BOSTON (AP) - U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and his Democratic primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, sparred on everything from climate change to gun violence and foreign policy during their first televised debate Tuesday.
While the two agreed on many issues, Kennedy argued he is better positioned than Markey to fight for those issues in Congress.
“For this election this time around, so much that we care about - everything that we care about - is on the line,” Kennedy said. “This is not about finding the right bill and voting the right way.”
Kennedy said Congress has failed to pass meaningful gun legislation in decades, an issue he said he would lead on.
Markey responded saying he secured $25 million in federal funds toward gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first time he said that funding has been directed to the CDC for gun violence research since 1996.
“On the biggest issues of today, the biggest challenges of today I’ve been leading,” Markey said. “The gun lobby - I beat them.”
WGBH News hosted the hourlong debate.
Markey also pointed to his support for a Green New Deal resolution he introduced with New York Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Kennedy said he also supports the Green New Deal.
Both Markey and Kennedy said they opposed President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Markey said Democrats have to fight Trump “every step of the way” and press for a debate on the floor of the House and Senate challenging Trump’s immigration efforts - and file lawsuits if needed.
“We have to take them to court,” Markey said.
Kennedy said he spent Father’s Day on the U.S. and Mexico border to witness how Trump’s policy is playing out. Kennedy said negotiations with Republicans and Trump on immigration have been fruitless.
“You cannot negotiate with a ghost,” Kennedy said. “Every time we engage in those negotiations he changes his mind.”
The two also jousted on foreign policy with Kennedy criticizing Markey’s decision to support the Iraq war.
“He voted for the Iraq war. He voted for it without a sunset provision to say at a certain point you’ve got to come back and justify it,” Kennedy said. “We still have no clarity as to what we’re doing and that is the result of that vote.”
Markey said former Republican President George W. Bush lied about the presence of nuclear weapons in Iraq at the time.
“I’m still angry about that lie,” Markey said. “I regret that vote. It was a mistake.”
Markey said that’s why he fights to make sure that Trump cannot start a war on a false pretense with Iran and why he’s pushed to make sure Trump cannot start a nuclear war with North Korea without prior authorization of the House and Senate.
Markey and Kennedy both said the country needs to move to a “Medicare for All” system over time, a policy that would move the country away from private insurance.
“We are running a sick care system, not a health care system,” Markey said. “Health care bills are still the number one cause of bankruptcy.”
Kennedy also said he supports expanding health care for all Americans.
“The entire point of the bill is that people are going to get access to better health care at lower cost,” Kennedy said.
Both said they would also work to reduce discrimination and improve access to affordable housing.
The race pits two well-known politicians against each other, with Kennedy hoping to unseat the incumbent Markey.
Markey, 73, has served in Congress for decades - first in the House and later in the Senate. The 39-year-old Kennedy, who currently represents the state’s 4th Congressional District, is a member of the state’s most storied political family.
Kennedy is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, who was attorney general in his brother John F. Kennedy’s White House before being elected senator.
As of the start of the year, Markey had more than $4.5 million in his campaign account. Kennedy had more than $5.5 million.
The contest has been overshadowed in part by the impeachment debate and the Democratic presidential primaries.
The primary is Sept. 1.
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