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Iowa 2nd District foes clash on Syria, see need for ACA changes

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JOHNSTON — Neither congressional candidate in Iowa’s 2nd District would vote to send U.S. ground troops into Syria, but they don’t agree on policy in that civil war-torn country.

“There’s no good that can come from that,” Republican challenger Chris Peters said during an Iowa Public Television debate Friday.

“No, not today,” five-term Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack agreed.

Peters, 55, a surgeon and owner of Corridor Surgery and Vein Center, and Loebsack, 63, a former Cornell College professor first elected in 2006, debated at the IPTV studios. The debate can be viewed anytime at IPTV.org.

Loebsack and Peters disagreed on agriculture and energy subsidies, the role of Veterans Affairs hospitals and gun regulations. But they found at least some agreement on how to extend the life of Social Security, make the Affordable Care Act affordable and create a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants.

Although Loebsack wouldn’t send troops to Syria, he said the nation has interests in the region and must protect itself from Islamic State terrorists. “We have to deal with those threats. We can’t simply retreat to our borders and hope for the best.”

The United States should learn from its previous “escapades” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Peters said. “We haven’t established democracies and we’ve left voids of leadership. We cannot export (democracy) and drop it from a Black Hawk helicopter.”

Loebsack wasn’t calling for nation-building, “but I am in favor of protecting the American people,” he said.

“Not many American people over there,” Peters responded.

The candidates agreed that more competition in the insurance marketplace is needed to keep premiums affordable. Loebsack also sees a need for enrolling more people in the ACA, especially healthy younger people, but he wouldn’t raise the penalty for not participating.

“Clearly, there are things we’re going to have to look at,” he said. “We have to be open-minded about this, but I don’t want to kick 20 million people off their health insurance.”

Peters doesn’t think the ACA would have to be dismantled or defunded to improve health care. The problem facing “Obamacare,” he said, is “what you get when you try to design a plan that is supposed to encompass all needs.”

He said he wants patient-centered, market-based health care with people having a financial stake in their own health spending to encourage them to look for less expensive alternatives.

There also was disagreement over gun legislations with Peters saying that current gun laws are “probably where we need to be for now.” He’d like to see more research on the causes of gun violence.

Asked whether the next president should use executive orders to impose gun regulations, Loebsack said “Congress should have the first say in this.”

He participated in a sit-in in the U.S. House over legislation to prohibit gun sales to people on the federal government’s “no-fly” list.

“It makes eminent sense,” he said. “It makes no sense to allow a terrorist to buy a gun.”

“If people are a terrorist, why are they out on the streets?” Peters asked. “The idea of putting people on a no-fly list where they can’t fly and they don’t know they are on the list and can’t really know how to get off the list, that’s unconstitutional.”

For all of The Gazette's Election 2016 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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