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Debicella and Himes tackle foreign policy in third debate

Kaomi Goetz

Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes of the Fourth Congressional District and Republican challenger Dan Debicella debated Monday night at the University of Connecticut's General Re auditorium. It was the third time for the two to debate in this year's election campaign.

Himes, of Greenwich, is vying for his fourth term in Congress. Debicella, of Shelton, is challenging Himes for a second time after being defeated in 2010.

About 160 people listened to the two debate issues such as U.S. foreign policy and national security.

The event lasted 90 minutes and was organized by the non-partisan World Affairs Forum in Stamford.

The pair were asked about a dozen questions from the audience. 

They sometimes agreed, like on U.S. foreign policy with China. Himes and Debicella both agreed it was important to engage the Asian nation while continuing to press them on human rights abuses. 

They also concurred on closing Guantanamo and continuing airstrikes against Islamic militants in the Middle East. 

But they also clashed. Debicella tried to paint Himes as a Washington insider, whose policies contributed to the rise of the self-described Islamic State also known as ISIS. 

"And if [voters] like what's goign on, they should vote for you," Debicella said. "And if they don't, they should not." 

"And it's your position," Himes challenged, "that it was the Congress of the United States and in particular, my decisions, that led to no troops being kept in Iraq?" 

"I think you're one of 535 members of Congress Jim," Debicella answered. "That you actually have to say, 'I have a voice.'" 

Himes is on the House Intelligence Committee. He said troop withdrawal in Iraq was necessary or else U.S. soldiers would have faced prosecution by the local courts there. He said the real reason ISIS grew is because of the weak leadership of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. 

"When a monstrous and evil group of people can go into Anbar [Province] and say 'We're going to behead and bring back slavery and force women into the house' and people say 'That's a good idea?' That is evidence of how profoundly perverted the government of Maliki was," Himes said.

The nation's budget deficit was also raised. 

Himes said the deficit is considered by some to be a national security threat. 

Debicella called Himes a rubber stamp to the President. He said the Democrat voted with his party more than 90 percent of the time. 

Himes countered that he's not afraid of disagreeing with the President, like he did on the Simpson-Bowles proposal. 

That was a bipartisan set of recommendations of tax increases and cuts designed to reduce the federal deficit over 10 years. 

"I did vote for the Simpson-Bowles plan," Himes said. "And though it contained nothing good, because a plan to reduce deficits by definition cannot contain anything good, but it was a balanced plan." 

Debicella said it didn't make enough military cuts. And he said it hurt seniors and Medicare. 

"This was not the right way to balance the budget," Debicella declared. "As a Republican, of course I want a strong military. But I actually believe there are a lot of areas we can cut back by getting rid of these pork barrel projects." 

Debicella didn't elaborate on which projects he was referring to. Himes said Republican-led plans would have made even deeper cuts.

A fourth and final debate will be held Oct. 28. It is sponsored by the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce. 

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