Debate: Voting records, MeToo, immigration

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following continues the Herald editorial board's coverage of last week's U.S. Senate debate between Rep. Kevin Cramer and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Throughout the week, the Herald's is publishing the candidates' answers to many of t...

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The following continues the Herald editorial board's coverage of last week's U.S. Senate debate between Rep. Kevin Cramer and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Throughout the week, the Herald's is publishing the candidates' answers to many of the questions posed at the event, held Oct. 18 in Bismarck.

North Dakota's candidates for an open seat in the U.S. Senate clashed on their voting records after being asked about how they would help restore respectful political debate in Washington.

During their debate last week in Bismarck, incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp noted that she is "not 100 percent with anyone other than North Dakota." That prompted her challenger, Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, to respond that "Sen. Heitkamp keeps creating this illusion that somehow she is bipartisan, except on the things that really matter."

Cramer then said President Donald Trump is more in line with North Dakota than Heitkamp, and listed examples of why he believes so.

"I think it's interesting that Congressman Cramer talks about President Trump," she said. "Why not talk about what you have done?"


Q: It's estimated one in four women will become victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes. The MeToo movement has stirred emotional memories for many. Going forward, how can government better balance the presumption of innocence for the accused with a need to assure future victims they will be heard and treated with respect?

CRAMER: Excellent question and a very important balance to find. I'm not sure government is capable of doing it, but we all ought to be part of the solution. This is a cultural issue and I think it deals a lot with our law enforcement, a lot with how we train employers, HR officials to make it more comfortable for women to come forward, particularly as soon as possible after something will have happened, so they feel safe. Because what we don't want to do, in my mind, is create something that actually is counterproductive to the goal of helping women feel comfortable and safe coming forward much sooner. And I don't want to oversimplify it. I am not a woman and I have not been sexually assaulted. I don't know. But I know we can do a lot better job, but it's not just a government problem. What we can't have are these big movements that become political movements that undercut actually the integrity of the goal of helping people feel comfortable coming forward and also that diminishes those one in four, that diminishes the experiences of the one in four.

HEITKAMP: I think it's clear from everything that's happened, beginning with the MeToo movement and now the discussion that we are having about sexual assault, that this is, No. 1., we under report it, we under investigate it, and we under prosecute it. Many women who have contacted my office have told me over and over again that if they did report it, they wished they hadn't, and when they didn't report it they knew it would bother them the rest of their life because they didn't get justice. It is time for us to quit talking across party lines and start working together to develop a world where women feel safe, where children feel safe, where we all can accept and believe that we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior and that we must, must, must stand together against sexual assault and sexual violence.

CRAMER: While making sure that we maintain the due process that is afforded that is guaranteed to people who are accused. This is just one idea, I would like to see a lot more female police officers. I think we need to have first responders, for example, we need to have people on the street as well as in our schools as well as in the workplace that have an inviting demeanor about all of this. We need to make it more comfortable for the one in four to come forward.

Q: As a senator, how will you help to restore respectful political debate?

HEITKAMP: I think in many ways, I already have. I ran six years ago and said I'm not joining any team. I'm not 100 percent with anyone other than North Dakota. And I have been able to work across party lines and achieve some pretty extraordinary things, whether it is lifting the oil ban, 40-year oil ban on oil exports, whether it is 45Q, which Congressman Cramer undermines but it is an absolute centerpiece of what we need to do with carbon capture, or whether it is in regulatory relief. You don't do that by just being with one team. You don't do that by speaking in sound bytes and in political kind of talk. You do it by sitting down and listening and understanding. So I think that the future has to be with people who are moderate; people who aren't going, like Congressman Cramer, 100 percent of the time with one party, and people who are willing to listen to both sides of the argument and fashion a solution.

CRAMER: You know, Sen. Heitkamp keeps creating this illusion that somehow she is bipartisan, except on the things that really matter. She was with Barack Obama nearly 90 percent of the time and then she is proud of the fact that she has been with President Trump about half of the time, maybe as much as 54 percent of the time. The problem is you can be on both teams and you maybe feel good about it. But when one team is so much better for North Dakota than the other team, you don't abandon that good team half the time just to say you're only with them half the time. Donald Trump stands with North Dakota more often than Heidi Heitkamp stands with North Dakota. He supported tax cuts, he supported replacement of Obamacare, he supports cutting sanctuary city funding, he supports a strong military, he supports a strong veteran, he supports rollback of regulations, he supports the REINS Act. He is on the right side of North Dakota. That's what matters. It's not how often you're with this team or this team or how often you are with both teams. The only thing that matters is how often are you with the people of North Dakota? That's my standard-not what color the other team wears.

HEITKAMP: I think it's interesting that Congressman Cramer talks about President Trump. Why not talk about what you have done? Why not talk about your accomplishments? Why not talk about your bipartisan credibility. Because when you look at rankings, no matter what he says, I am 50th most conservative and 49th most liberal. And political thought right now is like a dumbbell, there is hard right and hard left. Congressman Cramer is going to be on the hard right. There is connective tissue in between that stops gridlock and that's the moderates, like me, who try and get things done and do get things done.


Q: Do you support President Trump's proposal for a border wall with Mexico? What changes to the country's immigration system would you support?

CRAMER: Wow, can we extend these to like five-minute answers? I suspect Heidi and I both can go a long time on this. I do support the border wall along with the bill I just cosponsored this week that includes entire border security. When we see the caravan that's coming from Central America, as we speak, it's all the more important. That needs to include the wall where appropriate, which is a good part of the area; appropriate UAVs; manned aerial aircraft; vessels; National Guard; more processing at the border. We have a lot to do on the legal side as well. We aren't treating our legal immigrants properly, especially those that are providing the type of jobs and skills and training that we need to grow our economy. This is a complex issue, but yes, I support the wall.

HEITKAMP: Sen. Hoeven and I both worked very hard to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It passed with an overwhelming majority in the Senate, the House refused to take it up. This problem could have been solved in 2013, so we missed that opportunity. I look at border security as a law enforcement issue, and I will tell you I will never, ever allow a serious offender to be released from a local jail without ICE being called and without ICE being able to apprehend that individual. If they committed a serious crime, they need to go to jail and they need to be deported. My record is clear on border security. I have spent a tremendous amount of time on the southern border. I have the support of the Border Patrol agents, I have the support of the border sheriffs, I have the support of the border ranchers and I was instrumental in getting a northern border strategy adopted by the Department of Homeland Security. All of that is about law enforcement. As your former attorney general, I understand this. I understand how critical cross-jurisdiction enforcement is. We need to do everything we can to secure that border. And I'll tell you right now: It's not secure because I have been there, I have seen it, and I have worked with the people of Border Patrol to try to fix it.

CRAMER: But you supported amnesty for 11 million people who are here illegally. You say that we need ICE to take care of the criminals. Being here illegally is against the law, that's why they call it illegal. They have already broken the law by coming here illegally. Sanctuary cities harbor illegal people, people who are here illegally breaking the law. You support sanctuary cities. You can't have it both ways. And by the way, I think it's important for people to understand that nearly half the people who are here illegally didn't cross the southern border. They overstayed a visa. We have lots of issues that, and certainly borders are a big one, but we have many issues that complicate it beyond that.

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