House candidates differ on Keyline Pipeline

VERMILLION, S.D. – How to approach the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was one area of stark disagreement when South Dakota’s candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives met for a debate televised Thursday by South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

The meeting between incumbent Republican Rep. Kristi Noem and Democrat Corinna Robinson was part of a series of candidate debates sponsored by South Dakota Newspaper Association, AARP South Dakota and SDPB.

Noem said studies have shown that the pipeline, which would be built across areas of West River South Dakota as it delivers crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, would have no significant environmental impact.

With volatility in the Mideast, Noem said, “I think it’s important we get our energy resources from our neighbors.”

Noem noted the creation of jobs along the pipeline and an estimated $9 million in property taxes for West River counties where the pipeline would be located.

Robinson said there is a difference between an “environmental impact” and an “environmental risk” saying that there was a clear likelihood of a significant leak.

“It’s probably just a matter of time,” Robinson said.

As for the property taxes that would be paid to West River counties, Robinson said, “We can get that amount of money elsewhere.”

The House candidates covered a wide range of topics including:

Reform

Noem said the best reforms for Congress would be a balanced budget and more oversight of costly regulations. She said she supported the REINS Act, which mandates that costly regulations must be approved by Congress rather than coming from bureaucratic offices in the federal government.

“We can’t have bureaucrats deciding what happens to our lives in South Dakota unless it comes through Congress first,” Noem said.

“We need to rein in national spending,” said Robinson, as a means of reform. She noted the inability of Congress to work together during the last national government shutdown and the inequity of having members of Congress get paid during the shutdown while other government workers had to do without their paychecks.

Mideast

Robinson said the U.S. is currently taking the right approach in the Mideast by offering help to the nations there without putting boots on the ground. Long-term, this nation should be working to pull together an international effort to stop the terrorist, she said.

Noem said the U.S. lacks a comprehensive strategy. “We need to keep everything on the table when we face a threat like we have currently in ISIL,” Noem said.

Personal characteristics

Noem said the values she learned growing up on a South Dakota farm supply her best characteristics for serving in the nation’s capital.

“I just don’t go to Washington, D.C., and apply book knowledge,” Noem said.

Robinson said the leadership skills she learned in the U.S. Army are what’s missing in Washington.

“Folks in Congress aren’t giving their all to really walk across the aisle and work on those bills that are very complex in nature,” Robinson said.

Health care

Robinson said people she has talked to in South Dakota are pleased with the Affordable Care Act.

“They’re really happy that they’re able to get the care they couldn’t get before,” Robinson said.

Noem said she favors a reform that would allow people to shop for health insurance anywhere in the country rather than just in their own state.

“It creates competition in the insurance industry,” Noem said.

Farm Bill

Noem said the current Farm Bill is “the best Farm Bill we’ve seen in probably 30 years.”

The congresswoman said she sees having an adequate farm bill as a national security issue.

“We don’t want another country to produce our food for us,” Noem said. “The minute they control our food, they control us.”

Robinson noted Noem’s vote for cutting the food stamp program.

“We need to take care of South Dakotans,” Robinson said.

Ebola

Robinson said she’s pleased with government efforts to inform the public and contain the disease. “I think they’re doing a great job,” Robinson said.

Noem said current guidelines don’t go far enough. She would support a ban on travel from certain African nations to the United States.

Jobs

Noem said the federal government would do well to follow South Dakota’s example by keeping taxes low and reining in regulations.

“That’s something we should perpetuate at the federal level,” Noem said.

Robinson said keeping young people in South Dakota is important and one way to do that would be to offer college students more internships in the state.

“When they leave, they don’t come back home,” Robinson said.

American Indian relations

Robinson said Indian reservations need more funding for cultural studies, health care and to help with the struggle against alcohol and drug abuse.

“Congress needs to do a better job of acknowledging what truly matters to Indian Country,” Robinson said.

Noem said she sponsored one bill that created an office of tribal relations in the U.S. Agriculture Department and another that made it clear that the National Labor Relations Board has no power on reservations.

Balanced budget

Noem said during her four years in Washington she has voted for $6.2 trillion in budget cuts.

“I also cut my own personal budget by 20 percent,” Noem said, explaining that she couldn’t expect others to make cuts if she didn’t do so herself.

Robinson said the national deficit threatens the future of the nation’s children.

“It’s shameful that we don’t give our teachers the pay they deserve,” Robinson said. “Education is the key to our success.”

The final debate in the series will feature all four candidates for the U.S. Senate on Thursday, Oct. 23.