The two leading candidates for the Republican nomination for President elevated a battle over each other’s past records on taxes and spending in Tuesday afternoon’s televised debate.
MSNBC’s moderator Chris Matthews asked former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to describe their differences on taxes and spending at the debate held in Dearborn, Michigan.
“I brought down taxes by 17 percent, under him [Romney] they went up 7 percent,” Giuliani said.
Romney called that accusation “baloney.”
“If you live in New York City, your state and city combined [taxes] could reach as high as 10 percent,” Romney shot back. “In Boston, it’s more like 5.3 percent.”
Romney charged that Giuliani “fought to keep” a $400 million commuter tax on those who traveled to New York City to work.
“I cut taxes by over $9 billion dollars. I couldn’t cut every tax… but I cut every tax I possibly could under that period of time,” Giuliani responded.
After several exchanges, Romney conceded both have worked to cut spending and brought up another point of contention. “The Club for Growth looked at my spending and said it grew 2.2 percent and said yours grew 2.8 percent,” Romney said. “The place we differ is the line-item veto.”
Romney has often bragged on the campaign trail that he used line-item veto power as Governor of Massachusetts 844 times and that he wouldn’t hesitate to similarly use that power as President.
“I believe in the line-item veto” Romney said.
Giuliani on the other hand, described his fight as New York City Mayor to defeat the line-item veto, which was passed by Congress with an overwhelming majority in 1996. The Mayor worked to defeat the line-item veto in 1997 when President Clinton sought to use it to deny $200 million in federal Medicaid money for 89 New York City hospitals
Giuliani successfully challenged the line-item veto’s constitutionality in a case taken to the Supreme Court. The resulting 6-to-3 ruling against the line-item veto stated it was of “profound importance” to the separation of powers instilled by the Constitution that the President not be allowed to cherry-pick spending items in bills passed by Congress for elimination.
“It’s unconstitutional,” Giuliani said, referring to the Supreme Court’s 1998 decision. “What the heck can you do about that if you are a strict constructionist?”
He lauded his accomplishment. “I took the line-item to the Supreme Court and beat Bill Clinton, and it’s a good thing to have beaten a Clinton!” Giuliani said.
The battle between Romney and Giuliani over both spending, taxes and the line-item veto had been made between their campaigns in the media, but this was their first public confrontation over these issues.
Before the debate had ended both the Giuliani and Romney campaigns sent fact sheets to members of the media attacking each other.
The hit-sheet from Romney's camp was titled "Big City Spender" and reiterated points Romney made in the debate. It said "FACT: President Bill Clinton Used the Line-Item Veto to Cut Spending."
The Giuliani campaign's email contained a subject line that read: "Don't Take Our Word for It...Ted Olson on the Clinton Line-Item Veto." It attributed a quotation from the former solicitor general that said, "The line-item veto is unconstitutional, and I'm a strict constructionist. The line-item veto--if we want, it has to be done by constitutional amendment."