Sasse and Janicek debate COVID, police reform, and healthcare

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 11:35 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - In their first and only debate, incumbent Republican Senator Ben Sasse and Democrat Chris Janicek, a small business owner, faced off on the debate stage in Lincoln. The two candidates fielded several questions on foreign and domestic policies, including some of the most divisive issues in the country right now.

Going head-to-head on the Coronavirus pandemic, and the national response to it, Janicek said he thinks the government dropped the ball. He also took aim at Sen. Sasse for a vote in April on a relief aid bill to help struggling Americans.

“Senator Sasse voted against the relief aid bill because he said an additional $600 a month for only 8 weeks was too generous for over 40 million people who had lost their jobs,” said Janicek.

Janicek, noting the number of American deaths, the unemployment rate, and the economic effects from the virus, said more testing is needed and should be made available. He also said he thinks a federal mask mandate would help curb the spread of the virus.

“This administration has a problem addressing that we have a problem,” he said.

Senator Sasse said the nation’s response to the virus has been inadequate and brought up issues with Janicek’s comments on the legislation he spoke about.

“Mr. Janicek said a whole bunch of things that were inaccurate about the legislation we passed, the COVID relief legislation phase 3.0, a piece of legislation that I did support - there were many pieces inside it that were very foolish and poorly thought out and having some big and bad unintended consequences. But that piece of legislation, which I did support, actually includes a vaccine accelerator fund, which is one piece of what is working in the country right now,” said Sen. Sasse.

Sasse said he doesn’t think a national mask mandate is needed, but that more people should wear their masks indoors to protect friends, neighbors, and family.

On the topic of police reform, Janicek said government money helps police departments with training efforts, and more money should be funneled their way for the safety of people and communities, but allocated differently. He suggested better training and a better screening process for applicants, and also a need for accountability when police officers use an excess of force.

“White people sometimes don’t even get arrested, and black people get shot and murdered and that is a huge problem in this country right now and that’s why I’m all for keeping the funding going so we can address these issues,” said Janicek.

Sasse agreed that more federal dollars should be allocated for training, saying there is too little training for the range of issues police officers have to respond to every day.

“There are not many places I think we need more money, we do need more money on police training – lots of that is a local issue but the federal dollars should flow to help with that,” said Sen. Sasse.

Healthcare was also a heavily-debated topic, with Janicek pointing a finger at Sasse and his colleagues’ failure to pass healthcare reform.

“Senator Sasse has failed to work for the people of Nebraska on healthcare. He’s had time to write books, but hadn’t had time to write healthcare policy for Americans,” fired Janicek.

He went on to detail 3 plans that he’s discussed with his campaign: expand on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare for all option, and a universal single-pay option. He talked about his own experience with healthcare and what effect it had on him.

Sasse said healthcare needs to be much more flexible.

“A move from Nebraska to Iowa, you shouldn’t become uninsured. If you change firms, you shouldn’t become uninsured, and right now the government is way too heavy-handed in its regulation which makes it impossible for people to buy the insurance policies they want and want to keep,” said Sen. Sasse.

Other topics included agriculture, trade with China, and the candidate’s relationships with their respective parties.

Janicek was asked about his relationship with the Nebraska Democratic Party after he lost its support this summer over sexually inappropriate comments he made to a female staffer. Janicek said he doesn’t work for the NDP, he works for Nebraskans. As for the text messages, he says he made a mistake, he’s apologized, there was no intent behind the messages and he’s ready to move forward and focus on policies.

The general election is Nov. 3

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