TX-Sen: Second debate highlights stark differences between incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke

TX-Sen: Second debate highlights stark differences between incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Ted Cruz went toe-to-toe in their second and likely final debate before the Nov. 6 elections. (Tom Reel/Pool/Getty Images)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep Beto O’Rourke went toe-to-toe in their second and possibly final debate showdown Tuesday night at the KENS-TV studios in San Antonio.

In the contentious debate, O’Rourke’s tone was noticeably changed and more aggressive than it was during the first debate in Dallas last month.

Where do they stand on Texas energy?

Cruz called out O’Rourke for voting to approve a $10-a-barrel tax on oil, which the senator said would be devastating to the Texas economy and taxpayers’ wallets.

“O’Rourke voted in favor of a $10-a-barrel tax on every barrel of oil produced in the state of Texas that would have been absolutely devastating to the state of Texas,” Cruz said. “By the way, $10 a barrel works out to about 24 cents a gallon that every one of us would pay when you go fill up your car or truck.”

“This is what you can expect over the course of the debate,” O’Rourke responded. “Sen. Cruz isn’t going to be honest with you. He’s gonna make up positions and votes that I’ve never held or I’ve ever taken. He’s dishonest. That’s why the president called him ‘lyin’ Ted’ and it’s why the nickname stuck, because it’s true.”

Cruz dismissed O’Rourke’s insults.

“It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack, so if he wants to insult me and call me a liar, that’s fine,” Cruz fired back.

Fact check: In 2016, O’Rourke voted in favor of a $10-a-barrel oil tax during the Obama administration but the bill never became law, according to The Associated Press.

What about universal health care?

Cruz has repeatedly called O’Rourke too radical for Texas and used the cost of universal health care as an example.

The moderators asked O’Rourke, who supports universal health care, to explain how much would taxes be raised and what would be cut from the federal budget to pay for it.

Sidestepping the question, he started by saying he wants everyone to have the insurance coverage so they can live to their full potential.

O’Rourke went on to say that he favored any number of possible methods to achieve universal health care, including a possible “medicare for all” plan, or in the alternative, a mix of employer-provided coverage, and privately purchased Medicare coverage.

O’Rourke said the price tag for the private Medicare purchase hybrid plan “could come at a cost of around $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years if you look at the tax cut Cruz just voted for.”

He would also support raising corporate taxes by 5 percent to help pay for the additional cost in federal spending for health care coverage.

“He really didn’t want to answer the question about who would pay for it. So, let me be clear, about what it would cost,” Cruz responded.

“The cost would be immense. O’Rourke supports Bernie Sanders’s plan of socialized medicine,” Cruz said. “The Urban Institute, a left-leaning institute scored it as costing 32 trillion dollars over 10 years.

“That’s $32 trillion over 10 years. That’s $2.5 trillion in the first year,” he continued. “Right now the total we raise from all income taxes is $1.5 trillion. So, Congressman O’Rourke’s plan would require tripling your taxes.”

The senator also pointed to other countries who have socialized medicine and how patients who need hip surgery or other treatments end up on long waiting lists.

“All you hear from Sen. Cruz is what we should be afraid of,” O’Rourke said, who then took a jab at Cruz for previously shutting down the government, “perhaps because too many people had health care.”

Under the Medicare for all plan, which would cover everyone not just seniors over 65, the government would pay all medical bills.

Fact check: An independent study concerning the price tag of O’Rourke’s hybrid employer paid/Medicare purchase plan was not readily available at press time. However, O’Rourke did mention that he would support “Medicare for all” as one possible method of achieving universal coverage. According to multiple studies, Cruz’s estimate that Medicare for all would come at a cost of about $32 trillion in federal spending is true.

“No matter how a single-payer system is structured, it would increase government spending dramatically, according to a study published by the Urban Institute, which Cruz cited. “The Urban Institute estimated that the single-payer plan Sanders proposed in 2016 would have cost an additional $32 trillion in federal spending over 10 years.”

Another study by Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia also estimated that over a 10-year period from 2022 to 2031, the plan would increase federal spending by more than $32 trillion, depending on a number of assumptions.

What did they say about taxes?

O’Rourke wants to raise taxes as a way to reduce the deficit.

Cruz slammed the Democrat’s stance arguing that the GOP tax cuts last year didn’t cause the deficit. The senator blamed the Obama administration’s “out-of-control spending” spending for increasing the deficit. He wants Congress to pass term limits and a balanced budget amendment.

O’Rourke took a stance that GOP tax cuts “disproportionately” benefited large corporations.

Fact check: Both senators missed the mark at points during this exchange. The tax cuts themselves did not cause the growing deficit. In fact, tax revenue actually increased by 0.4 percent in 2018 because of the growth in the economy and consumer spending. However, they fell as a share of the economy from 17.2 percent in 2017 to 16.5 percent in 2018, which is nearly a 40-year low.

However, the Obama administration is not fully to blame for the increased spending. The Trump administration increased federal spending by 3 percent, which offset the gains from the increased tax revenue.

Overall, the budget deficit hit a peak at $1.4 trillion in 2009. The budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 was $779 billion, which was the highest level since 2012.

And although the wealthy — who pay more taxes — received more benefits from the tax cuts in terms of gross dollars, an independent analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center showed that the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans paid 87 percent of all federal taxes in 2018, an increase from 84 percent in 2017.

What did they say about immigration reform and the border wall?

Immigration is one of the biggest issues for Texans, according to a CNN poll released on Tuesday, and the two candidates couldn’t be further apart on how to address the problem.

O’Rourke is adamantly opposed to building Trump’s border wall.

He has claimed that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the U.S., which is partly true. The city does have a crime rate that’s lower than the national average, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The El Paso congressman attributed the city’s safety to strong law enforcement and the immigrants who live there.

“We are a city of immigrants. A quarter of those I represent were born in a country, another country, chose us, came here to this country and by there very presence made it better,” he said. “No wall is going to solve legitimate security concerns.”

Cruz has helped lead the fight to build the wall and strengthen security at the Texas-Mexico border.

The senator noted that El Paso is just across the border from Juarez, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, which is among the reasons why he supports the wall.

“Let me give you an example of how extreme Congressman O’Rourke is on immigration,” Cruz said.

“O’Rourke has voted against Kate’s law. That’s wrong,” Cruz continued, noting that he co-authored the bill.

“Kate’s Law” is a bill named for Kathryn Steinle, who was killed in 2015 by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. Under the bill, which passed in the House in June 2017, an illegal immigrant convicted of a previous crime and tries to re-enter the U.S. would face up to 25 years in prison. The bill has not been taken up by the Senate.

“Let me say there’s no race in this country where there is a starker divide on immigration,” Cruz added.

What else?

O’Rourke has accepted an offer from CNN to participate in a town hall Thursday in McAllen.

Cruz initially declined CNN’s offer to appear in separate segments at the event but has since asked to turn it into another debate. It’s not clear whether or not it will happen.

Also, Trump is scheduled to travel to Texas on Monday where he will campaign for Cruz at NRG Arena in Houston.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 elections begins on Monday.