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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Connolly and Finian clash over health care and the economy

The economy and health reform are two of the issues Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Democrat representing the 11th District, and Republican challenger Keith Fimian are clashing over in debates in recent days.

At a debate at the Northern Virginia Community Center in Annandale Monday evening, Fimian repeatedly stressed the need to reduce the national debt, which is creating a huge burden for future generations. As the founder of a home inspection company, Fimian cast himself as a successful businessman who created “hundreds of jobs” and is thus better able to rein in spending than a “career politician who only cares about getting re-elected.”

Connolly emphasized his government experience, dedication to public service, and fiscal responsibility, and noted Fimian had never been involved in Fairfax County issues. During his tenure as chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Connolly said, Fairfax was named the best-managed county in the United States. He noted Fairfax County has the nation’s best school system, has a lower unemployment than the national average, and recently attracted four Fortune 500 companies.

Fimian blamed the Democrats for contributing to the deficit, which will burden future generations. Connolly objected, stating that it was the Bush Administration’s two wars and tax cuts that created the problem. “We inherited the worst economy,” he said. “We’re actually creating jobs now, and the stock market is recovering its lost value. We faced a hard choice—do nothing like they wanted or try to save the country from going into a great depression.”

In response to a question about how they would deal with the deficit, Fimian said tough choices have to be made about cutting funding, but when “our economy is in trouble, the single thing government can do is eliminate uncertainty” by taking such steps as assuring the markets and extending the tax cuts. He also said he would ban earmarks and would save $25 million by selling properties owned by the federal government. He called using borrowed money “callous disregard for the next generation.”

Connolly said he would take back the remaining money from TARP and said he voted against two job bills and President Obama’s budget because of his concerns that the “the red ink was not addressed.”

The clearest distinction of the evening emerged on health care. Fimian said he would seek to repeal the health reform legislation enacted by Congress, and Connolly said he would resist any attempt at repeal. Connolly said the legislation was necessary because soaring health care costs were going to “bankrupt the country unless we did something to control costs.” Among the benefits of the bill he cited: The insurance companies will no longer be able to “ reject you for a pre-existing condition” or “ put limits on annual costs.”

“All that talk about a government program is false. It is private insurance,” Connolly said. “It is fully paid for and brings down the deficit by $1.2 billion.”

Fimian, who favors repealing health reform, argued that it is burdensome for businesses that can’t afford to provide health insurance for their employees and fails to address wellness, for example, by failing to make a distinction between “an overweight smoker and a healthy marathon runner.” He prefers “health savings accounts” that would “put the health care decision into the hands of the user.”

Fimian acknowledged that he wasn’t able to read the entire “2,300-page behemoth” because he was too busy “running a company.” Connolly countered that if Fimian had read the bill, he would know there are five sections that deal with wellness.

Fimian accused Connolly of voting for “socialized medicine” and writing a book in support of that concept. “If we had a Pinocchio prize, he would win it,” Connolly responded, noting that he was the editor of that book, not the author. “And no one voted for socialized medicine. It wasn’t in the bill,” he said.

The two also clashed on stem cell research. “I’m a strong supporter of stem cell research, but I’m not in favor of embryonic stem cell research,” Fimian said.

Connolly, who said he supports stem cell research, called Fimian’s statement a “disingenuous argument,” noting “embryonic stem cell research is what can save lives. It has enormous potential for the future.”

In response to a question about immigration, Fimian said “we’ve got to secure our southern border.” There are enemies of the United States “who are trying to get as many people into this country as they possibly can. We need a high wall with a wide gate.” He said we need to know who is coming, “We want you to learn English and it is important that you don’t break any laws,” he said. The nation should welcome immigrants as long as there is work for them, but a “a wide open border does no one any good in this era of nuclear terrorism.”

When it comes to immigration, “we are putting the burden on states and local governments,” Connolly said. “The federal government has to step up to this challenge. We have to secure the border.” Connolly said he favors “comprehensive immigration reform. We have to make the system predictable and fair” and there must be “strict enforcement.” What Connolly said he doesn’t favor is “any legislation that leads to racial profiling.”

Fimian added that he, too, doesn’t support racial profiling, but it should be okay to ask if someone is a citizen when a crime is committed.


  1. Connolly and incumbents are toast.

  2. go Connolly!