Durbin, Sauerberg participate in televised forum

CHICAGO But Republican challenger Steve Sauerberg saqid he prefers free-market tax cuts.

On Monday night, during their only televised debate on WTTW, they also disagreed on the Iraq war, which Durbin voted against.

The incumbent Illinois senator said, "Here we are in the sixth year of this war, having spent $650 billion, spending $10 billion to $15 billion a month, rebuilding Iraq, a country with a $70 billion surplus in their budget, taking money from taxpayers in America to rebuild Iraq? We've lost over 4,000 soldiers, and tens of thousands of wounded. We need to have a systematic and sensible withdrawal of American troops."

Sauerberg countered, "This is a critical time. We're winning the war, and we're gonna win the war in Iraq. We're gonna leave there with honor. And we're gonna leave there with a stable Iraq that promotes the national security of our nation. And we're also gonna have done a tremendous service to the Iraqi people.

Sauerberg said one reason he entered the race was opposition to Durbin's iraq policy.

Durbin, seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate, countered that Sauerberg would end the Medicare and Medicaid health programs if he could. He also reminded voters of his clout in Washington as the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

The two debated for only about 25 minutes during the public television program "Chicago Tonight." Still, the face-off offered Sauerberg a rare moment in the spotlight to challenge Durbin and let voters know the Senate seat is up for grabs next month.

Sauerberg, a Willowbrook physician, linked Durbin to problems at the state Capitol, where Democratic leaders frequently butt heads and accomplish little.

"I feel badly that Sen. Durbin hasn't taken a more aggressive role in helping these people find their way, as a powerful person in this state," he said. "He should be having a huge impact on what's going on in Springfield and he has chosen not to do so."

Sauerberg called this a critical time in Iraq that calls for keeping U.S. troops there to help Iraqis. The United States can end up strengthening its national security and making life better for Iraqis, he said.

"We can't afford to leave," Sauerberg said.

He also accused Durbin of comparing U.S. troops to Nazis, saying many Illinois veterans are angry with Durbin.

Sauerberg was referring to a comment Durbin made in 2005 saying prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were receiving treatment that sounded like something "done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime." The comment made no reference to U.S. troops.

Durbin said Monday night that he was among the first senators to call attention to treatment at Guantanamo, though he wound up apologizing for "some words" he used.

"They weren't used in reference to any soldiers, doctor," Durbin said. "They were in reference to whoever was involved in what the FBI agents found at Guantanamo."

Durbin repeatedly accused Sauerberg of opposing efforts to expand access to health care.

"He's the only medical doctor I have ever met who says outright, flat out, 'I'm opposed to extending children's health insurance protection to the kids of families who don't have health insurance,"' Durbin said. "He is the only doctor I've met in 30 years who says he wants to, quote, get rid of Medicare and Medicaid."

Sauerberg said Durbin misrepresented his views. He said everyone in the country should have private health insurance that could not be revoked and would be bought, in part, with government aid.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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