Senate debate: Young hammers on inflation as McDermott bets on abortion turnout
U.S. Senate candidates debate Sunday night, from left to right Republican Sen. Todd Young, Libertarian James Sceniak, Democrat Mayor Tom McDermott. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)
U.S. Sen. Todd Young, a Republican, centered his reelection bid on fighting inflation and spending in a debate Sunday night while his primary challenger, Democrat Tom McDermott, focused his message on abortion rights and attacked Young’s votes for spending bills.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit Indiana Debate Commission hosted Sunday’s event, which also featured Libertarian challenger James Sceniak. He struggled to answer several questions during the debate.
Inflation, inflation, inflation
Young accused U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, both Democrats, of fumbling a healthy Republican economic set-up, blaming stubborn inflation on the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act approved in March 2021.
“When the Biden-Harris administration came into office, we were poised for 5% to 6% economic growth — that’s incredibly robust economic growth,” Young said. “And we were poised for that sort of economic growth because of the tax and regulatory policies we saw when Republicans were in control. Unfortunately, the first thing they did when they came into office is is rush through a stimulus bill.”
Longtime Hammond Mayor McDermott attacked Young’s voting history, accusing him of similar spending. He said Young supported a 2017 tax cut — which added nearly $8 trillion to the debt — and championed $280 billion semiconductor subsidy legislation, which Biden signed into law in August.
“When Sen. Young supports spending, that’s good inflation, but when Sen. Young doesn’t support it, that’s bad inflation,” McDermott said. “The CHIPS [and Science] Act that he voted for is a spending bill proposed by President Biden. Todd Young stood side by side with him, took pictures with him and helped add to our nation’s inflation problem.”
Pinning blame on abortion
McDermott also criticized Young for voting to confirm three conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — who were among the five-justice majority that overturned Roe v. Wade and its federal abortion allowances in June.
In Dobbs v. Jackson, the court sent the question of abortion back to the states. Indiana has since almost completely banned abortion — with narrow exceptions — though Senate Bill 1 faces multiple court challenges and has been blocked by courts.
“Todd Young and his radical GOP agenda voted to confirm three of the justices to the U.S. Supreme Court that didn’t respect 50 years of precedent, and they threw America into turmoil,” McDermott said. “Right now, women in Indiana don’t even know what the current status of the abortion law in our state is. It’s because it’s confusing.”
Young said he agreed with the late, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who considered Roe v. Wade weak.
“The people of Indiana and 49 other states are in the process, consistent with our values and ideas, of trying to get this right. I don’t pretend — I don’t think anyone pretends — that we’ve gotten it right,” Young said. “I do accept exceptions and I’ll accept whatever the people of Indiana decide.”
Young also said he doesn’t support South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed federal 15-week abortion ban in a media availability after the debate. He said there would not be enough votes for McDermott’s vision of codifying protections, nor Graham’s ban.
“I don’t think the federal government should be involved in this,” Young said. “I think it ought to be up to the states, which is the process we’re in right now.”
Same-sex marriage next on the chopping block?
Like abortion and Roe v. Wade, legal same-sex marriage rests on its own landmark SCOTUS case: 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges. Asked about the potential for the court to overturn that case, and federal versus states roles in addressing same-sex marriage, Young said Obergefell was “an issue of settled law.”
He said the majority of SCOTUS justices agreed, and that there were no current legal challenges against the ruling.
Roe v. Wade was settled law for almost 50 years. And Justice Clarence Thomas argued in his Dobbs’ concurring opinion that the court should reconsider its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
“[Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer is looking for an election-year issue to distract voters’ attention away from the things that are most on their mind, like inflation,” Young said.
He went on to question the government’s role in marriage, asking, “Why does big government regulate marriage altogether? They certainly don’t regulate baptisms and other religious sacraments.”
McDermott said he would also fight to codify the Obergefell legalization of same-sex marriage into law.
While McDermott went out on attack, saying that he had to make the most of the single hour of debate, Young touted his bipartisanship multiple times.
Both Young and McDermott said the U.S. should continue supporting Ukraine monetarily and militarily in its defense against Russia, and agreed the Social Security program needs rescuing.
Laura Merrifield Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis and a board member of the debate commission, moderated the debate. She also moderated last week’s Secretary of State debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters Indiana.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting has already begun.
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