US Senators debate the economy, gun control and abortion

Media Credit: Erika Filter | Staff Photographer

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Oh., called for gun control, mental health support and increased border security at Monday's debate.

Two U.S. Senators debated the economy, gun safety, the border and individual liberty at the Jack Morton Auditorium Monday.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Oh., called for gun control, mental health support and increased border security. The Bipartisan Policy Center hosted the debate that was moderated by CBS News congressional correspondent Nikole Killian and broadcasted on C-SPAN.

Jason Grumet, the president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said he hoped to accomplish something “rudimentary and exotic” through the debate and that the debate would spark discourse crucial to “representative democracy.”

“We think that dignifying differences is the first step to actually moving the conversation forwards,” he said. “We want to try to identify whether there are some key factual issues that are the basis of different positions that require and deserve some exploration.”

Democrats proposed a climate, tax and energy bill earlier this week that would place a 15 percent minimum tax on U.S. companies and reallocate some of the collected tax revenue to cheaper energy investments after inflation hit a 40-year record-high in June, up 9.1 percent this year.

Portman said there were already supply issues relating to the pandemic, as workers were in lockdown instead of producing goods and shipments were delayed. He said corporate minimum tax and the corresponding price hikes only worsened these issues.

“Manufacturers will be hit the hardest by this,” he said.

Murphy said this week that the Senate reviewed the Inflation Reduction Act, which reduces healthcare costs for seniors and caps maximum out-of-pocket spending at $2,000. He also agreed with Portman that the pandemic caused supply chain issues that negatively affected the global economy.

“We have wages growing, inequality shrinking, fewer kids in poverty than any time in recent memory,” he said. “On the other side, there’s no doubt that costs are increasing, that inflation has been a consequence of a fast-growing economy.”

Portman responded by presenting the recently passed CHIPS Plus Act as a means of helping U.S. manufacturers. He argued the U.S.’s 0.9% decrease in economic growth is due to a lack of investment.

In the next debate on gun safety, Murphy advocated for universal background checks and banning “weapons of war” for private citizens.

“No matter what your zip code is, you can wake up and have your life fundamentally transformed by a mass shooting, by a suicide, by a homicide, by an accidental shooting,” Murphy said. “And it is not a coincidence that the rate of murder, the rate of mass shootings has increased in this country as these dangerous weapons have proliferated all over the nation.

Portman said that the most important part of the recently passed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is the mental health provisions. He said there are 17 gangs in Columbus, Ohio, and they make up 46% of the homicides.

The Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade brought on public outrage and calls for Congress to write new laws cementing the right to abortion. Congress is also looking to protect other rights currently susceptible to being overturned by the Supreme Court, such as the right to contraception, same-sex marriage and interracial marriage.

Murphy said deciding when to have a child is “the most personal choice.” He said abortion is “the last subject” the government should dictate.

“My belief is that this is a time where we need to step up as a body for the basic idea of personal liberty and freedom, something that Republicans talk a lot about as well as Democrats.”

Portman said Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, only relates to abortion. He said most Americans support limiting abortion to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Murphy responded that the timeline on when to get an abortion should be a personal decision. He said he hopes to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects same-sex and interracial marriage, by the end of this congressional session.

“Given how personal this issue is, there’s really nothing more personal than this decision of when to proceed with a pregnancy,” he said.

Portman said he supports the Respect for Marriage Act, although it was “not exactly” how he would have written it. He said he has a duty to help his constituents and “move the process forward.”

When asked about Justice Clarence Thomas withdrawing from GW Law in a press conference after the debate, Murphy did not immediately have a comment. Portman said he hoped Thomas withdrew voluntarily and was not asked to withdraw.

“I think it’s good that universities allow all kinds of opinions to be expressed,” he said.

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