If the 6th Congressional District elects Karen Handel on June 20, she will vote for the Taylor Force Act, cutting off U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying terrorists and their families, the Republican said Sunday, May 21.
Speaking at the monthly breakfast meeting of Jewish War Veterans Post 112 at Berman Commons in Dunwoody, Handel criticized U.S. aid to the PA. The United States provided $357 million in direct economic aid in 2016.
Her opponent in the runoff to replace Tom Price, Democrat Jon Ossoff, agreed that “it’s unacceptable for U.S. aid to flow to anyone responsible for the deaths of Israelis,” but he said he needs to study the legislation before deciding whether to support it.
Such nuanced differences were common during the candidates’ separate appearances before Post 112 as they spoke about national security, veterans’ issues and fiscal matters, then answered written questions from attendees.
Robert Max, the post commander, agreed to provide a forum only if both candidates spoke and provided veterans and seniors necessary information to be informed voters.
“It’s the most visible campaign in the nation right now,” Max said. “I thought Karen referring to her work in Georgia was very impressive; she has a great track record. His mastery of defense issues impressed me. It was very important they stuck to the questions of defense and veterans’ affairs.”
The candidates disagreed when asked about reports that President Donald Trump breached the highest levels of security secrecy recently when boasting to the Russian foreign minister about intelligence on Islamic State. Most media reports have suggested that Israel was the source of the intelligence, although others have pointed to Jordan.
No one knows what happened during Trump’s meeting with Russians, Handel said, calling reports of a Trump intelligence leak “a potentially gross assumption on the part of the press.”
“I’m going to let the process work. We have investigations under way with a special counsel with the FBI and the House and Senate,” Handel said. “All of us have a responsibility to let the process play out and let the facts take us where the facts take us.”
Ossoff said the possible intelligence breach should be handled in a closed congressional session, possibly including the director of national intelligence and the heads of the CIA and the National Security Agency, because of the risk of revealing intelligence-gathering sources and methods in an open session.
“Every official in the U.S. government has an obligation to protect the confidentiality of sources and methods in respect to intelligence gathering. When the confidentiality of sources and methods is breached, it puts human sources at risk. It puts classified intelligence-sharing relationships at risk. It puts the secrecy of technical means of intelligence collection at risk — for example, signals intelligence,” Ossoff said.
He said the United States must maintain its commitment to ensure that Israel has “military capabilities and a qualitative military edge to sustain armed conflict against terrorist groups and multiple hostile states.”
Annual U.S. military aid to Israel is increasing from $3.1 billion to $3.8 billion in 2019 under a memorandum of understanding signed by the Obama administration.
Ossoff looked farther east to the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
“We need to make China accountable for bringing North Korea back to the table,” he said, stressing the danger of Congress’ “cavalier attitude” toward foreign policy in Asia.
“We have to have the military force available in the region to deter North Korea from attacking our allies,” Ossoff said. “But we also have to be cautious and responsible in the conduct of foreign policy in this area. I think something that policymakers lose sight of is there are millions of lives a stake. We’re talking about real human consequences; it’s not a game.”
He and Handel said they are committed to improving the process for veterans to receive health care.
Veterans can wait four to six months to receive a response to their health care issues from Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals. Ossoff would like to restructure VA health care to reduce the response time to 12 hours.
Handel said she is determined to remove the red tape blocking veterans from proper health care, so she has asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to assign her to the Veterans’ Affairs and Budget committees if she wins the election.
The candidates addressed nonveteran health care as well.
“People are tired of partisan rhetoric,” Ossoff said, and when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, “we should keep what works and fix what’s broken.”
Handel said she supports the American Health Care Act recently passed by the House and now before the Senate. “Obamacare is collapsing,” she said. The Republican replacement “is not a perfect bill, but a step forward.”
Handel positioned herself as ready to attack the “money monkey business” in government. She cited her work in carving out $2 million a year in savings for the state budget for her office when she was secretary of state and her success in closing a $120 million budget shortfall in Fulton County after she was elected the first female and Republican chair of the County Commission.
“We did that without raising taxes, and we achieved that without having a Republican majority,” Handel said.
She said Americans need meaningful tax reform, including relief for the small-business owners who file individual income taxes because they operate as limited liability corporations or S-corporations. to thrive. She said most businesses in the 6th fall into those categories.
“Without individual tax reform we won’t have the biggest amount of relief we can achieve,” Handel said. “Our economy is only growing at about 1.5 percent; that’s not good enough. We need to return to growth rates in the 3, 4 or 5 percent range by simplifying the code and gutting the job-killing regulations that, in fact, are Washington’s most prolific outcome over the past eight years.”