Knight, Hill debate immigration, health care and voting accessibilityTerry Nguyen September 21, 2018 1 COMMENT
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and Democratic challenger Katie Hill faced off in a second debate on Thursday to address immigration, health care, voting accessibility, bipartisanship in Congress and national events, including Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and the special counsel investigation.
The forum was scheduled to be a one-hour event with no photography, video or audio recording permitted inside. It was hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Mike McMullin, publisher of the Antelope Valley Press.
The recording ban was a decision by the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, confirmed chamber CEO Jenna Huerta to SoCal Daily Media.
Much like the debate in Lancaster on Sept. 10, Knight and Hill remained open to one another’s ideas, focusing their responses on policy; they would take aim at their opponent’s political experience, instead of personality. The only direct clash occurred when Hill interrupted Knight during a question about working towards a “spirit of bipartisanship.”
“During these two debates, I’ve heard a lot of things [like] Republicans are bad, Republicans have done this, but remember this, Republicans are 40 percent of who we [are],” Knight said, before Hill jumped in to clarify herself.
“I’m not talking about Republicans, I’m talking about Republicans in Congress,” Hill said.
While the candidates were in agreement over the most pressing issues their district face (gun violence, homelessness, affordable housing), they worked to differentiate themselves beyond party lines.
Knight attempted to be a seasoned voice of reason, emphasizing his bipartisan legislative record, law enforcement background and experience in the California State Legislature. Knight said he has delivered to this community what he had promised them since elected to Congress in 2014.
“What I’ve done is exactly what I told you I was going to do,” he said. “We were going to work with everyone … and try to bring as many wins back to the district as we could.”
Hill uses her lack of experience in elected office and her grassroots background to amplify the need for a Washington outsider to fix a divided, “broken” Congress.
“How many of you think Washington is working? How many of you don’t?” she asked in her opening remarks. More than half the room raised their hands at the latter. “And that’s why we need change,” Hill said.
When asked about reducing gun violence, Hill acknowledged the influence of the gun lobby and groups like the National Rifle Association on legislation.
“I know just recently Congressman Knight said that he will no longer take NRA money, so I hope he will start supporting legislation about gun sense,” she said, referencing Knight’s response in an interview with a local podcast.
Hill believes the first step to curbing gun violence is to pass legislation that will ensure universal background checks, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to skip waiting periods and offer more uniform gun laws across state lines. Knight says that mental health should be the first area of focus when tackling gun violence, as well as responsible gun ownership.
Knight had been criticized for voting in favor of the American Health Care Act in 2017, which sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act. When asked about how he would support the current existing act and the protections for preexisting conditions, he referred to his work with local community medical programs, including his work on the convenience care initiative for veterans, and said that health care reform should be done in steps.
“If we go to a program that my opponent wants to do and we do Medicare for All, even the Democrats in California have said it will cost $400 billion,” Knight said. “For the country, [that will be] $3.2 trillion. California Democrats have already said we will have to raise your taxes 200 percent.”
Hill acknowledges that reform should be done in steps, as Knight mentioned, but discussed the bigger picture goal of “healthcare for all” she hopes will be accomplished one day.
“What we have to recognize is that these are incremental changes that need to happen, [but] what we shouldn’t do is attempt to repeal what is in place without a plan to replace it,” Hill said. “That’s exactly what Congressman Knight … has done.”
The candidates were directed several questions from a national angle regarding the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, the Kavanaugh hearings and sexual misconduct allegations and the ongoing special counsel investigation.
Knight has a voting record stretching back years since his election to the state legislature, which Hill references when refuting her opponent’s policy positions on voting accessibility laws and Roe v. Wade.
“I believe Roe v. Wade is settled law, and unfortunately, Congressman Knight has voted over and over again to limit a woman’s right to choose, even in severe cases of rape or incest,” she said. “And at the same time, [he] has made it so employers can block a woman’s ability to get birth control and so that health insurance companies don’t cover maternity care.”
Knight was firm in his response that the court case is settled law, and referenced the case’s holding. In reference to Hill’s earlier response, Knight said, “We did one bill and it talked about abortions, and it said no abortions after 20 weeks. That was the bill that went into Congress.”
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have made nearly all abortions after 20 weeks illegal, was passed in the House of Representatives but rejected in the Senate.
Knight and Hill both agree that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Kavanaugh testimony hearings should continue.
Knight said that the special counsel investigation should be timely and not politicized. “This is how the investigative process should move forward; let’s support a timely investigation by the Mueller team,” he said. Hill sees the potential for a Democratic Congress to put a check on President [Donald] Trump if he seeks to fire the special counsel.
Knight placed his support behind the Senate Judiciary Committee’s process and their decision to move forward with testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who brought forth sexual misconduct allegations about Judge Kavanaugh. Hill said that there should be a better process for the survivor to testify before Congress.
“[Dr. Ford] was asked to come and sit right next to Kavanaugh and to handle the interrogation that is coming at her, [some] from people who are accusing her of lying or making it up for political purposes,” she said.
With six weeks left until election day, the candidates were asked if they believe the midterms are a referendum on President Trump. Hill sees the midterms as a referendum “out of frustration for a Washington that’s not working for us,” citing increased cost of prescription jobs, housing, lack of jobs and medical services.
As the incumbent, Knight says that candidates in their respective districts have to make a case for themselves in this upcoming election.
“I think it’s going to be individuals in their different districts who have to show a case … or they’re going to be run over by someone who’s going to show a better case,” Knight said. “I honestly believe that.”
Terry Nguyen is a reporter writing about policy and people in the Los Angeles area. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Lily and Brit+Co.