Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of the Republican presidential hopefuls, said there are chunks of the federal government that should be passed on to the states as a way to reduce the federal budget and restore accountability.
“I think a big part of reform is taking major portions of the federal government, being it Medicaid, transportation, education, natural resources and others and take them from Washington and send them back to the states,” he said at the Voters First Forum in New Hampshire with 13 other Republican presidential candidates.
“Governors of both parties are much better in being more effective and more efficient and more accountable in managing those programs,” he added.
Pointing to his record as governor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said cutting taxes and balancing the budget drives economic growth.
“We need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution,” he said. “I spent 10 years of my life balancing the budget, not because of numbers, but because of values – when people have to balance their budgets, so should the government. In addition to that, we don’t have the right to live high on the hog and put the bills on our children – that is immoral.”
Kasich addressed the issue of immigration reform, saying there should be an expanded guest worker program so immigrants can legally move in and out of the U.S. and support their families.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry touted his state’s effort to secure the border. Perry said there was a 74 percent decrease in apprehensions at the Texas-Mexico border during his time as governor.
“Last summer I looked the president in the eye when he came to Dallas, Texas, and said, ‘Mr. President, if you don’t secure the border, Texas will’ and that’s exactly what we did,” he said.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said the federal government has known the border is not secure for 30 years but the issue is not resolved.
“We talk a lot at election time but somehow we never solve these festering problems. It’s because the status quo is in charge. Leaders challenge the status quo,” she said.
Fiorina took Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton head on, saying she lied about the terrorist attack in Benghazi as well as her private emails.
“She went to the American people and talked some fiction about a video tape. She stood over the bodies of the fallen,” Fiorina said. “She has as well lied about her servers and the kinds of information she had on her server…these go to the core of her character.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said he does not think the Obama administration is serious about border security. He called for a 20 percent reduction in the unskilled workers coming into the U.S.
“Wages for those workers I have been talking about have been flat-lined for 20 years,” he said. “We’ve never seen such decrepit wage growth, and who are the 90 percent of people coming in legally and illegally? Almost all unskilled workers to compete against our hardworking men and women who want a chance to succeed and we’re not giving it to them.”
Santorum also said he plans to make American manufacturing more competitive.
“We’re going to put out a flat tax that will have a transition period for manufacturing, we will start out at a zero rate – we’ll go back to everybody else’s rate,” he said. “I have an income tax, a corporate tax, all 20 percent.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said fixing the nation’s immigration system is not going to happen in one piece of legislation.
“We have to prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control. It’s not good enough to just say we’re going to pass a law to bring it under control. People want to see it,” he said.
Rubio called for the U.S. to “modernize” its legal immigration system.
“In the 21st century, legal immigration must be based on merit – on what you can contribute economically,” he said.
After the system is reformed, Rubio said there is a “reasonable” way to deal with the illegal immigrants living in the U.S.
“They will have to pass a background check, they will have to pay a fine, they will have to start paying taxes, they will have to learn English and in exchange for that they will get a work permit that allows them to legally work in the United States and travel and that is all they will have for an extended period of time,” he said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was asked if Republicans would be able to win the presidential election while telling the truth about reforming entitlement programs.
“You have to have a concrete plan. You can’t just speak in generalities to folks – 71 percent of federal spending right now is between entitlements and debt service. When the American people hear that they understand what we are doing is mortgaging away not only our children’s future but killing those programs,” he said. “We need to increase the retirement age over a period of time. I’ve said two years over the next 25 years.”
Christie said politicians are failing the American people by not telling them the truth about the need to reform Social Security and Medicare for future generations.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was also asked what he would implement as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Carson said Obamacare has to be replaced before it is fully repealed.
“You don’t want to pull the safety net out from underneath people,” he said.
Carson said he would replace Obamacare with something that puts power back in the hands of consumers and healthcare providers.
“Health savings accounts – available from the day you are born until the day you die, you can pass it on when you die – we pay for it with the same dollars we use for traditional healthcare and give people flexibility, the ability to actually move money within their family,” he said.
Carson also said tax dollars should not fund Planned Parenthood.
“These recent videos show the atrocity of that and the level of depravity we have sunk into as a nation and we simply have to stop it,” he said.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki and Fiorina agreed.
“The videos just point out quite clearly that Planned Parenthood has a horrific disregard for basic human life and I think they should be defunded and the funds reprogrammed for other woman’s healthcare services,” Pataki said.
“This is about the moral character of our nation. It’s not about whether you are pro-choice or pro-life,” Fiorina said.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the U.S. needs a strategy to defeat ISIS.
“We need Special Forces; the idea of boots on the ground, I’m not sure that’s necessary,” he said.
Bush said the U.S. needs to a do a better job training the Free Syrian Army.
“We’ve spent a half a billion dollars to have 60 people ready to go. This is absurd. If this a serious effort then we need to treat it seriously,” he said.
As president, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would push back against China for stealing intellectual property and manipulating their currency.
“Here is my foreign policy and trade policy: a clenched fist and an open hand, you choose,” he said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the choice in the upcoming election is simple.
“Do you measure prosperity in the government sector or the real world? Hillary Clinton measures it in the government sector. We measure it in the real world,” he said.
Jindal argued Republicans in Congress should focus on reducing the federal budget, rather than simply slowing the growth of federal spending.
“We’ve got a bunch of math deniers in D.C. in both parties. We do need to shrink the size of the federal government,” he said.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz criticized the Iran nuclear deal for giving more than $100 billion to Iran, which Cruz called the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
“That money in turn, billions of it, will go on to Hamas, Hezbollah to the Houthis,” he said.
Asked about college affordability, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he would allow individuals to deduct the interest and principle of their student loans as a working expense throughout their entire working career.
“There’s no free lunch. You can’t just offer free education but I think tying it to work and making it deductible is a good idea,” he said.