For the second — and possibly final — time before election day, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, sparred in a televised debate highlighting their key domestic and foreign policy differences. Both contenders, vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate, discussed issues such as abortion and the government response to Hurricane Harvey.
The debate was jointly moderated by KENS-5 anchor Sarah Forgany and WFAA senior reporter Jason Whitely, and was broadcast from the KENS studio in San Antonio.
In Forgany’s first question to Cruz, she asked if the country should expect changes to abortion law after the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Cruz said he opposed abortion but did not say whether he thought the Court would act to repeal Roe v. Wade.
“I believe that every human life is a gift from God,” Cruz said. “I’m pro-life … (as for) the question on Roe v. Wade, we’ll have to see when cases are decided.”
In an early contentious moment of the debate, Cruz said O’Rourke supported a $10 per barrel oil tax, which the El Paso congressman disputed, calling Cruz dishonest.
“Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you,” O’Rourke said. “That’s why the President called him ‘Lyin’ Ted,’ and it's why the nickname stuck."
On immigration, O’Rourke reiterated his opposition to a border wall, calling the idea ineffective.
“El Paso is one of the safest communities in Texas because of immigrants,” O’Rourke said. “No wall is going to solve security concerns.”
Cruz denounced O’Rourke’s support for a single-payer healthcare system, calling it “socialized medicine.”
“Every place that happens you get rationing and waiting games,” Cruz said, citing long waits for medical procedures in the United Kingdom.
O’Rourke said he supported a variety of roads to universal health coverage, including Medicare-for-All and a public option that would allow people to buy into Medicare.
When asked about the government response to Hurricane Harvey, Cruz called out O’Rourke for his vote against an “emergency” disaster relief bill that he coauthored with fellow Sen. John Cornyn.
“He said it didn’t provide enough tax relief – that’s not what he said at the time, he voted no,” Cruz said. “The reason he voted no is he said he wanted to focus on illegal immigrants rather than hurricane relief.”
O’Rourke said he didn’t regret his vote because he was unsure if the money would make its way to the places where it was needed.
Saurabh Sharma, the chairman of UT’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, and Andrew Herrera, the president of University Democrats, both followed the debate.
Biochemistry senior Sharma said Cruz did a good job making the case for himself over his opponent.
“Senator Cruz is doing an excellent job drawing a bright line distinction between himself and Congressman O’Rourke’s far-left policies,” Sharma said. “He did an especially good job highlighting differences on energy policy, tax policy and healthcare policy, showing how O’Rourke’s policies would raise costs and taxes for each and every Texas voter.”
Government junior Herrera said he welcomed O’Rourke’s criticisms of Cruz’s policy record.
“He is hitting Ted Cruz exactly where he needs to,” Herrera said. “It’s obvious that Cruz holds positions on immigration, healthcare and free speech that are not only out-of-step with Texans, but that are harsh, and cruel, and representative of the wrong direction for this state and country.”
Another debate, of three planned, was going to be held at the University of Houston on Sept. 28, but fell through because Cruz said he needed to be in Washington to deal with Kavanaugh’s confirmation. There are currently no plans to reschedule.