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WATCH: Jared Golden, Dale Crafts Diverge On Health Care, Supreme Court In Maine Public's Debate

Kris Bridges
For Maine Public

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and his Republican challenger Dale Crafts agreed on some broad themes during an hourlong 2nd District debate on Maine Public Thursday night.

They agreed on need for more pandemic relief, the need to rein in campaign spending and their support for the 2nd Amendment. They disagreed on whether to proceed with a vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Cony Barrett before the November election.

“What’s the Constitution say? The Constitution says that the president of the United States, whoever it might be — Democrat or Republican — can nominate someone on the Supreme Court,” Crafts said.

“That was the case in 2016, too, correct? And Republicans blocked that nomination,” said chief political correspondent Steve Mistler in response.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Crafts said. “So forget the Constitution because somebody else pulled a stunt? No.”

Both Crafts and Golden said they agree that the confirmation process has become overly politicized. Golden did not express outright support for term limits for judges or other specific reforms but he seemed to suggest that something has to change.

“I look back at when Sen. Harry Reid eliminated filibusters for judicial nominations in the lower courts as well as for other executive branch positions due to filibustering in what was then a Senate Republican minority,” he said.

And now, Golden said, it’s come full circle where Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has eliminated the same for Supreme Court nominations. Golden said he doesn’t want to see the same kind of political battles year after year.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest points of contention between the two candidates was around the cost of health care and prescription drugs.

Crafts would like to see the Affordable Care Act repealed and replaced with a free market system.

“I think we can get to that place where doctors are competing, hospitals are competing and that we can have better quality, lower-cost, more accessible health care for all,” he said.

Credit Kris Bridges / For Maine Public
Dale Crafts at Maine Public's 2nd District debate Thursday.

But when senior political correspondent Mal Leary pressed Crafts for more details of how to transition away from the Affordable Care Act, Crafts said the free market system is the plan.

“The president has been talking his entire four years about a Republican health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and we have yet to see it,” Leary said.

“It needs to happen. And when I get down to Washington I’m gonna go down there with my business experience and my ideas and I’m gonna work on it. But the thing is, Mal, when you say how is going to happen - I just explained it. I hope you understand what a free market is,” Crafts said.

Crafts said costs under the Affordable Care Act are out of control. But Golden said the nation had a free market system prior to the Affordable Care Act that resulted in denial of insurance coverage for someone with a pre-existing condition like cancer or diabetes.

“It was a system where, if you had those types of conditions, you had to pay an arm and a leg or face medical bankruptcies. That’s why we passed the Affordable Care Act, got rid of that free market system and said you cannot discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. You cannot charge these outrageously high premiums or cap the annual amount that they are going to be able to get for Medicare coverage,” he said.

Golden said that’s why the Affordable Care Act needs to be protected. Without it, he said, tens of thousands of people will lose their insurance and the entire market will go into free fall.

A recent report from a Washington, D.C.-based think tank finds that if the Affordable Care Act is overturned, Maine would see the largest percent increase in the uninsured of any state. The Urban Institute estimates that 105,000 people would lose their health insurance.