Kerrey sits out DNC, turns aim at Fischer

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September 4th, 2012

Omaha, NE – Democrats are convening in Charlotte, North Carolina today as the Democratic National Convention gets underway. But here in Nebraska, one Democrat is deliberately sitting this one out.

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Nebraska Senate Candidate Bob Kerrey called a press conference Tuesday to explain why he’s staying in Nebraska while his fellow Democrats head to Charlotte. “The message that I’ve got for Nebraskans…wouldn’t entirely be welcome at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte,” Kerrey said. “I’m not sure it would be very welcome at the Republican Convention either.”

Bob Kerrey is seeking to replace retiring Senator Ben Nelson in the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Robyn Wisch)

Kerrey has made a point to distance himself from the Democratic Party in a race that’s viewed as critical to the party’s hopes of holding on to the Senate majority. But he said he won’t be joining his colleagues because he believes the number one issue facing Nebraskans is the rise of entitlement spending for programs like Medicare and Social Security. Kerrey said both parties refuse to solve that problem and are more concerned with pandering to voters.

“It’s all part of this effort to appeal to voters by saying ‘It isn’t going to cost you anything,’” Kerrey said. “‘You don’t have to pay any more, and you don’t have to take any less.’”

Kerrey called out Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan for voting against President Obama’s bipartisan debt commission’s recommendations last year, which would have cut the debt by $4 trillion over the next decade. Kerrey also blamed President Obama for failing to pursue those recommendations or include them in his State of the Union address. He says there was a “window of opportunity” that was missed. “There was a moment, in my view, when Americans were willing to do a little more, to take a little less in order to solve this problem,” Kerrey said. “And that window closed.”

“What happened in the aftermath is everyone went back to business as usual,” he said, “went back essentially to trying to win over people over the age of 65.”

Kerrey called his Republican opponent, Deb Fischer, a prime example of “pandering to those voters.” He said Fischer supports a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget, and that would limit spending to 18 percent of GDP. Without additional revenue sources, those limits will cause drastic reductions, Kerrey said, which he doesn’t believe Fischer can defend.

“If she doesn’t want to defend the cuts, she has to defend the proposition: why are you supporting a constitutional amendment that requires spending to be 18% of GDP?” Kerrey said. “You either support spending at those levels or you don’t. And if you don’t, what you’re giving us is jargon. What you’re giving us is a slogan, not a realistic possibility that we’re actually going to solve the problem.”

For his part, Kerrey supports limiting spending to 21% of GDP, which he called a significant difference. Federal spending is currently at 24% of GDP. He also supports a more “balanced approach” to reining in the national debt, which would include some tax hikes for wealthy Americans, although his campaign has said the $250,000 limit proposed by President Obama is “too low.” Fischer has signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise any taxes.

Fischer was in Lincoln Tuesday unveiling a set of proposals to improve care for veterans. Those include streamlining services and continuing tax credits for companies that hire veterans. Kerrey said Fischer’s budget proposal would force cuts in veterans’ benefits.

Fischer’s campaign responded to Kerrey’s charges late Tuesday. In a statement, a spokesman called Kerrey a “tax and spend liberal who supports the agenda of President Obama and Harry Reid.” Daniel Keylin said during her time in the Nebraska Legislature, Fischer worked with her colleagues “from both ends of the political spectrum to help grow Nebraska’s economy.” And he added, “Regardless of what he claims on the campaign trail, Kerrey can’t hide the fact that he unapologetically supports the liberal Obama-Reid agenda that will be promoted at this week’s Democrat Convention.”

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