Congressional Debate near Treynor

(Council Bluffs) -- Guests at the Drew and Kris Ranney residence east of Council Bluffs were sent to the basement Monday evening--but not because of severe weather.

The Ranneys' basement was an unusual setting for the latest in a series of debates between the candidates running for the Republican nomination in Iowa's 3rd Congressional District. The six candidates--Robert Cramer, Joe Grandanette, Matt Schultz, Monte Shaw, David Young and Brad Zaun--fielded a variety of questions in the debate sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, and aired live on KMA AM 960. One of the questions dealt with the federal deficit. Shaw--a Shenandoah native and executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association--rejected the notion that raising the debt ceiling is an option to deal with the deficit. Shaw favors entitlement reform, instead.

"I will attack and draw the line in the sand," said Shaw, "and I will help fight spending when we appropriate entitlement reform, because that's where it is legally obligated. That's where the debt comes from."

Young, a former chief of staff to Senator Charles Grassley, says Republican presidents and congressional members share the blame with President Obama and the Democrats for the deficit. That's why he believes the GOP must be the party of fiscal discipline.

"We talk about the next generation--passing this debt onto," he said. "We're about 10 generations out, folks. So, we need to balance the budget. We need to cut spending and get to the point where we're not raising the debt ceiling. Raising the debt ceiling is illustrated in its dysfunction. We need to cut spending."

 Neither Zaun nor Cramer favored raising the debt ceiling. Schultz said he would only support raising the debt ceiling if a balanced budget amendment is passed. Grandanette, a Des Moines teacher and small business owner, put the blame for the deficit squarely on the Democrats.

"The Democrats are our enemy," Grandanette said. "We have to play hardball with them. We've been too easy. We've compromised our security, we've compromised our future by raising the debt ceiling. We've been too easy. We've always gone their way. They have to come our way. This has got to stop."

Candidates were also asked their opinions on the Farm Bill approved by Congress and signed by the president earlier this year. While saying he would not have supported the Farm Bill--mainly because of the money allocated to food stamps--State Senator Zaun said he favors support for the ethanol industry, and renewable fuel standards.

"I think the ethanol industry has evolved," he said, "and there's a lot more byproducts coming out of those plants, and I support that as well."

Like other candidates, Cramer, a Des Moines businessman, objected to the Farm Bill's emphasis on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--or SNAP.

"Agriculture is the backbone of Iowa, and this country," Cramer said. "We need to protect farmers to make sure they stay in business if the market does go terrible. There needs to be a floor for that projection. However, using 85% of it for food stamps, and tying both of them together, doesn't make sense. We need to deal with them separately."

Likewise, Grandanette said the SNAP program is "out of control." Schultz, who is Iowa's secretary of state, voiced similar concerns.

"We need to be doing what we can to help farmers," Schultz said. "But we need to try to reduce the number of food stamps that are in the Farm Bill."

Shaw, meanwhile, said his experience growing up on a farm near Shenandoah gave him the best skill set of the six candidates running for the GOP nomination. The Republican nominated in the June 3rd primary faces Democrat Staci Appel in November.