By Sam Smith
After arriving late to Sunday morning’s forum at the B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen wasted no time in attacking charges that he is no friend of Israel by his Republican opponent for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, Ken Timmerman. Van Hollen called the charges “garbage” that was part of a “dishonorable campaign.”
Van Hollen was particularly disgusted with what he said were falsities in a newsletter that Timmerman distributed before the forum titled “Ken Timmerman’s Threat Watch.”
“I have run for office many times,” Van Hollen said. “I have faced Republican opponents, independent opponents, Green Party opponents, Democratic opponents, and in every case we have had very vigorous disagreements. But, we have always had a respectful debate,”
“I have never seen this kind of garbage in all my years of running in the 8th Congressional District. I have never seen such a dishonorable campaign.”
Newsletter cites Van Hollen votes on Israel funding, Iran sanctions
The newsletter stated that Van Hollen is anti-Israel, voted against U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range missile defense system and voted against economic sanctions to Iran. All are hot-button issues for the Jewish constituents in attendance at the forum.
“I got it right here. ‘Chris Van Hollen not a friend of Israel’.” It is filled with lies and distortion,” Van Hollen said. “The fact that Mr. Timmerman would put this in a document saying ‘not a friend of Israel,’ is mind boggling.”
Van Hollen said that he has co-sponsored bills such as the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Securities Act, Iran Freedom Support Act and the original funding for the Iron Dome. He added that he is a strong supporter for economic sanctions against Iran, “the tighter, the better.”
Timmerman first made his charges against Van Hollen on Israel six months ago.
Most disagreements on taxes and jobs
Despite the dispute on Israel, most of the disagreement at the forum was on taxes and jobs.
Timmerman’s basic position is that Van Hollen is tied to the Obama administration that has failed to balance the federal budget and create jobs. But Van Hollen says that job growth has steadily improved over the last 31 months.
“Clearly things are improving, and there are things we need to keep working to continue the progress,” Van Hollen said.
However, Timmerman said that the job growth numbers are misleading due to the 785,000 jobs created this September.
“If you look at these figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the only jobs that have been created since January of 2009 were created just last month,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman also noted that the unemployment rate is currently at the same rate it was in when President Barack Obama took office, which is 7.8%
Blames Van Hollen’s work on supercommittee
Throughout his campaign, Timmerman has used to his advantage the fact that Van Hollen was on the congressional “supercommittee” that failed to create a 10-year deficit reduction plan because it could not agree on where to make an additional trillion dollars in cuts. Because no agreement could be made, “sequestration” cuts will happen Jan. 1 if no alternatives can be implemented.
One of the first questions directed to Van Hollen was where should the blame lie in the supercommittee’s inability to reach an agreement. Although Van Hollen did not directly answer that question, he pointed out that over 98% of House Republicans have signed the Grover Norquist pledge, which rejects any tax hikes.
Van Hollen said he agrees with a majority of the Simpson-Bowles commission report that calls for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Van Hollen is in favor of asking those who earn over $250,000 per year to pay Clinton-era tax rates, as well as making targeted cuts to the budget.
“We couldn’t get agreement because there was absolute refusal to support any additional revenue for the purpose of deficit reduction,” Van Hollen said.
Timmerman opposes increasing taxes. He favors the “penny plan” which calls for a 1% cut to real spending for all federal agencies. Timmerman wants the federal government to stay clear of businesses so the private sector can create jobs and wealth.
“Government is in the business of taking wealth out of the economy,” Timmerman said. “My opponent would like to take $650 billion out of the economy next year by allowing the Bush-era tax cuts and a lot of other tax cuts to expire on Jan. 1. The Congressional Budget Office has warned of the economic consequences of this policy.”
Timmerman for tapping into America’s oil supply
Timmerman strongly advocates using domestic natural gas supply. He said the United States has a 200-year supply of natural gas and tapping into it would not only lower the costs of gasoline, but would also create millions of jobs.
“This is something that we have the resources to do,” Timmerman said.“I want to give consumers the choice of whether they want to buy gasoline made from Saudi oil at $3.80 a gallon. Or, they can go to the next pump and buy methanol made from Pennsylvania natural gas.”