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Esty & Greenberg disagree on Social Security, arming rebels & more in debate

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Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut's 5th District and her Republican challenger, businessman Mark Greenberg, differed on Tuesday on the best way to break gridlock in Washington. The two met in Waterbury for a debate. Esty is seeking her second term in office, and faces a competitive challenge from Greenberg.

Greenberg said the cause of the gridlock problem is that politicians care more about themselves than about the people in their districts.

“Let's start by getting term limits," Greenberg said. "Let's get the career politicians out of office and get the regular folks like you and me in office, so that we can really represent the best interest of the district, the state and the country.”

Esty said if re-elected she’ll continue to break gridlock by working across party lines. She said, for example that Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas asked her in July to pair her education bill for science, technology, engineering, and math with a similar bill of his.

“Now, he knows that’s going to help me," Esty said. "He knows I’m in a tough reelection. But he did it because he respects the work that I do, and we’ve been working together on this bill for over a year, and the big bill fell apart. But I’ve earned the respect of the people I work with.”

Watch the full debate here:
 

On the topic of Social Security, Greenberg said the fund should be made solvent by gradually raising the retirement age to 70. Esty said many people can’t continue jobs that involve physical labor for those extra five years. She said Congress needs to stop raiding the Social Security fund, and she advocated raising the income cap at which Social Security is collected.

Esty and Greenberg  were asked for their thoughts on clean energy development in the state. Greenberg said he believes in using every available energy source, including solar. He criticized Esty for voting against a bill that would have allowed offshore drilling for oil.

“She also voted against the use of clean coal for reducing price of electricity in this state," Greenberg said. "When you know in this state we have the fifth highest electricity rates.”

Esty said asthma rates have been at historically high levels in Connecticut over the last 20 years because of coal burned in the state. She said the United States needs to support research and development for energy efficiency and clean energy.

“This is a place where there is real gridlock in Congress and unfortunately my opponent would be part of a caucus that in the House of Representatives has been dead-set against," Esty said. "We cannot even bring these up for discussion in committee.”

Both candidates support U.S. airstrikes against the militant group ISIS, but they disagreed over arming Syrian rebels. Greenberg supported arming Syrians, while Esty said she voted against the President’s request to do so. She said she based that decision on information from classified briefings and conversations with combat veterans that suggested the U.S. has not had success with that in the past.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.
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