network at 7 p.m. on Monday night.
Elliott charged Hill with voting to overturn the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, saying Hill’s actions would help end coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and end the law’s coverage of individuals up to age 26 on their parents’ health plans.
Hill said the House bill he supported would have covered such people, calling Elliott’s charge a “systematic falsehood. … a lie.” He said of Elliott, “She’s talked for 10 years about her support of single payer,” meaning the government would pay for Americans’ health costs.
Elliott said the Affordable Care Act should be improved and that health care should be provided to people in different ways.
“For people who already have great health insurance, leave them alone,” she said.
In a question about what should be done in Congress to prepare for the next pandemic, Hill said that when the pandemic struck, “the United States was caught at low tide with no bathing suit.” He said the United States should be capable of producing its own medical equipment, and he has a bill in Congress to use the Defense Production Act to do that.
Elliott said more transparency is needed regarding where federal funds are going. She said Hill had voted to conceal which companies were benefitting from the funds passed by Congress. She said both national and state plans are needed.
“We don’t have to keep making the same mistakes, but we will keep making the same mistakes if we keep sending the same people to Congress,” she said.
The two disagreed about Hill’s vote for the Tax Cut and Jobs Act in 2017 and its effects. Hill said all Arkansas families had received a rate reduction and that it had produced the fastest economic growth of the past 50 years and the lowest unemployment rate for African Americans, women and others. He said it reduced Arkansans’ taxes and their utility rates.
He said Elliott would support a plan proposed by Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden that would raise taxes by an estimated $4 trillion.
“Her first vote when she gets to the House, if she got to the House, would be to vote for Nancy Pelosi, the second vote a $4 trillion increase in taxes, and that’s a tough thing for Arkansas families,” he said.
Elliott, meanwhile, said the TCJA was “an absolute giveaway to the richest people in this country” and a permanent tax cut to the small number of the nation’s richest families. The focus should be on creating a more equitable tax system, she said.
Hill criticized Elliott for voting for a bill that raised cell phone fees to pay for 911 services, a bill supported by most legislative Republicans and signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Asked about the national debt, now $27 trillion and counting, Elliott said the country should invest in its citizens rather than enriching the richest, and that Hill wants to cut Medicare and Social Security.
“The debt will be under control when and if we decide that everybody should pay their part in an equitable fashion,” she said.
Hill said the economy should be rebuilt and reopened and said he does not support cuts to Social Security and Medicare. He said the Tax Cut and Jobs Act had strengthened those programs because people were paying more into the system.
In a question about whether police should be defunded or whether funds should be reallocated, Elliott said, “I do not support defunding the police.” She said too much is asked of police officers because not enough is invested in communities. She said having police officers live in the communities they serve should be a goal, but it doesn’t have to be mandated.
Hill said police should be supported, but bad cops should be removed from the force. He said he had worked to help police agencies obtain body cameras as a member of Congress. He noted that the Arkansas Fraternal Order of Police and the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed him.
Elliott said a discussion should be had about whether law enforcement officers should have qualified immunity, meaning they usually can’t be sued, but the discussion has to come first before the practice could be ended. Hill said radical Democrats in the House want to end the practice, but, “we don’t need criminals suing policemen in trial court.”
Columnist John Brummett with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock offered post-debate analysis in the video below.