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Where the Republican presidential debate participants stand on key issues

Jul 21, 2023

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Ahead of tonight’s first Republican primary debate, The Post has compiled this handy guide to the participants’ stances on five key issues: Taxation and spending, jobs and growth, the war in Ukraine, abortion, and policy toward China.

DeSantis unveiled his 10-point “Declaration of Economic Independence” in July, saying he would seek 3% economic growth through tax and regulatory reform, cut federal spending for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and mandate work requirements for welfare programs.

The Florida governor has also promised to appoint a new Federal Reserve chair to replace Jerome Powell, who DeSantis says has undermined decentralized digital currencies.

DeSantis’ economic plan would also seek to reverse US trade deficits, increase domestic energy production, abolish environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing in the private sector and support the growth of American industries through vocational initiatives.

In a widely remarked-upon statement he gave before entering the 2024 GOP primary, DeSantis told then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson that granting security assistance to Ukraine without clearly “defined objectives or accountability” during its “territorial dispute” with Russia was not a vital US interest — risking “a hot war” with nuclear Moscow as it allies with China.

US intervention, he said, also “distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges”: namely, “securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party.”

DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban into law in Florida before launching his presidential campaign and has since maintained the issue is best left up to the states, not the federal government.

“It’s really a bottom-up movement, and that’s where we’ve had most success — Iowa, South Carolina, Florida — and I think you’re going to continue to see a lot of good battles there,” DeSantis told conservative podcast host Megyn Kelly in July, adding that he would still “be a pro-life president.”

DeSantis has called China a “top threat” to the US that is trying to “overtake” America economically and militarily.

If elected, the Republican candidate has pledged to ban imports produced from stolen intellectual property and pursue tax abatements and other incentives for companies to align with national interests rather than with Beijing.

Ramaswamy wants to abolish the IRS – which he calls a “toxic” government agency – and “rebuild from scratch when required,” according to his campaign website.

He also pledges to “reduce taxes and regulation, increase competition and promote investment.”

He has also proposed cutting “wasteful expenditures” by having his would-be White House submit all budget requests directly to Congress, rather than allowing each individual federal agency to do so.

Ramaswamy has set a goal to achieve more than 5% annual growth in GDP by “foster[ing] entrepreneurship, creat[ing] jobs and driv[ing] sustained economic growth for all Americans,” according to his campaign website.

It’s part of his plan to create “America 2.0” – “where the American economy is a global leader in innovation and enterprise, where small businesses and entrepreneurs can thrive, and where every individual has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Ramaswamy would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep the parts of Ukraine his military has occupied and block Ukraine from joining NATO – which would break the alliance’s “open door” policy – in exchange for Moscow cutting ties with China.

The move would effectively give Putin everything he wanted before the war began, despite the US having spent more than $40 billion in military aid to Ukraine alone.

“The Biden administration is so stubbornly attached to the idea of getting (Chinese President) Xi Jinping to drop Vladimir Putin,” Ramaswamy told CNN’s Jim Acosta last week. “What I think we need to be doing is get Vladimir Putin to drop Xi Jinping.”

While Ramaswamy’s campaign website makes no mention of the controversial issue, he has previously indicated his support for states that have passed six-week abortion bans.

However, he has also said he would not support a nationwide abortion ban because “the federal government should stay out of it.”

Ramaswamy aims to hold China “accountable for COVID-19” using “all financial levers,” stop those affiliated with the Chinese government from buying US land; and ban American businesses from expanding in China “until the CCP stops cheating”.

In a radio interview earlier this month, Ramaswamy said he would support Taiwan against a potential Chinese invasion until the US achieves “semiconductor independence” near the end of his first term.

“Our commitments to Taiwan — our commitments to be willing to go to military conflict — will change after that, because that’s rationally in our self-interest. That is honest. That is true, and that is credible,” he said.

Pence has called on Congress to make former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts permanent (They are set to expire at the end of 2025) and favors eliminating the Democrat-backed tax credits for electric vehicle purchases.

The former VP has also endorsed cutting spending with measures including eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, clawing back funding for the IRS from the Inflation Reduction Act and recovering Amtrak funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

He also wants all non-defense discretionary spending paused for a year while government agencies undergo an audit.

Pence’s economic plan is focused on expanding America’s energy industry, with the former Indiana governor setting the goal of overtaking China as the world’s top energy producer.

Specifically, Pence has called for cutting red tape in order to open up production leases and permits on federal lands, remove restrictions on natural gas production and distribution through fracking and increase refining production

Weeks after launching his 2024 campaign, Pence made a surprise visit to Ukraine, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, underscoring his unapologetic support for the war-torn nation.

Pence has fought back against skeptics within the GOP over increased aid to Ukraine and knocked President Biden for being “slow” in providing adequate weaponry.

At times, he has also described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. “If Russia overwhelms Ukraine, I predict it would not be too long before the Russian army crosses the border, where our men and women in uniform would have to go and fight by crossing into a NATO ally,” Pence told ABC News in June.

A staunch evangelical Christian, Pence has backed a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy as the “minimum nationwide standard”, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest and where the health of the mother is at risk.

He also wants to overturn FDA approval of mifepristone, part of a two-drug regimen to induce abortion.

Pence has said that China constitutes a greater threat to the US than the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

He has called for decoupling industries of vital national security interest from Beijing, bolstering the Navy’s readiness in the South China Sea, demanding China come clean about the origins of COVID-19, and more.

During the Trump administration, Pence defended tariffs imposed on Beijing by the former president, arguing they were warranted to counter China’s own trade barriers against American-made goods and services.

Haley has criticized the immense government spending and earmarks enacted under former President Donald Trump and President Biden through COVID stimulus packages and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Unlike Trump and DeSantis, Haley has also proposed cuts to federal benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare, promised to veto spending bills that are above pre-pandemic levels and claw back unspent or fraudulently obtained COVID stimulus funds.

Haley touts her experience as governor of South Carolina, where she supported tax cuts, decreased regulation and the growth of small businesses.

The state had record employment numbers and its lowest unemployment rate since 2001 by the time she left office in 2017.

In a March op-ed for USA Today, Haley said the federal government “should be saving taxpayer money by moving people from welfare to work, not the other way around.”

She also disparaged the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law for giving handouts to corporations.

As a former ambassador to the United Nations, Haley has said supporting Ukraine’s war effort against Russia through security assistance is “in the best interest of America” — and has criticized President Biden for not allowing Kyiv to join NATO.

Ukraine defeating Russia would also deter China from potentially invading Taiwan and cause Iran and North Korea to think twice about pursuing aggressive nuclear and ballistic missile programs, she also has said.

Haley, who signed a 20-week ban into law as South Carolina governor, has discouraged federal abortion legislation but left open the possibility of approving a bill if it represented the “national consensus.”

Haley wants to scuttle trade with China over its role in the global spread of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, whose raw ingredients are exported to Mexican cartels for production.

Like DeSantis, she also would support laws that block Chinese entities from buying up US strategic assets such as farmland.

Additionally, Haley has said she would prevent federal funds from going to US universities that take money from China.

During his tenure as New Jersey governor, Christie lowered property taxes in the blue state.

However, he has been vague about many taxation issues in this election cycle.

He has said he supports keeping the cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT) that was instituted by former President Donald Trump as part of his 2017 tax cuts.

He has also called for “discussion” of raising the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits, saying at a March town hall in New Hampshire that “the truth is, it’s gonna run out.”

Christie wants to increase vocational training to fill employment gaps, noting during a CNN town hall in June that there are “1.7 empty jobs for every one person who’s unemployed, but … those people are not skilled in the jobs that we need.”

However, he did not say from where he imagined the funding for such education would come.

One of just two candidates who have visited Ukraine since the war began, Christie believes the US should continue its support for the Kyiv government through the war’s end.

Otherwise, he said during a June CNN town hall, “the alternative is for the Chinese to take over, the Russians, the Iranians and the North Koreans.” Still, he said “some kind of compromise” with Russia may ultimately be necessary to bring the conflict to a conclusion.

Though Christie personally describes himself as “pro-life” – with exceptions for cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother’s life – he would not support a federal abortion ban, saying in April that the issue “should be determined by the 50 states.”

Christie has voiced support for keeping current US sanctions on China, but believes in lifting them in exchange for concessions on key issues such as intellectual property rights.

Similarly, he has said he would allow TikTok to keep operating in the US if Beijing would let American social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to operate without restrictions in China.

Militarily, he has told the Washington Post that he would “do everything I could to avoid” war with China, but added that he would “do what needs to be done” if combat was “unavoidable.”

Scott was one of the architects of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts — which he considers to be one of his most important accomplishments in public office.

He is a staunch advocate of lowering the corporate tax rate and creating opportunity zones, which provide tax relief to distressed communities in order to spur investment.

Scott has frequently talked about shrinking the size of the government and to “stop spending money we don’t have.”

Similar to other Republicans in the 2024 scrum, Scott has called for removing government regulations, and cutting bureaucracy to boost the economy.

He is also an advocate of school choice and American energy independence.

Scott sees the war in Ukraine as a golden opportunity to degrade the Russian military and has backed US aid to the war-torn nation as part of the national interest.

The South Carolina senator has also bashed the Biden administration for waiting “too long to provide too little support.”

Back in July, Scott was asked about President Biden’s controversial decision to dispatch cluster munitions to Ukraine.

He replied, “If I was president of the United States, we wouldn’t have to,” suggesting he would have kept up sufficient stockpiles of alternative weaponry.

Scott has backed a federal ban on the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy. He has repeatedly insisted that he is “100% pro-life” and stressed that “I would sign the most conservative pro-life legislation you can bring to my desk.”

He has also been critical of Planned Parenthood and voted against federal funding to the organization.

Like other Republicans, Scott has described China as “the biggest threat to America’s security” and signaled that he would clamp down hard on Beijing.

To undercut China, Scott has told NBC News, “our economic power is our first line of defense.”

Additionally, he has called for ratcheting up military spending and blamed the Chinese Communist Party for the fentanyl crisis in the US and vowed to hold it accountable.

Hutchinson is committed to balancing the federal budget through spending cuts but has pledged to “protect Social Security and Medicare.”

He has been critical of Biden’s federal spending, which he blames for high inflation.

The former Arkansas governor also said at the Iowa State Fair this month that he would move to reduce the nonmilitary federal workforce by 10% — after cutting the number of state executive branch employees in Little Rock by 14%.

When launching his presidential campaign in April, Hutchinson committed to “a pro-growth energy policy that is not focused on limits but production,” particularly of domestic fossil fuels, and pledged to scrap Biden’s executive order to move the US away from gas-powered vehicles.

He also supports US energy independence from Saudi Arabia and Russia He also said he would support work requirements for “able-bodied welfare recipients” on benefit programs like Medicare.

Hutchinson has accused Trump and DeSantis of having an “isolationist view” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and attacked the Biden administration for being too slow to provide security assistance with regular audits to safeguard abuse.

“If we stand by and let this nation falter, it leaves a hostile Russia on the doorstep of our NATO allies,” he told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade in a February radio interview.

Hutchinson signed a near-total abortion ban into law last year, with exceptions to preserve the life of the mother but not in instances of rape or incest.

He has committed to signing a federal abortion ban with those exceptions as well.

Hutchinson says he would support a reduction of US trade and commerce with China, adding a Beijing policy “must be one that protects American interests and promotes American ideals,” according to his campaign website.

However, as Arkansas governor, Hutchinson supported business deals with Chinese entities to expand economic growth in his state.

He has also pledged to “hold China accountable” for “tough questions surrounding COVID-19” and is open to confronting Beijing if it adopts a more adversarial posture toward Taiwan.

The 66-year-old calls the economy his “absolute top priority” and pledges to “get inflation under control, cut taxes, lower gas prices and reduce the cost of living,” according to his campaign website, which depicts Burgum in a flannel shirt, jeans and chaps. However, he has given little detail on how he would achieve those goals.

According to Burgum’s website, American “innovation over regulation is how you solve the challenges we face today.”

However, he has again given few specifics on how he envisions boosting economic growth or slashing unemployment, though his campaign has said it would outline Burgum’s plans at some point in the future.

Burgum supports sending Ukraine aid to fight Russia, telling North Dakota TV station KFYR in June that “a win for [Moscow] is a win for China.”

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However, he added that any aid sent must be accounted for, as “every time the US spends dollars, whether it’s defense or whether it’s on healthcare or any program, there ought to be transparency and accountability.”

Burgum has said decisions on abortion restrictions should be left to the state.

In April, he signed legislation banning the procedure after just six weeks of pregnancy except in the case of medical emergencies such as ectopic pregnancies, which are never viable and can be fatal to mothers if left untreated.

The usual exceptions of rape, incest or other medical emergencies only apply through six weeks of pregnancy.

Burgum believes China is a “real threat to America” and that “we should be fighting to unite the country against” the “common enemy” of Beijing, according to his campaign website.

He has said the US is already embroiled in a cold war with China, and told Fox News last month that the best way to win the conflict is to “get our economy sprinting.”

“When Ronald Reagan was leading this country and we were in a Cold War with Russia, Russia had a small economy — they weren’t very connected, and we were able to just outperform them with our economy, and with our strong economy, we were able to have a strong military,” he told Fox News.

“We need to do the same thing now in our cold war with China.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisEntrepreneur Vivek RamaswamyFormer Vice President Mike PenceFormer Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyFormer New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieSen. Tim ScottFormer Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonNorth Dakota Gov. Doug BurgumThanks for signing up!