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In a snippy debate on Tuesday, Democrat Donna McAleer attacked U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop as seeking big earmarks for political donors while giving only lip service to balancing budgets. Bishop said McAleer would return Congress to failed policies of liberal Democrats opposed by most Utahns.
During a radio debate on KPCW, West Point graduate and former business executive McAleer denounced the $6.5 billion in earmarks that Bishop — a five-term incumbent and former high school teacher — requested for 2010 appropriations bills, saying it shows he doesn’t "walk the walk" in talk about balancing the budget.
"He is not showing leadership. Ninety-five percent of those $6.5 billion in earmarks went to his campaign contributors. The Deseret News called him the ‘king of earmarks.’ To give you a comparison, he requested 115 times more than Congressman [Jim] Matheson," a Utah Democrat, she said.
Bishop says the criticisms were off base.
"She’s playing around with numbers that are inaccurate and unfair," Bishop said. The bulk of his requests, he said, "came from one plane that the president did not want, and, yes, I thought we needed that new plane for the Air Force. And it was done by Boeing Co.," and that company and executives were campaign donors.
Bishop said he would oppose any tax increases to balance the budget.
"We don’t have an income problem in Washington, we have a spending problem in Washington," he said. "And we will never get our budget under control until we start recognizing what we have to do is have a spending solution."
McAleer favors a balanced approach.
"When it comes to debt, everything needs to be on the table. That means balancing the budget with the right priorities, looking at both sides of the balance sheet."
Meanwhile, Bishop said McAleer seeks a return to the policies of liberal Democrats that empower Washington and hamstring states. "I don’t want to return back to those failed policies, rather to move forward with the right policies that try to empower states and empower people and not bureaucrats in Washington."
Along those lines, McAleer attacked Bishop for supporting the Utah Legislature in efforts to sue for state control of federal lands.
"This congressman has just demanded that the federal government turn over land," and she said it would be more productive to try to negotiate with the federal government over management of lands.
Bishop said it’s time to act.
"The federal government has failed in its stewardship right now, and it’s time for Utah to take over. The idea that only Washington is smart enough to be able to control the future of this state is a ridiculous argument to make."
McAleer said she wants to encourage both parties to work together — but contends Bishop sides constantly with GOP leaders to foster gridlock for political purposes.
"Quite simply, he’s gone Washington," McAleer said. "I’m campaigning to be part of the solution, not the unprecedented gridlock that exists and that my opponent has recently called historical and normal."
Bishop said current gridlock is not so much between Democrats and Republicans as it is between the House and Senate. "The House has done its work. We have passed a budget each of the years we have been there, including the last three," and said it is often done with bipartisan votes.
"If Mrs. McAleer wants to be part of the solution, she should run for the Senate because that’s indeed where the problem lies. Simplistic answers aren’t going to solve the problems, and a freshman isn’t going to solve the problem any better than anyone else could." Bishop added, "I know how to work the system" and said he has delivered for his district.
McAleer fired back.
"He puts the blame on the Senate. His idea of the GOP passing budgets is malarkey. It’s staking your claim and moving off it." She added, "We can’t just place the blame on the other house."
She said she has experience balancing budgets as the former head of the global arm of a technology company.
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