Veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert and Democratic challenger Bill Foster outlined their diverging views on Medicare, the so-called "Ryan budget" and the DREAM Act in a Saturday debate aimed to voters in the 11th Congressional District.
The debate airs at 11 a.m. Sunday on ABC 7.
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Biggert, of Hinsdale, has served in Congress since 1999; Foster, of Naperville, represented the 14th Congressional District from March 2008 to January 2011.
Foster argues that Medicare should remain a guaranteed benefit, while Biggert believes in implementing future premium subsidies for seniors to buy health care coverage.
"Medicare is going to go broke by 2024 if we don't do something," Biggert said, adding she believes in making "some adjustments" to coverage for people ages 55 and under. That plan, however, would cost seniors more than $6,000 in additional costs annually, Foster said.
Although she voted against the Affordable Care Act, Biggert said she favors provisions for coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents' plans until age 26. But Biggert hasn't signed any bills that support that, Foster pointed out.
When asked what question she would ask Foster, Biggert seemed stumped, pausing for a long while, eventually asking him how he would address campaign finance issues. After the debate, Biggert explained her hesitation stemmed from her reluctance to delve into anything negative.
Foster replied that current election funding rules put too much power in the hands of the wealthy. Foster said he supports requiring corporations to disclose their political contributions, while Biggert said she believes in imposing the same requirements to corporations, nonprofit organizations and unions.
Foster asked Biggert how the budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate from Wisconsin, would help the country's middle class, focusing on proposed cuts to research programs and tax breaks for the wealthy. "You voted for the Ryan budget, which had a number of provisions that seemed exactly opposite to positions you claim to support," he said.
Biggert replied by calling the Ryan budget "a road map."
"All you ever do is talk what I didn't do, or what I voted for or whatever, and yet you and your party have no plans for how we're going to get out of this," she said.
The candidates also had a chance to refute what they believe are false campaign ads from their opponent.
Foster, a physicist who worked at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for more than 20 years, criticized Biggert's claim that a theater lighting manufacturing company he co-founded fired workers and sent job overseas. The 10 percent reduction through layoffs happened because of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and in the long run, his company provided hundreds of jobs, he said.
Biggert took umbrage at being called a career politician by Foster. "All my life I served people in the community," she said.
The candidates also had opposing views on the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship to young undocumented immigrants. In June, the Obama administration announced a policy change that now allows these immigrants to apply for work permits.
Biggert said she feels "very sorry" for children who came to the U.S. illegally, and pointed out she has two caseworkers in her office who work on immigration and citizenship cases. However, U.S. borders must be secured before implementing comprehensive immigration reform, she said.
Foster, on the other hand, called his 2010 vote in favor of the DREAM Act "one of my proudest votes in Congress." He accused Biggert and other Republicans of killing "that very noble effort to compromise" with their exaggerated focus on defense.
The 11th Congressional District stretches from Aurora east through DuPage County and south toward Joliet.