Here Are the Questions Moderators Should Ask at Tonight’s GOP Debate


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Analysis Politics

Here Are the Questions Moderators Should Ask at Tonight’s GOP Debate

Ally Boguhn

If Fox Business Networks' moderators want to follow through on their promise to highlight the issues, there are a few questions they should ask the candidates.

The last Republican primary debate, CNBC’s “Your Money, Your Vote,” was slated to be a hard-hitting foray into the feuding presidential candidates’ economic platforms. Ultimately, however, it left viewers with little concrete information on those issues. 

In the aftermath, Fox Business Network’s moderators have promised to be more vigilant about sticking to specific topics during the debate the network is jointly hosting with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday night. Network host and debate moderator Maria Bartiromo, discussing the upcoming debate with Politico, outlined her intention to highlight the plans of each candidate.

“After that [CNBC] debate, I realized, I knew my marching orders,” Bartiromo said. “It was clearer than ever what my marching orders are, and that is to help the viewer, help the voter better understand what each candidate’s plan is; is it a realistic plan, can it work and how is it different from the next guy or gal, and that’s what I plan to focus on.”

As the debate approaches, here are three questions about the candidates’ economic policies and platforms that moderators should ask if they want to follow through on their promise to highlight the issues.

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Would You Defund Planned Parenthood If It Means Shutting Down the Government?

Several of the Republican front-runners have gone on record with support for doing whatever it takes to defund Planned Parenthood, even if it means shutting down the federal government at the cost of furloughing 800,000 employees and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has led the charge for months. Cruz urged religious leaders in August to “preach from the pulpit” and help push for an amendment to defund the reproductive health provider as part of the omnibus spending bill. Even as other Republicans in Congress spoke out against Cruz’s determination to use a shutdown to pull funding for the health-care organization, he has steadfastly held his ground.

Carly Fiorina similarly instructed congressional Republicans in late September to “stand up and fight” to defund Planned Parenthood during an appearance on Meet the Press. Although she was not then explicit on the best way to accomplish that, the staunchly anti-choice candidate had previously told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that Republicans “should close the government down” to make it happen.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan recently cautioned Republicans that such a move wasn’t a winning position. “I think we need to be very clear about what we can and cannot achieve and not set expectations that we know we can’t reach given the constraints of the Constitution,” Ryan told host Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union.

It isn’t just Republicans warning against the ramifications of eliminating funding to Planned Parenthood. A Congressional Budget Office projection found that although defunding the health-care provider could save $520 million, it may also lead to $650 million in additional costs due to more births—a net spending increase of $130 million.

These financial costs are underscored by the effects eliminating funding would have on the 2.7 million people who receive care at Planned Parenthood each year. Although Republicans claim that community health centers could step in and fill the gaps in coverage should the provider lose funding, investigations conducted by Rewire found that the alternatives offered as legitimate places to receive care actually include elementary, middle, and high schools; clinics for homeless people; nursing homes; and pediatric centers. Scholars, health organizations, and even Republican politicians all agree that community clinics could not step in and fill the gap eliminating Planned Parenthood would create.

In light of this, will Fox Business Network and Wall Street Journal interrogate the candidates for their support of a move denounced by experts, party leaders, and the majority of American voters? If moderators are to hold true to their promise to stick to the issues, they should question the candidates not only about their plans to defund Planned Parenthood, but also on how candidates would address the millions who could lose care as a result.

Where Do You Stand on Paid Family Leave?

A study by the International Labour Organization analyzing 185 countries found that the United States is one of just three countries that do not offer guaranteed paid parental leave.

Yet according to a May poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News, 80 percent of Americans—and 71 percent of Republicans—support paid family leave policies. Despite the vast bipartisan support, Republican presidential candidates are rarely asked to answer for their opposition to such measures.

Carly Fiorina firmly expressed her opposition to government-mandated paid family leave during an August appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. “I’m not saying I oppose paid maternity leave. What I’m saying is I oppose the federal government mandating paid maternity leave to every company out there,” Fiorina said. “For the government to tell others how to do things when the government hasn’t gotten its basic house in order is not only ineffective, it’s hypocritical.”

Sen. Marco Rubio has come forward with a so-called paid family leave proposal, which would give tax incentives to companies that offered their employees paid leave. Rubio claimed that “I believe we can fix this problem by creatively applying our free enterprise principles in a way that encourages businesses to choose to offer more paid family leave.” Media analysts criticized Rubio’s policies, explaining that they were “unlikely” to encourage employers to offer paid leave for their staff.

During Fox News’ first Republican primary debate, the candidates faced no questions pertaining to their policies on family leave. Fox Business Network should take the opportunity to pick up where their colleagues failed.

If Elected, What Are Your Plans for the Affordable Care Act?

Millions of Americans gained access to health insurance in the years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, even as GOP-controlled legislatures fought its expansion. The national uninsured rate has dropped to just 11.6 percent—down 5.5 percentage points since the health-care law took effect, according to Gallup polling. Nearly 10 million people gained insurance through the ACA in 2014.

Still, Republicans continue to oppose the health-care law while offering only vague explanations of their own plans to replace it.

During the August Fox News debate, network anchor Bret Baier asked Donald Trump about having seemingly flip-flopped on his opposition to health care. “Mr. Trump, Obamacare is one of the things you call a disaster,” said Baier. Now, 15 years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care … Why were you for that then and why aren’t you for it now?”

Baier’s line of questioning was more about Trump’s shifting political ideologies than having him answer to whether he would repeal or replace the law. Although other candidates, including Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, brought up repealing “Obamacare” throughout the night, nobody offered up what their alternatives might actually be.

Moderators of subsequent debates also failed to interrogate the candidates on their health-care platforms.

The candidates’ hesitancy may be chalked up to them simply not having an answer to what they would do about the millions who stand to lose their insurance without the Affordable Care Act.

Even those who have released plans, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have faced criticism for the losses of coverage those would entail. Larry Levit, co-executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation, explained that Bush’s plan would mean Americans paid higher deductibles and got fewer benefits, which would in turn “discourage people from using services and lead to lower health spending overall.”

Moderators should push the 2016 hopefuls to answer to the millions of people in the United States who could lose coverage under their leadership.