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Democratic congressional candidate Kathleen Rice is again trying to get GOP opponent Bruce Blakeman to stake out a position on a divisive issue – this time, the most-recent House Republican budget and its potential impact on college students.
For the third time in as many weeks, Rice, the Nassau district attorney who is seeking to succeed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) in the 4th District, held a news conference at her campaign’s field office in Garden City. She had previously challenged Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, on women’s reproductive rights and the federal minimum wage – after Blakeman held successive events to challenge Rice to speak out about her time serving on a shuttered state anti-corruption commission.
On Monday, Rice highlighted the 2015 budget proposal by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman and former vice presidential candidate. The budget, which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has said will be its “centerpiece” issue in competitive races, seeks to bring federal spending into balance by cutting $5 trillion over 10 years.
While the budget’s impact on Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps are often the most debated components, Rice focused on its plan to have college students begin paying interest on their loans while still in school – which reports say would bring in $40 billion in revenues.
She connected that proposal with the budget’s continuation of some tax subsidies to major oil companies, which would equal about $45 billion over 10 years, according to various reports.
Of college students, Rice said: “this budget would have them pay to pad the pockets of oil executives.”
Rice spoke while surrounded by several students at local schools who said they had loans ranging from $60,000 to $80,000. She said she would support reducing the cap on college loan interest rates and expand tax breaks for parents who help pay for their child’s education.
“Is he going to just toe the Republican line,” Rice said of Blakeman, “or is he going to be what this district needs: a politically independent, thoughtful, constituent-based advocate?”
Blakeman spokesman Matt Coleman said Monday that Blakeman wasn’t immediately available for comment because he was traveling to Israel. On his website, Blakeman expresses support for Ryan’s goal of cutting $5 trillion in federal spending, but does not address the specific components noted by Rice.
Rice’s series of challenges to Blakeman comes after Blakeman held a series of news conferences to challenge Rice on the topic of her service on a shuttered state anti-corruption panel. Rice was a co-chair of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Moreland Commission on public corruption, which Cuomo shut down in March, two months after Rice resigned to run for congress.
The U.S. attorney is investigating Cuomo’s disbanding of the commission. The New York Times has reported that Cuomo’s office “deeply compromised” the panel’s work by interfering when it focused on entities close to the governor.
Blakeman has demanded that Rice release her correspondence related to the commission and answer specific questions about her time as co-chair, but Rice has declined, citing her desire to “preserve the integrity” of the federal investigation, which she is assisting.