BOSTON (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her Republican challenger, state Rep. Geoff Diehl, faced off in their final debate Tuesday, challenging each other on everything from the caravans of migrants making their way to the southern U.S. border to the GOP-led tax cut.
Warren tried to tie Diehl to the policies of President Donald Trump, who remains unpopular in Massachusetts, saying he failed to push back against Trump at key moments, including when he launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers.
Warren said Diehl “has Donald Trump’s back” no matter how ugly the rhetoric.
Diehl said Warren has turned her back on Massachusetts by saying she would take a hard look at running for president in 2020 after the November election. Diehl, who co-chaired Trump’s 2016 Massachusetts presidential campaign, said his only goal is to represent the state in the Senate for the next six years.
Diehl called Warren obsessed with Trump, saying “the fact of the matter is I am running for Senate, not Donald Trump.”
Both were asked their reaction to Trump’s announcement that he will send more than 5,000 military troops to the Mexican border to help defend against caravans of Central American migrants who are hundreds of miles away.
Diehl said extra judges and other personnel should be sent to the border to help process the individuals to determine if they are legitimate refugees.
“One of the problems unfortunately with the refugee status is that it’s been abused,” Diehl said. “This caravan obviously is making its way to attempt to illegally cross in. Whether or not the entire group is refugees is hard to determine at this point.”
Warren said the country needs comprehensive immigration reform and blamed Trump for failing to take actions that could diminish the pressure felt by those hoping to gain refugee status.
“This has to do with Donald Trump’s failed foreign policy overall. He has hollowed out the State Department and he has cut aid to Central America,” Warren said. “That means the gangs are more powerful than ever. And so that means more people are fleeing the violence.”
The two were also asked about Trump’s statement that he wants to sign an executive order to put an end to the constitutional right to citizenship for babies born in the United States to non-citizens.
“That’s in the Constitution. The president can’t end it by himself,” Warren said. “He doesn’t get to erase parts of the Constitution he doesn’t like.”
Diehl said the county needs to follow the Constitution, which he said “does not call for providing citizenship to those who are not here as national citizens” and their children.
Warren returned several times during the debate to the issue of the Republican-led tax cut approved in 2017.
Warren said the plan mainly benefited the rich and corporations, and undercut other efforts, including a campaign promise by Trump to push through a plan to put people to work strengthening the nation’s transportation networks.
“Where’s all that money that was promised for infrastructure?” Warren said. “It’s all gone to the billionaires and the giant corporations.”
Diehl pointed to his role in helping lower the tax burden on Massachusetts drivers by pushing a 2014 ballot question that successfully repealed a 2013 state law that would have allowed for automatic annual increases in the state’s gas tax by indexing the tax to the rate of inflation.
Diehl also noted that Massachusetts has been experiencing an economic boom with Trump in the White House.
Warren criticized Diehl, saying he would be beholden to the National Rifle Association, which she said has made it hard to pass what she described as commonsense gun laws.
Diehl, who has been endorsed by the NRA, said law-abiding gun owners aren’t the problem.
When asked, Diehl said he and his wife own a gun. Warren said she and her husband don’t.
Independent candidate Shiva Ayyadurai is also running for Senate. The debate was broadcast live on WCVB and sponsored by a media consortium.
Election Day is Nov. 6. Early voting has begun in locations across the state.