The candidates at Saturday’s U.S. Senate debate in Orlando spent most of the time agreeing with each other (some wraparound coverage of the debate can be found here and here). The four Republicans are all opposed to abortion (with some nuances), and they all believe taxes should be lower, the federal government should be smaller, the United Nations undermines America’s sovereignty and states’ rights should be paramount.
State Rep. Scott Plakon, who was among the few hundred people seated in the half-full auditorium at Howard Middle School to hear the candidates, said many of their stated positions — being “pro-life,” for example — are basically “mandatory” for GOP primary contenders. One way to set the candidates apart is to look at how they would translate their beliefs into policy.
For that reason, one of the most interesting questions of the debate came at the end, when longtime Central Florida tea party activist Jason Hoyt asked the candidates what “specific legislation” they planned on supporting to curb what Hoyt described as “draconian” federal regulations.
Craig Miller, a Central Florida businessman and former CEO of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, was up first, and led with a specific proposal: a 25 percent, across-the-board funding cut for regulatory agencies.
“If you cut the funding to these agencies, you cut their ability to continue to regulate abusively,” he said.
Having been “on the receiving end of this regulatory madness for decades, I fully understand why businesses are keeping their money on the sidelines,” he added, and sending a signal that the federal government was going to “back off” would allow “the free enterprise system to drive our economy forward.”
He went on to say that doing away with the Department of Education (which did not exist when he was in school) or the Environmental Protection Agency might not be feasible during his first weeks in office. His proposal was a viable starting point.
Next up was former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. “These federal regulatory agencies are out of control,” he thundered. “They are stifling economic growth here in our country.”
He pointed to the National Labor Relations Board. “What they’re doing to Boeing in South Carolina is not only anti-competitive, it’s anti-American,” he said. (Background on the politics of that issue can be found here and a critique here.) The EPA, meanwhile, is trying “to pass cap and trade around the back door,” and “singling out the state of Florida” with water quality standards.
“These agencies are out of control, and Republicans in Washington need to be more agressive, because it doesn’t just happen under Democrat administrations. It happens under Republican administrations,” he added. Hasner seemed to have glossed over the part about “specific legislation.”
“I’d repeal ObamaCare. That’s the first thing we should do,” offered former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, to applause.
LeMieux noted that he opposed the federal health care reform law, and that it wasn’t long after its passage that “the American people woke up” and started electing more Republicans.
He said he’s also like to get rid of the Dodd-Frank financial reform package, which he also opposed during his short stint on Capitol Hill. He also noted that he fought the EPA’s water quality standards by helping to delay their implementation and passed legislation to curb Medicare fraud.
Col. Mike McCalister was the last candidate to address the question. One of the first things the country needs is a “comprehensive national security policy,” including tougher immigration laws,” according to him.
As for federal regulations, there are simply too many. “There’s too many laws, and there’s too many rules, and there’s too many departments, and there’s too many positions that are unconstitutional, that just need to go away,” he said.
He’d set his sights on the Department of Education, and perhaps the Labor Department and the EPA, which he said are unconstitutional and preforming functions that should be left to the states.