Voters in Bay Ridge are finally going to get the chance to hear from Rep. Vito Fossella and his Democratic challenger Steve Harrison. They’ve agreed to debate four times in the coming weeks — twice in Bay Ridge and twice in Staten Island. Here’s a preview:
Fossella stands firmly behind the president’s unpopular war in Iraq, and supports his reinterpretation of the Geneva conventions.
“I think our government needs to give our intelligence agencies every tool possible consistent with the law to obtain information to prevent another terrorist attack,” Fossella told The Brooklyn Papers.
“We should get out of Iraq,” said Harrison, who calls for a phased withdrawal from the region. “We should continue the War on Terror, and not confuse it with war in Iraq.”
Fossella argues that the government should cultivate new sources of oil, while also providing incentives for new technologies, echoing President Bush’s stance. Fossella says much has already been accomplished.
“With America in dire need of a national energy policy, Congress took steps to alleviate gasoline and natural gas prices, create jobs and boost domestic production of resources and renewable energy to reduce our reliance on foreign oil,” said Fossella.
At a recent speech on energy policy at the Staten Island Museum, Harrison tied the nation’s addiction to oil to the morass in the Middle East, to global warming, and even to the collapse of the Shore Road seawall.
“Spring tides were topping the wall, something that never happened when it was built,” said Harrison.
To address the oil addiction, Harrison calls for the creation of an “Alan Greenspan of energy” who will “set long-term energy goals, fund research into basic technologies, and create conditions that encourage and focus private research and investment.”
Fossella championed an amendment that would allocate an additional $20 million to the Urban Areas Security Initiative, about $5 million of which would go to New York City. The amendment was passed by the House earlier this year, but may be on the conference committee’s chopping block.
“Fundamentally I’m running on a record of accomplishment,” said Fossella, who takes credit for helping “keep America safe.”
Fossella also worked with New York’s congressional delegation to secure $125 million for workers compensation claims linked to 9-11.
Harrison calls for the scanning of all ship cargo at ports-of-origin.
“Of these containers that come under the Verrazano Bridge, only five percent are scanned,” said Harrison. “There’s a project in place by Homeland Security that says that 100 percent will be scanned in port by 2007. The problem is, once the ships are in port, it’s too late.”
Fossella supports expanding health-care coverage through the private sector and cutting down on frivolous malpractice suits.
“I am a strong supporter of initiatives like Association Health Plans, which allow small business owners to pool together to purchase insurance at significantly reduced rates for workers,” said Fossella. “In addition, I support Health Savings Accounts as a way for Americans to set aside money tax free for their health care coverage. I also supported a prescription drug plan under Medicare that guarantees coverage for every senior in America.”
For his part, Harrison advocates universal health coverage.
“Twenty-seven cents on each health dollar goes to administrative health costs in America,” said Harrison. “In Canada, it’s less than two cents.”
Fossella opposes it, but would not answer questions about circumstances when he might allow it. Harrison supports abortion rights, albeit tepidly.
“I fall somewhat in the middle,” said Harrison. “I think a woman has the right to choose, but not to rely solely on abortion for birth control.”
Fossella supports it. Harrison supports it in rare circumstances.
“Prior to 9-11, I opposed it in all circumstances,” said Harrison. “I think it may now have a place when you have crimes against humanity.”
Fossella wants to direct half of the toll money toward easing traffic on local roads that lead to the bridge.
Harrison has other ideas.
“I want to see the toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge eliminated for residents of the district,” he said.