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Checking the claims and counter-claims in U.S. Senate debate

The charges and countercharges started early in Wednesday’s U.S. Senate debate between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Here’s a look at some:

Tillis claim: Hagan voted with President Barack Obama 96 percent of the time.

Fact: The number is based on a Congressional Quarterly analysis of votes on which the White House expressed a preference. The 96 percent is an average over five years, 2009 through 2013.

In 2013, the most recent year analyzed, Hagan voted in line with Obama’s preference 96 percent of the time.

She was not alone among Democrats in the closely divided Senate. A check of CQ’s report on voting by all senators in 2013 shows that every Democratic senator, as well as independents Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, voted yes on bills the president favored at least 90 percent of the time in 2013.

Hagan claim: Tillis “defunded” Planned Parenthood.

Fact: The 2011 state budget prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving state money. A federal judge later disallowed the provision.

U.S. District Judge James Beaty Jr. said lawmakers had made clear that the denial of funds was intended as political punishment for the organization.

Tillis: Kay Hagan has not authored a bill in six years that has gone to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Fact: True, but Hagan was the primary sponsor of some bills that became part of other legislation, as typically happens in the U.S. Senate. For example, her “AMERICA Works Act,” which requires that priority be given to training that produces nationally recognized credentials, became part of the federal legislation to streamline job training that Congress passed. Also, Hagan introduced the TREAT Act, which speeds up FDA approval for drugs that treat unmet medical needs. It became part of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, which became law.

Hagan claim: Five hundred thousand North Carolinians were denied coverage when the General Assembly declined to extend Medicaid coverage.

Fact: North Carolina is among 23 states that chose not to extend Medicaid, the health program for the poor.

At least 575,000 low-income adults in the Carolinas earn too little to get subsidies and don’t qualify for Medicaid. Some estimates run as high as 689,000 in North Carolina alone, many working in such low-wage jobs as home health aides, waitresses, bus drivers and construction workers.

Tillis claim: Obama is taking away $700 billion from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act.

Fact: The Congressional Budget Office estimated $716 billion in savings from Medicare from 2013-2022. The goal is to increase efficiency and quality of care.

From Politifact, a nonpartisan fact-checking project: “Obamacare does not literally cut funding from the Medicare budget, but tries to bring down future health care costs in the program. Much of this is accomplished by reducing Medicare Advantage, a small subset of Medicare plans that are run by private insurers.”

Hagan claim: The 7 percent raise Tillis talks about was a 0.3 percent raise for some teachers.

Fact: Seven percent was the average raise given teachers this year. For more experienced teachers, longevity pay was folded into the raise. And raises are skewed to newer teachers, with some getting a much higher raise.

A teacher with 30 years’ experience, however, would get a 0.29 percent increase.

Tillis claim: Obama “has failed to address the immigration problem” and failed to strengthen border security.

Fact: The comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed 68-32 in June 2013 doubled the number of Border Patrol agents from 20,000 to 40,000 and added 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

It also created a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who met certain requirements. Hagan voted for it, as did 14 Senate Republicans. But Republicans in the House of Representatives rejected it. The House never took up the broad immigration package that the Senate passed.

Hagan claim: “I am the most moderate senator in the nation.”

Fact: In February, the National Journal did rank her as the Senate’s “most moderate” member. The Journal ranked members by analyzing 117 votes in 2013.

In 2012 and 2011, Hagan ranked 32nd most liberal.

Critics argue that the rankings are subjective, determined by the votes the Journal chooses to analyze.

Staff writer Ann Doss Helms contributed.

rschoof@mcclatchydc.com jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com
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