John Locher / AP
Published Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 | 8:30 p.m.
Updated Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 | 9:15 p.m.
Republicans and Democrats alike are working to show their support for protections for pre-existing conditions, a popular aspect of the Affordable Care Act that both major-party candidates for Senate emphasized during Friday night’s debate.
Sen. Dean Heller faced Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen in a debate moderated by Denise Valdez and Steve Sebelius of KLAS-TV as well as Tsi-Tsi-Ki Félix of Univision.
Rosen’s campaign has been criticizing Heller for his votes both for and against health care. She said the night before the debate that his pre-existing conditions bill does not actually require care for those conditions, echoing concerns from Nevada’s Obamacare exchange director, Heather Korbulic.
Along with eliminating the individual mandate penalizing people for not having insurance, the Trump administration has extended the cap on junk insurance plans, which are not required to cover the 10 essential health benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
“It doesn’t include those protections,” Rosen said of Heller’s health care legislation. “Those plans, junk plans, are a sham.”
Sen. Dean Heller said he supports protecting pre-existing conditions and mentions his support in Congress for a bill that seeks to allow those individuals to retain coverage. Pre-existing conditions should be part of any health care bill, Heller said, along with keeping kids on parents' insurance longer, and expanded Medicaid. Gov. Brian Sandoval was the first GOP governor to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, helping extend insurance to 200,000 residents who previously lacked coverage.
"Those are the three things we agree on," Heller said.
The debate occasionally became heated, with the two candidates talking over each other.
Asked about his support for new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the process to confirm him, Heller said it’s possible to support the #MeToo movement that is calling out sexual harassment and misconduct while also supporting the rule of law, which is what happened in this confirmation. He said Kavanaugh was investigated multiple times.
Rosen said Heller refused to meet with former President Barack Obama’s pick, which was blocked by the GOP as Obama was nearing the end of his term. She said Heller had no reservations about Kavanaugh, even after accusations of sexual misconduct were made against the then-nominee.
On universal background checks, approved in Nevada in 2016 but unenforced, Heller said he does not support them. He said he is pro-Second Amendment.
Rosen pointed to money Heller has taken from the gun lobby and said she supports universal checks. She said Congress needs to fix NICS, which Heller said has already passed. After the debate, Rosen was the only candidate to take questions from the media, and said lawmakers need to look at all aspects of gun safety, including keeping weapons away from those who have been convicted of domestic violence.
The two also discussed the GOP’s tax law, which Rosen said would add an estimated $1.8 trillion to the nation’s debt.
On immigration, Heller said he didn’t like Trump’s family separations policy and supports immigration reform. Rosen said Heller is a “rubber stamp” for Trump, whose administration pushed the zero-tolerance immigration policy at the border that led to children being separated from their families.
Heller was asked about his new support for the president after his statement to the RGJ in 2016 when he said he was 99 percent against Trump. Heller said what changed is working with Trump and producing results.
Heller pointed to his ability to use his relationship with the president to go directly to him to help block an attempt to scoop $230 million from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. Rosen said that Nevada needs to protect its public lands and that Heller is not willing to be a check on the president, who has called for funding for Yucca Mountain.
Rosen was asked about comments she made after the Oct. 1 shooting, saying she was put out “in front” as the community grappled with the crisis. She said she meant she was active as a public official in the aftermath.
In closing, Heller said his family has a future under this administration and the work they're doing. Rosen said career politicians can lose touch and she's proud of her bipartisan record in her freshman term in Congress.
A watch party organized by SEIU, APALA, iAmerica Action, and Make the Road Action served as a get-out-the-vote effort targeting more than 90,000 Latinos and APIA Nevada residents.
The Republican National Committee and Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael J. McDonald held a watch party and phone bank in Elko. RNC spokeswoman Keelie Broom said in a statement that Rosen “bombed” the debate.
“As per the usual, Rosen is still grasping at straws,” Broom said. “She knows she doesn’t deserve the promotion she’s asking for, and voters do, too.”
Lindsey Harmon, executive director of Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood, said Heller “sold out” on health care.
“Tonight’s debate made it clear that Jacky Rosen is the best choice to represent Nevada in the Senate,” Harmon said in a statement. “Rosen is a firm advocate for women’s rights in Nevada and will fight to protect access to affordable health care and affordable contraception, as well as support Planned Parenthood in an administration that is working to erode women’s rights.”