Video Replay: Rep. Kline Clashes With Obermueller In Joint KSTP Interview

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Rep. John Kline (R), Mike Obermueller (DFL) and Paula Overby (I) are asked questions by KSTP-TV reporter Tom Hauser. It is the only appearance Rep. Kline has made with any of the other Minnesota Second Congressional District candidates during the 2014 campaign. There have been no debates.

Partial transcript/notes from 19 minute joint interview on KSTP-TV

The video player counts down how much time is left in the video.
The joint interview starts with 36:43 remaining in the video.
Note: some of what is here is summary. Some of it is verbatim what was said.

36:43 start of interview
35:45 – Affordable Care Act
35:21 – Obermueller – supports ACA it provides affordable and reliable health care for millions of people in this country. Rep. Kline has been in the “repeal camp” for some time and it’s important for people to understand if the law is repealed. We go back to kids not being able to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26. Pre-existing conditions can prevent you from having coverage. For profit insurance companies go back to charging women more than men for coverage. I think those are things people don’t want to see us backslide on. We can work to improve it, there’s no question about it. But we can’t work to improve it while we’re voting 54 times to continue to repeal it and shutting the government down for 16 days as a political stunt.

34:41 Overby – not sure if ACA is bringing costs of health care. It distributes costs, but doesn’t bring it down. Single payer like medicare would be better.

33:41 Kline – Well it’s no secret that I think the affordable care act, Obama care, is really really bad policy. It’s doing an enormous damage to the economy. And I think Mike and Paula’s support of a single payer system would be even worse. It’s not an all or nothing thing. Clearly, and my preference would have been to and would be to repeal Obamacare and replace it with some good patient centered reforms. There are a lot of things you can do. You can set up high risk pools to take care of people with pre-existing conditions. You could still have young parents stay on their parents insurance. You could expand health savings accounts to have some direct involvement of patients with their doctors. You could get some real medical liability reform. There are things that you can do to help the health care system here, but Obama care is really bad policy.

Q: can you preserve some of the things in the ACA without getting rid of it?
32:27- Kline: I think some of those things you can clearly preserve. It’s very bipartisan support for having people stay on to their parents insurance until they’re 26. Nobody wants to go back to people with pre-existing conditions not being able to get health care coverage, insurance coverage, there are other ways to do that. But what’s happening with the affordable care act is that it is just doing wreaking havoc in the economy. It’s redefined full-time work. So one of the things that you could do and should do and I hope we take up immediately is get rid of this 30 hour as full time work which is causing more and more employers to put their employees on part time work.

31:42 Obermueller: Well I’ll just say I’m glad to see Congressman Kline morphing on this. I think that’s a result of many people are having the benefits come on line now and getting a chance to get the real thing going. But the reality is 54 votes, a 16 day government shutdown as a stunt to try to stop the Affordable Care Act. It’s coming on board. We need to keep improving it, not go backwards to with the old fight.

31:11 Ebola- what role should congress play? Should there be a travel ban for people traveling from west Africa?

31:00 Oberby: I do believe that’s appropriate. That’s why we have the Centers for Disease Control to manage these risks.

30:19: Kline – Congress may very well have to take those steps. The administration should step up and do this. We’ve got so many conflicting signals coming out of the administration. The Department of Defense has imposed the 21 day quarantine for all service members who are serving in the hot zones of the three western African countries. And yet we have mixed messages coming about whether there should be voluntary quarantine or mandatory quarantine or no quarantine. We need a constant message coming from the administration and it seems to me were now at 13 states who have started to impose their own quarantine procedures that the administration, the White House, ought to come out and say “look this is what we’re going to do and going to involve quarantine.

Should there be a travel ban? Would that work?
29:37 Kline – You’re going to have to have a travel ban I think to make that work. And it’s not that no people could travel. Because certainly you could have charter flights, for example if you’re going to take aid workers over, if you’re going to take supplies over which we ought to be doing. But people getting on commercial airlines and just flying in here from those three countries, I think is a bad mistake.

29:17 Obermueller- Well I don’t favor a travel ban. And the science shows that it’s not going to be necessary. We have the tools in this country to deal with the ebola crisis that’s coming onboard. But the reality is we put ourselves behind the eight ball because we’ve seen a slide in funding to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health and in fact the director of the National Institutes of Health has indicated we likely don’t have a vaccine now because of the slide in funding that we’ve seen under Congressman Kline’s watch. I think the focus ought to be on making sure everybody has access to affordable and reliable health care rather than working from crisis to crisis.

28:47 – Higher Education Obermueller has been critical of Kline’s support for for profit colleges and the student loan money that is flowing to those schools. Is there a crisis looming in the student debt area. Is that our next bubble that might be about to burst and how do you respond to this criticism?

28:24 – Kline: Well, there is an awful lot of student debt. It’s over a trillion dollars now. The cost of higher education has been going up much faster than the cost of inflation. We need more transparency and accountability as we go forward. You look at the for-profit for example, I’ve been criticized for saying we ought to be careful how we go forward in criticizing the for-profit sector. The president of the United States put forward a very laudable goal of by 2020 having the most number of college graduates and at the same time his administration has been attacking a portion of the higher education world where you have millions of students. Often their nontraditional students, older adults going back to get the skills that they need for a job. Half the nurses entering the field now come from the for-profit sectors. So we need to have that sector accountable and make it work and give peole an opportunity to go back and get the skills that they need to get meaningful employment.

27:21 Obermueller: Well, what these schools are doing to students is nothing short of a travesty. They’re taking these federal dollars – they’re largely aimed at getting the federal dollars in the door. They’re trying to equity strip the GI benefits from our veterans. They’re basically giving them no result for the money that we’re spending. We have an opportunity to stop that. There have been bills and Congressman Kline’s committee that could have prevented that – the gainful employment rule we could have made sure we had an obligation to get less that… GI benefits were actually concluded and how much money you can take from the federal government when you hit your 90 percent of your dollars coming from the federal government. These are things that would help students. Congressman Kline has been in a position to help with meaningful reform and hasn’t done it.

26:38 Overby: It’s a serious crisis. It’s a trillion dollars in student loan debt with students that are struggling to find jobs. Germany provides free education. They’ll even education our students for free. They preserve the good jobs for their students. We provide the good jobs to foreigners on H1B visas. We need a serious change in priorities in Washington. Education is one of the primary reasons we have government – to education our young people. It’s an investment in the future. It’s an investment in the prosperity of this country.


25:28 – Tax reform – should there be major tax reform to eliminate corporate tax loopholes?

25:04: Kline- There absolutely needs to be fundamental tax reform. We have a horribly broken tax code. It’s way too big. It’s way too complicated. We have a very, very high, they highest corporate tax rate. If you want to address the issue of inversions you need to lower that corporate tax rate. That needs to be done as part of a complete comprehensive tax reform. My buddy Dave Camp who chairs the Ways and Means committee put forward a draft proposal – there’s been a lot of comments about that. Not all of his proposals will go forward. But clearly I think there’s growing recognition, bipartisan recognition that we need to really fix our tax code.

24:20 – Overby: Partisanship between Democrats and Republicans is certainly a major part of why there’s not tax reform. We need a major shift in priorities. We need to expand our tax base. We need to revitalize our economy. There’s three things basically that always get bipartisan support – defense appropriations, emergency defense appropriations and homeland security. And homeland security may sound like a good thing, but again it’s primarily funding for the drug war and weapons to fight drug cartels. We’re investing all of our money in war and defense. And we need to invest in our economy. We need to expand our tax base. That’s the biggest problem.

23:40 : Obermueller. Says he would seek tax reform. Our tax system has to be better for the middle class than it’s doing right now. It needs to be fair. It needs to be transparent. It needs to be more focused. But the biggest challenge for us is making sure that we can consistently address attacking the middle class and making sure that we get a chance to do the good things for the middle class here. That means in my opinion making sure we’re not giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest among us and shifting that burden onto the middle class. And we have to do a better job of that.

23:12 What would you do in congress that would help create jobs in this country?

23:06 Overby – I would recommend a shift in spending priorities. We need to get out of the middle east. We need to working with our allies in diplomacy. We need to invest that money in our economy – in our students for one thing. We need to educate our students. We need an educated workforce to compete in the technological world. Our enemies and allies are investing in economic growth and we’re speeding our money on war.

22:36 Kline – So I was interested to hear Mike talk about taxes and helping the middle class. When he was in the legislature he voted for tax increases. He even voted to allow school boards without legislative approval to raise taxes on homeowners. So that’s a direct tax on the middle class. When I look at tax reform, I want to see tax reform that lowers that corporate tax rate, that lowers tax rates for all americans and that simplifies the tax code. That’s where we got to go.

22:09 Obermueller – You can’t have the kind of tax reform you need without focusing in on the middle class. The reality is we’ve got a bunch of tax giveaways to huge corporations including billions of dollars going to the coal and the oil companies that could come off the books and be used for better priorities. I want to lower the corporate tax rate too. I think you do that by streamlining the system and making sure of an actual system that works.

What’s your response to Obermueller’s ad that says you cut taxes to the wealthy and shifted the burden to the middle class and privatize social security?

21:31 Kline – I think some of that got the Politifact lie of the year award some time ago. Look, millions of americans depend upon social security. They paid into it. They rely on it the same for medicare. We need to make sure that those programs stay strong for today and stay strong for my kids and my grandkids and his kids and grandkids. So it needs fundamental reform to those programs to keep them alive and well.

Mike do you stand by that ad?
21:08: Obermueller- I absolutely do. Congressman, if you’re saying you’ve never said you wanted to privatize social security for people who are younger than.. you want to put that in there, that’s one thing I guess. But that’s not what the facts are. The facts are that Ryan budgets you voted for multiple times end the guaranteed medicare benefit. They put seniors on the hook for dollars outside of their main medicare costs.

Kline: That’s not true.

Hauser: Paula, I’m sure you’ve seen these ads?

Oberby: I have and he has voted for tax increases in the House.

Hauser: And has Congressman Kline promoted privatizing social security?

Overby: That’s my understanding. But I, looking through his voting record, I see no real clear evidence of that. But we’re seeing the partisan conflict that we’re seeing in Washington. OK? It’s blaming the other side rather than offering a real solution.

Hauser: Mr Obermueller in one of John Kline’s ads he claims you voted for millions in pork projects in the state legislature including a book about bird breeding and voted to increase taxes on retirement benefits for seniors and veterans. How do you respond to that?

Obermueller: Zero people would have paid more income…more taxes on social security and veterans benefits as the result of the bill I voted on. Zero. You know how many would have paid if I voted the other way? Would have paid fewer taxes? Zero. So the answer is not … this is why people hate politicians I think because they get into, they make gotcha votes in the legislature and they seize on them and use them for political things. So it’s not true.

Hauser: You stand by that ad?

Kline: I do.

Question: the battle against ISIS. Are we eventually going to need ground troops in order to root out ISIS?

Overby: In 2003 the House passed a resolution – House Resolution 557 saying that the world , that the United States was a safer place because we eliminated Saddam Hussein and his regime from Iraq. 11 years later what’s changed? We need a fundamental shift in policy, foreign policy and we’re spending an enormous on that and it’s not getting us anywhere.

18:57 Kline- We need a very, very clear policy that we’re going to defeat ISIS. And then we need a strategy to support that policy. The strategy we’ve heard from the administration is that we’re going to provide airpower and we want to find somebody else to go do the hard work. I think we need to take a hard look at that. I can’t imagine the strategy that’s successful that doesn’t involve at least some U.S. ground forces, probably special operations forces. But if we’re going to lead, we need to lead.

18:30 Obermueller – I don’t think we should be putting ground troops on the ground there in that area again. We’ve done that a couple different times. It hasn’t been successful for us in the long run. If you want’ success this area we have to rebuild, build relationships with countries that can help us put pressure on these, build a coalition like we’re doing and actually put an end to the ISIS threat and not get so focused on the individual threats that are coming along but the kinds of things we can do in the long run that we stamp out these kind of extremist threats in the future.

17:54 End of interview

Thank you to MAPE for sponsoring our debate coverage.

Thank you to MAPE for sponsoring our debate coverage.

Thank you to AFSCME Council 5 for sponsoring our debate coverage

Thank you to AFSCME Council 5 for sponsoring our debate coverage

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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