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Fact Check: Matheson-Love Debate

The storyline of the second debate between Jim Matheson and Mia Love was much the same as the first, with the candidates now settling into established campaign narratives. Here is the synopsis in their own words.

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Matheson: "My opponent has policies and her record of raising taxes, taking away student loans from students, having less cops on the street that are reckless and dangerous for Utahns."

And Love: "I believe we’re one election away from losing our freedoms. We have $16 trillion in debt. Deficit spending that is out of control. A president who says everything leads to central government, tax more, regulate more and my opponent is supporting that president."

The leading claim from Love supporting that assertion is that Matheson, she says, supported Obamacare.

So let’s break it down.

We covered the issues of taxes here but the issue of Love’s proposed budget cuts — which we wrote about in July — has been central to Matheson’s criticism of Love.

Matheson’s claims about her proposed cuts come from just a few of the proposals in a mailer she sent to voters before the Republican convention. Love said Thursday night that the list of cuts was just a proposal to begin discussion.

Looking at her mailer, it is true that Love says that it is her "initial plan to cut federal spending immediately."

She goes on to say: "It isn’t the final solution — much more will need to be done — but it’s a bold first step to stop the flood of wasteful spending."

What more needs to be done?

She references some of that in the same mailer, specifically that she supports the budget plan put forward by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan — now the vice presidential nominee — which cuts $5.8 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years and turns Medicare into a "defined payment" system, where seniors will get a fixed amount of money for their health care and pay the rest themselves.

"But we can go even further," her mailer writes.

So while it appears that Love’s list was not intended to be etched in stone, it was meant to be an opening bid with even more aggressive cuts — not less — to come.

One of her proposals is to save money by repealing Obamacare, and claims Matheson supported the law.

Matheson’s record on the law is winding and contradictory.

He states, correctly, that he voted against the bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and on the House floor, and again when the Senate sent the amended bill back to the House in 2010.

When the Republican-controlled House tried to repeal the bill in 2011, he voted against that repeal. He said earlier this year he didn’t want to throw out what he considered the good parts of the bill, including prohibiting people from being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and extending coverage to dependents up to the age of 26.

But when it came up for a repeal vote again this spring, he voted for the repeal. In the debates so far, Matheson has said he voted against the repeal until the Supreme Court had ruled on the measure. Now, he said, he has the same concerns he originally did — that the bill wouldn’t control health care spending — and voted for the repeal.

The Love campaign was looking to pounce on his vote against the repeal, releasing a video that uses some creative editing to make it look like Matheson is lying about his votes. He's not. But what the video does highlight is the change in his rationale for voting against the repeal in 2011.

The record gets a little more complicated when one looks at procedural votes that Love’s supporters point to. For example, he voted against the rule on the 2012 repeal — which could have prevented the House from even voting for the repeal — and then voted for the repeal.

But there is not a vote on his record where Matheson voted in favor of Obamacare or spoke in favor of the bill. Indeed, the closest he came to supporting Obamacare was voting against its repeal in 2011.

-- Robert Gehrke

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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