Candidates for central New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat, during their first debate of the general election season on Sunday, tried to distinguish their views on the role of Congress in creating jobs, but agreed Congress must move past partisan gridlock.
Republican Janice Arnold-Jones, a former state representative, said implementing a federal budget is Congress’ most important order of business. That allows Congress to review its spending while assuring that federal contractors, for example, can continue their government work, she said.
Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, a former Bernalillo County commissioner and state cabinet secretary for health and aging, said Congress should make broad private sector job creation its highest priority. She did not provide an example of a federal program that would do this, but cited County Commission efforts to create public-private partnerships for job growth.
Meanwhile, both candidates during the hourlong debate at Albuquerque’s Congregation Albert, with an audience of more than 250, emphasized that congressional factions must make an effort to work together in Washington, D.C.
“Clearly the top priority has to be creating a budget,” said Arnold-Jones, who has worked as a federal contractor. “Look at Albuquerque, we are a federally dependent economy. … Because there is no budget, people have contracts, but the contracts are not funded, they are living on their IRAs and their 401(k)s. Pretty soon, that means restaurants are going out of business, dry cleaners are going out of business.”
Arnold-Jones said her next priorities would be addressing the national debt and protecting New Mexico’s national laboratories and military bases from federal budget cuts.
Lujan Grisham, who said the top priority in Congress should be increasing private sector employment, suggested that Congress focusing first on its spending habits would amount to obstructing economic improvement.
“The notion that government should stand in the way, and not be on the side of supporting the private sector so they can engage in productive job growth, is really narrow vision indeed,” she said.
Lujan Grisham said Congress’ next priorities should be expanding renewable energy generation efforts across the country and protecting women’s health care decisions.
Arnold-Jones, later in the debate, charged that Lujan Grisham’s plan to develop the economy through Congress would mean bigger government and more debt.
Arnold-Jones said that she, in contrast, “is interested in leadership that would improve our economy and improve American productivity.”
Lujan Grisham did not respond to the contention that expansion of congressional efforts to create new jobs would end up increasing the national debt, now topping $16 trillion.
On the subject of debt, Arnold-Jones said the nation must make hard choices and start by looking for cuts to vacant federal jobs and redundant federal programs.
Lujan Grisham said national Republicans’ budget proposals represent deep federal cuts and “cutting without any vision.” She said those cuts would mean reduced federal funding for local health care services and New Mexico’s national laboratories.
Addressing foreign policy, Lujan Grisham said the United States under President Barack Obama has taken the right course in imposing sanctions against Iran for suspected development of fuel for a nuclear weapon.
Arnold-Jones said the U.S. government has not done enough to stop Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon.
Both candidates said they would be unwavering in backing the nation’s continued support of Israel.
The 1st Congressional District debate is scheduled to be broadcast in its entirety today at 9 a.m. on 89.1, KANW-FM radio.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal