There were several heated exchanges and accusations during the Republican presidential debate Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, even without front-runner Donald Trump at the event.
Among the most contentious issues for the candidates is immigration.
FOX News moderator Megyn Kelly played several video clips that appeared to show Florida Senator Marco Rubio changing his position on immigration.
He was asked to reconcile his opposition to granting amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the United States, a position he held during his 2010 Senate bid, and his sponsorship of a bill in the Senate in 2013 that would grant those people a path to U.S. citizenship.
Kelly asked, “Haven’t you already proven you cannot be trusted on this issue?”
Rubio denied he had changed his position on the issue, despite former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s claim that Rubio sought his support for the legislation. He also quibbled with Kelly’s use of terminology and the wording he used in the video clip.
Dismissing his previous statements, Rubio instead stated his current position on immigration issues: he does not support a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio said he is not anti-immigrant but supports legal immigration.
Same question to Cruz
After the testy exchange with Rubio, Kelly next showed video clips of Texas Senator Ted Cruz voicing his support for Rubio’s 2013 legislation -- as well as several amendments he offered for the bill -- against his current claims to have never supported it.
In response, Cruz claimed his amendments were an attempt to ensure that undocumented immigrants did not gain legal status in the U.S. “The fact that each amendment didn’t fix every problem (of the bill) didn’t mean I supported the rest of the bill,” he said, defending himself against the questioning.
The candidates made several broad statements regarding the U.S. and its fight against the Islamic State militant group.
Rubio and Cruz both admonished the Obama administration; Rubio accusing the president of reducing the size of the military and Cruz saying Obama has “dramatically degraded” the military.
The comments have become a standard refrain by Republican candidates during the primary season. But, the amounts spent on weapons modernization are about the same as they were during former president George W. Bush’s term, The Associated Press reported.
While the Department of Defense has seen military budget cuts in recent years, those cuts were the result of sequestration – a budget tool that kicked in when lawmakers from both parties could not agree on a spending bill, meaning both parties share in the blame, according to Politifact.com.
The cuts were also approved based on suggestions by the Defense Department, which identified bases and equipment it says it no longer needs, the Associated Press reported.
Arming the Kurds
Also regarding the fight against IS, Cruz accused President Barack Obama of “not arming the Kurds.”
But, according to AP, the U.S. has allocated a substantial amount of weapons and other military equipment to help the Kurds fight the Islamic State group, and is sending the aid. However, under a deal with the Iraqi government, the materials are required to be sent to the Iraq government, which then doles out the resources to both Iraqi and Kurdish troops.
Regarding the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, Cruz reiterated several common refrains heard during the campaign, that it is a “job-killer” and that people “have lost their health insurance, have lost their doctors, have seen their premiums skyrocket.”
Regarding jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said earlier this month that the U.S. unemployment rate was holding steady at 5 percent. When Obama signed the health care law in March 2010, the nation's jobless rate was 9.9 percent. The economy has added more than 13 million jobs over that period.
Regarding health insurance, the number of Americans without coverage reached a historic low of 9 percent in 2015, according to the government's National Health Interview Survey.
More than 16 million people have gained coverage since 2013, before the law's big coverage expansion got under way, the AP reported.
Even though he wasn’t on stage with his fellow Republican candidates, Trump made his own accusation regarding the U.S. trade deficit with China.
“China, this year in trade, will make over $500 billion in terms of our trade deficit. $500 billion. That's no partnership, and I'm a free trader. I love free trade. But we have to use our head. And we use political hacks to negotiate with the Chinese,” he said, according to the AP.
However, AP reported that Trump should re-check his numbers. The billionaire businessman appeared to be referring to the total U.S. trade deficit with every country in the world -- which totaled about $508 billion in 2014.
That number is about a quarter less than it was in 2006, when the trade deficit was $762 billion, according to the Census Bureau.
In 2014, the trade deficit with China was $343 billion – still substantial, but significantly below what Trump claimed, according to the AP.
Some material for this report came from AP and Politifact.com.