California: Where US Senate candidates stand on key issues

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Feinstein v Emken

Dianne Feinstein (left) and challenger Elizabeth Emken

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Stances on key issues by Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken.

-HEALTH CARE REFORM:

Feinstein voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She has been a strong voice against high insurance rates and in June called the rising cost of health care and increasing number of uninsured Americans “a national emergency.”

Emken says she would vote to repeal the federal health care overhaul, although in her role as an advocate she lobbied for the inclusion of autism coverage in the law. During the June primary, her GOP opponents attacked her for her involvement with health care reform. Emken says she was trying to make a bad law better but said she believes it should have been narrower in scope. “Government-run healthcare is not the solution,” she said. Emken would like to change Medicare, the government-run health care system for those 65 and older, into a market-based system that includes a range of plans with different premiums and co-payments. She said her solution is to reform the federal tax code to give small businesses and individuals the same deductions and tax credits as large corporations when buying health insurance.

-WATER:

Feinstein pushed for changes in 2009 that would allow farmers in California’s Central Valley to extract more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a move that concerned environmental groups trying to protect native fish. Unlike some congressional representatives from the San Francisco Bay area, Feinstein fully supports the plan announced this summer to build two large tunnels to move water beneath the fragile delta. Feinstein also authored the CALFED legislation, which authorized $395 million for a program designed to provide water storage and ecosystem restoration in California.

Emken says Feinstein’s water legislation has been ineffective. She calls for the establishment of statewide safety standards for recycling used water and increased investment in desalinization technology. She also supports amending the federal Endangered Species Act to better balance environmental protection with the needs of humans. She would like to see more investment in water infrastructure, including reservoirs and levees.

-ABORTION:

Feinstein favors abortion rights. She voted against a proposal to block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal money and opposed an amendment to the federal health care reform law that would have prohibited subsidized health insurance plans from providing coverage for abortions.

Emken says reproductive rights are not among her “top 100 issues.” She supports legalized abortion in the case of rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life. She declined to elaborate further on her position other than to say she was “pro-life.” Emken says her experience raising a child with autism has given her increased respect for life. She said she fears that parents will one day be able to test for autism in the womb and choose to abort the pregnancy, but also says she is “not looking to re-litigate something that’s 30 years old,” referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.

-TAXES AND THE ECONOMY:

Feinstein believes increased focus on innovation and entrepreneurship will help jumpstart the economy. She has written legislation that would give a tax break to technology companies that choose to keep jobs in the U.S. and expects to formally introduce the proposal in the coming weeks. She has said government should work harder to foster partnerships between research centers and private business as a way to encourage the development of new technologies. Feinstein supports ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy but maintaining them for families making less than $250,000 a year. The cuts are set to expire at the end of the year.

Emken has said she would freeze what she calls the “job-killing regulations and taxes of the past four years” until unemployment falls below 5 percent. When pressed for details, her campaign could not cite any specific taxes she would target. Emken says she would work to reduce federal regulations, which she says hurt small businesses and stifle job creation. She also advocates cutting energy costs by updating environmental protections, eliminating federal oversight of hydraulic fracturing and approving more pipelines. She supports the extension of all Bush-era tax cuts and opposes the Obama administration’s $814 billion stimulus program.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus created or saved between 1.3 million and 3.3 million jobs nationwide in 2010 alone.

-IRAN:

Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, opposes a pre-emptive strike against Iran. She has said she regrets voting for the war in Iraq and is reluctant to pursue another pre-emptive attack. Feinstein supports continued economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Iran, although she acknowledges that the window for a diplomatic solution “is rapidly closing.”

Emken says that without the national security briefings available to senators, she cannot craft a fully informed position on Iran. For now, she supports continued sanctions and intelligence operations.

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