- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Republican Rep. Mike Simpson and his Democratic challenger, former Rep. Richard Stallings, faced off in a debate Friday that showcased their differences on a number of issues, including the minimum wage, congressional inaction, immigration policy and the role of money in politics.

David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy, moderated the exchange that took place at the Samuel H. Bennion Student Union Building at University Place. It was sponsored by the Idaho Falls City Club.

Simpson argued a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour would hurt low-wage workers by increasing unemployment.

“The best thing for low-income workers is a job, and we shouldn’t be taking away those jobs,” he said.

Simpson pointed to a study released by the Congressional Budget Office that estimated the proposed hike would reduce employment by 500,000 jobs or 0.3 percent.

Stallings countered that many of those projected job losses would, in fact, come from workers voluntarily quitting a second job because they could make ends meet by working only one.

A higher minimum wage, Stallings said, would help raise incomes and reduce reliance on government social programs. He repeatedly called the sitting Congress the worst in history, saying it was blocking good legislation such as the bill that would raise the minimum wage.

“Mr. Simpson and his friends will not bring it to the floor because they want to punish these poor single moms, these students, these single dads,” he said.

Both Simpson and Stallings expressed support for an immigration reform bill, but differed on the details.

Simpson said he does not favor deporting the “dreamers” - undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. He said it was unrealistic to try and deport an estimated 14 million undocumented immigrants. Doing so, he said, “would be devastating to our economy.”

But Simpson does not support granting undocumented immigrants citizenship, except through the normal application process. Instead, he said, undocumented workers now in the U.S. should be issued permanent green cards.

Stallings said that would amount to creating a new group of “second class citizens.”

“They want to create a new class of people that will be able to come here and work, but have no political power,” he said.

In his opening statement, Stallings accused Simpson and other House leaders of blocking action on the issue, leaving “11 million people living in the shadows, . an issue that could be solved in a heartbeat.”

The two differed sharply on whether money has a corrupting influence on politics.

Stallings said corporate interests wield out-sized influence over national policy because of their deep pockets. Big oil companies such as Exxon Mobil receive billions in subsidies each year, he said, while Congress is reluctant to spend more on social programs for the poor.

“When Exxon calls, these guys are right at attention,” Stallings said. “When GE calls, these folks listen very closely. Because they’re the paymasters. These guys are just on the string, doing as they’re told.”

Simpson rejected that view, saying he and other congressmen hate raising money and don’t give donors undue influence over policy.

“That’s a popular point of view, but it’s just nonsense.. I get disgusted by it, quite frankly,” he said.

Simpson called campaign donations “a free-speech issue.”

Both candidates were given the opportunity to put a question to the other.

Simpson asked Stallings if he would support Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for House speaker. Stallings said it was unlikely, but that he would prefer her to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Stallings asked Simpson if he would apologize to Bryan Smith, Simpson’s opponent in the Republican primary, for negative primary ads. Stallings said Simpson’s campaign distorted Smith’s record.

“There is nothing that we said that was not absolutely true,” Simpson said.

___

Information from: Post Register, https://www.postregister.com

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