U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney largely stood on his six-year record in Congress in a debate Monday while Paul Formica, his challenger in the November election, continued to voice his belief that government could be managed better by experienced business owners.
Courtney, who is seeking his fourth term representing the 2nd Congressional District, and Formica, the three-term Republican first selectman of East Lyme, participated in an hourlong online debate hosted by The Day.
Both men were asked a series of questions that mostly came from online participants. One person asked what the candidates thought of the changes Republican vice president candidate Paul Ryan has suggested to overhaul the Medicare system.
Courtney said he has twice voted against the Ryan Medicare Plan and said the proposal would cut many senior benefits created by the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obama care.
He mentioned preventive services such as cancer screenings, mammograms and colonoscopies. He said that 422,154 people with Medicare who received these free preventive services or free annual wellness visits in 2011 would have seen these services cut under Ryan's plan.
Formica criticized Courtney's support of the Affordable Care Act and echoed a statement by Ryan that it would strip $716 billion from Medicare. Courtney later questioned the validity of this claim; Formica said the Congressional Budget Office has verified it.
"The Ryan-Widen Plan would keep the current Medicare system in place for anyone age 55 or older. It would still be available for younger Americans should they choose," Formica said.
"The proposal allows for 10 years to work on this program, modernize it and make it financially solvent for future generations of Americans."
Responding to a question about the nation's finances and debt, Formica, the owner of Flanders Fish Market, said he would like to see the debt and the budget managed like spending plans in families, businesses and towns.
Courtney pointed to $23 billion in savings that could be realized in a proposed Farm Bill and said quickly drawing down the country's military presence in Afghanistan would create big savings. He said a careful consideration of spending reductions and revenue would be the key going forward.
"The last time this country had its budget in balance, it was the result of that two-sided approach," Courtney said.
Both men were asked their feelings about a statement made recently by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who argued funding should be eliminated for public broadcasting companies, such as PBS and NPR.
Both candidates downplayed the issue and said it would be better for government to direct its attention to more important matters.
Formica argued the access and information PBS offers is important and the company's royalties annually generate millions.
Courtney said the investment in PBS creates a communication link that helps to inform the public.
Courtney was elected to his seat in 2006 and defeated then-Rep. Rob Simmons in the election that year by a mere 83 votes. Formica won an August primary that allowed him to challenge Courtney.
Courtney and Formica are scheduled to participate in a candidate forum Thursday night at 7:30 at the Old Lyme Town Hall and have three other debates scheduled before the Nov. 6 election.