Fitzpatrick and Murphy hold last of their debates in Pennsylvania's Eighth House District

Mike Fitzpatrick , the GOP candidate.
Mike Fitzpatrick , the GOP candidate.
Posted: October 22, 2010

Both would deport every undocumented immigrant.

Both sounded varying refrains of "drill, baby, drill."

And each accused the other of putting foreign jobs ahead of American workers.

As the campaign for Pennsylvania's Eighth District congressional seat nears its end, Democratic incumbent Patrick Murphy and Republican challenger Mike Fitzpatrick held the last of five scheduled debates Thursday.

The encounter, at the Lower Bucks campus of Bucks County Community College, came amid signs of a narrowing race. An independent poll last month had Fitzpatrick with a 14-point lead; more recent polls suggest a toss-up.

Murphy hammered Fitzpatrick for wanting to repeal the health-care overhaul, continue tax cuts for the rich, and implement a Republican "Pledge to America" that would cut education funding.

Murphy also criticized the former congressman, whom he unseated in 2006, for supporting the war in Iraq, voting for a trade agreement that he said cost domestic jobs, and raising property taxes in seven of the 10 years Fitzpatrick served as a Bucks County commissioner.

Fitzpatrick slammed Murphy for backing bailouts of the banking and auto industries; for a health-care bill that he deemed costly and misguided; and for four years of rising unemployment and deepening federal budget deficits on his watch.

"The choices couldn't be more clear," Fitzpatrick said. Murphy "supports a federal government that spends more and taxes more, and inhibits the job-creators."

Fitzpatrick said he would extend all income-tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration that are set to expire in January. Doing so, he said, would encourage entrepreneurs to create jobs, bringing in more federal payroll-tax revenue.

Murphy said he wouldn't extend the cuts to households earning more than $250,000 annually, saying doing so would cost $700 billion over 10 years.

"My opponent, I refer to him as the tax-cut fairy," Murphy said. "It'd be great just to give tax cuts to everybody, and ship another $700 billion off to China."

Fitzpatrick said he would vote to repeal the health-care legislation because he thinks it will be costly, won't keep premiums from rising, and does not guarantee that people can stay with their current insurance plans. He favors incremental bills requiring coverage of preexisting conditions, allowing students to stay on their parents' plans until age 26, and limiting medical lawsuits.

Murphy defended the law as a good, if imperfect, bill that he was proud to support. Fitzpatrick's Republicans, he said, had gone years without acting on health care.

"When he had the chance to lead, he did nothing," Murphy said. "We addressed it."

Fitzpatrick's best zinger came after Murphy had chided him for raising county taxes and accused him of not supporting public education.

Fitzpatrick noted that one of those increases had been a voter-approved measure to expand the county community college - and that it had led to the campus they were on.

"It's ironic, because he, as a Philadelphia resident, came to the Bucks County Community College to be educated," Fitzpatrick said of Murphy, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and attended the college.

Both agreed that borders should be tightened to reduce illegal immigration. When pressed to say what should happen to the millions of undocumented immigrants already here, both men said they should be deported, regardless of whether they have children who are citizens.

Both also supported offshore oil drilling and drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, as well as promoting nuclear, wind, and other energy sources. Murphy stressed that shale "frackers" should first be required to disclose the pollutants they use in fracturing rock and their effects on the environment.

Murphy continued his attack on Fitzpatrick's 2005 Central American free-trade bill vote. "I find it hard to believe that former Congressman Fitzpatrick is complaining about the unemployment rate when he is responsible for outsourcing good American jobs here in Bucks County."

Fitzpatrick said that the bank bailout had led to loans to foreign firms and that most cars bought in the cash-for-clunkers stimulus program had been foreign-made.

"It's just a little rich to hear you complain," he said.


Contact staff writer Larry King at 215-345-0446 or lking@phillynews.com.

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