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Senate hopeful says fellow Democrats broke promises

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2010

PHILADELPHIA | Democratic leaders in Washington haven't changed politics despite promises to do so, and dealing with the national debt and looming Medicare and Social Security insolvencies will demand higher taxes on wealthier Americans and fewer corporate tax breaks, U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak said Monday.

The Democratic Party promised change, but "I think my establishment, as well as the Republican establishment, has not changed politics in Washington, D.C.," the Democratic candidate said.

In an expansive interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Sestak said he opposes changes to Social Security, including raising the retirement age or cutting benefits.

Mr. Sestak, a second-term congressman from the Philadelphia suburbs, faulted insurance industry deal-making on the federal health care bill and several holdout senators, as well as the party's backing of the man he beat in the primary, Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter.

Yet he also accused Republicans of voting against bills pushed by the Democratic leadership simply for political reasons. He cited one bill to extend billions of dollars in tax breaks and loans to small businesses that is stalled in the Senate.

"How could they not have passed that small-business [bill]?" Mr. Sestak questioned.

Republicans have labeled the bill a bailout of small banks.

Mr. Sestak, 58, a retired Navy admiral, is in a close and competitive race with Republican Pat Toomey. Both men are trying to paint the other as taking positions too extreme for Pennsylvanians. Mr. Sestak has a liberal voting record; Mr. Toomey, a former congressman from the Lehigh Valley, compiled a conservative voting record.

To deal with the national debt and looming Medicare and Social Security insolvencies, Mr. Sestak said, it is necessary to allow the expiration of lower income tax rates for wealthier Americans on Dec. 31. Those tax cuts were enacted under President George W. Bush, reducing the lowest marginal rates as well as the top ones and several in between.

Mr. Sestak said he would vote to extend the cuts for taxpayers the middle and lower classes.

He also said he supports wiping out some corporate tax breaks, such as one that nets tens of billions of dollars a year for the oil industry, caps on discretionary spending, and restructuring Medicare and Medicare reimbursements to provide incentives for quality, instead of quantity, of care.

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