Health care, immigration hot debate topics

Bipartisanship reached the podium when the annual NU Democrats and College Republicans debate hit Raytheon Amphitheatre last Wednesday.

The debate sparked frank talk on four hot-button political issues: illegal immigration, energy and the environment, affirmative action and health care reform.

Both parties were allotted three minutes for each of their four speakers, with the opportunity for a one-minute rebuttal at the end of each argument. The debate was moderated by William Beecher, president of the NU Debate Team, and questions were submitted by the audience before the event.

Josh Robin, president of NU Democrats, started off the evening with a proposed solution to the issue of 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., citing the need to initiate an “earned citizenship program” because the country’s economy is dependent on their employment.

“We can’t put them on a plane tomorrow and send them all home,” he said. “We need to deal with the problem. It’s not just about them quote unquote ‘stealing our jobs.’ It’s a much more complex issue.”

The College Republicans countered Robin’s argument for immigration reform, when Dave Moberg, the club’s president, argued that it is costly and dangerous to allow the U.S. to grow lax on border control. He cited newscasts on CNN and MSNBC, which reported a number of illegal immigrants were guilty of identity theft and the cost of housing them in prison burdens taxpayers.

“American citizenship is not a universal right,” Moberg said. “America is being invaded – whose side are you on?”

On the issue of health care, the College Republicans supported President George Bush’s two-part plan to award standard tax breaks on health insurance and to funnel federal funding to states to make private insurance more affordable.

Jason Cather of the College Republicans rejected a universal health care plan, comparing it to communism.

“Let’s not stoop to the level of Lenin, Marx or Clinton,” Cather said.

Burke Campell, the NU Democrats’ communications director, said the U.S. needs a national private health care pool, where insurance companies would compete for patients and increased research into other solutions, while helping patients make wiser medication choices, therefore reducing costs.

“We need a leaner, more effective health care system,” he said.

When the debate turned to energy and the environment, the NU Democrats’ Casey O’Neil argued that global warming causes tropical storms like Hurricane Katrina, and the U.S. needs to adopt stronger restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, like promoting the use of fuel-efficient cars.

Adam Spang of the College Republicans called the focus on the environment a “trendy issue” and supported Bush’s current energy plan of drilling in Alaska and investing in ethanol, solar and nuclear alternatives.

The affirmative action issue drew fire from both sides when Eric Alves, an NU Democrat, argued the policy is necessary to promote diversity, while College Republican Christian Shoemaker said academic standards are lowered to achieve that diversity.

Students at the debate, like Mike Broderick, a sophomore political science major, said the two parties were professional.

“I thought it went well,” he said. “Both sides presented their arguments articulately.”

Robin said debates between the NU Democrats and the College Republicans are an important tool to promote bipartisanship.

“The real power of America is reached when we come to a middle ground,” he said.

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