NBC Montana brings you a special fact checker that digs into Monday night's debate between two Montana candidates for U.S. senator.
Jon Tester and Denny Rehberg faced off in Billings Monday for the first televised U.S. Senate debate.
Neither incumbent Tester nor challenger Rehberg backed down. Each had sharp words for the other. Lobbyists, Medicare and the stimulus bill were just three of several topics covered in the debate.
“You're the number one recipient of money from lobbyists,” Rehberg said.
“For a guy that's taking tens of millions of dollars of secret money outside,” said Tester.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics Tester tops the list of current senate candidates when it comes to contributions from registered lobbyists this election cycle.
The Center for Responsive Politics also reports that in his career Rehberg has received more than $10 million from special interest groups, though it can be argued whether these campaign dollars are secret.
“You don't begin by taking $716 billion dollars out of Medicare,” Rehberg said.
“When you cut excessive payments to insurance companies and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse,” said Tester.
According to the nonpartisan political site FactCheck.org that figure, $716 billion, reflects a 10-year target for slowing Medicare spending. The money isn't being taken away from Medicare. Instead, Medicare would spend it, but over a longer period of time. And many of the cuts do come from eliminating subsidies to private insurers.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – Stimulus Bill
“It didn't create the jobs, it wasn’t timely, it wasn’t targeted, it wasn’t temporary,” said Rehberg. “It didn't stimulate the economy the way it was intended to.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill, aimed to create 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 and have the unemployment rate fall below 6 percent in 2012.
According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office as many as 3.3 million jobs were created from the act.
Last month the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate decreased to 7.8 percent, which is still above the predicted 6 percent.
“It gave $500 million in tax relief for working families and small business,” said Tester. “That's for the state of Montana.”
Tester's statement comes from an estimation the Montana Legislature put out regarding the stimulus. The Montana Department of Revenue estimated that tax relief provisions would total more than $575 million between 2009 and 2011.
The next debate is scheduled for Sunday, October 14 at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell.