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Highlights from U.S. House debate with Becca Balint and Liam Madden

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, Vermont Edition's Connor Cyrus hosted a debate with candidates for U.S. House: Democratic nominee Becca Balint and GOP nominee Liam Madden.

The two major party candidates for Vermont's sole seat in the U.S. House met Tuesday in a Vermont Public debate moderated by Vermont Edition co-host Connor Cyrus. Democratic nominee and state Senate President Pro Temp Becca Balint, from Brattleboro, faced off against Republican nominee Liam Madden, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, antiwar advocate and self-described independent from Bellow Falls.

Watch the full debate here.

Here are the highlights.

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

The candidates differed on whether reproductive rights should be handled at the state or federal level. Madden opposes some late-term abortions, while Balint supports full reproductive choice.

“I have spent my entire time in the Senate protecting reproductive rights, and I helped to shepherd a state law through that would codify Roe,” Balint said. “I also worked really hard to make sure that we would have this constitutional amendment [Article 22] on the ballot come November.”

Article 22, which is on Vermont's general election ballot, is an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee personal reproductive liberty.

Madden said, “I believe that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is right, saying that we should protect access to abortion because it's central to women's dignity — and that is better decided by legislation and by courts.” He also said he agreed “that 99% or more of abortions — the ones that happen before a fetus can live outside of the womb independently — should be protected federally.”

Madden added that he opposes some late-term abortions, such as when a fetus can "live independently."

“Those children have rights, and 86% of Americans agree that if you can live outside the womb, you should have legal rights,” he said. He said he won't be voting in favor of Article 22.

More from Vermont Public: A guide to voting in Vermont for the 2022 midterm election

WAR IN UKRAINE

When asked how the U.S. and NATO allies should proceed in the war in Ukraine, both candidates pushed for the continuation of behind-the-scenes diplomacy, but disagreed on whether Ukraine should be allowed into NATO.

“I don't think that either of us have had the intelligence briefings that we need to be able to make these decisions here in this debate,” Balint said. “We need to go into Congress with an understanding that we have to do deep deep learning and understand the issue from many different perspectives.” She said she was open to Ukraine joining NATO but said she would need more hard intelligence to make that decision.

Madden agreed that they both would need to learn more about the conflict once elected. But, he said, “I don't need to do too much deep learning to know that allowing Ukraine to join NATO would trigger an immediate hostile war with Russia that could escalate to nuclear war. So that's kind of already given into public knowledge.”

Balint responded that Russia is already "saber rattling" with nuclear arms. “In that way, we have to look at what are all the possibilities on the table that would help deter this from escalating. So I'm not going to rule it out.”

SEEING EYE TO EYE ON SOME ISSUES

While the debate did highlight policy differences between the two candidates, they also found common ground on a number of topics, including term limits for members of Congress, the importance of developing new energy technologies to combat climate change, and Medicare for All.

This is a great thing to see that Liam Madden and I agree that we have to move towards Medicare for All,” Balint said. “We're both children of immigrants. I think we have a view of the world in which we look and see other countries have been able to figure this out and take care of all of their citizenry…and we should be doing better.”

They both talked about reforming social media as a way to combat misinformation. They also both mentioned taxing companies as a way to fight inflation.

“I would agree with Becca on taxing windfall profits,” Madden said. “Inflation is about having too much currency in the economy, and in order to extract some of that you need to extract it from the sources where it is most equitably extracted. And so those are the companies doing the best–fossil fuel and pharmaceuticals come to mind.”

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