In the first debate since the Boston Marathon was rocked by two explosions near the finish line, the two Massachusetts Democratic congressmen seeking to fill the state’s open Senate seat feuded over their respective homeland security credentials.
Reps. Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch each suggested the other lawmaker had failed to provide sufficient resources to protect the nation against terrorist threats. The WBZ debate comes just one week before the April 30 primary in the race to fill the seat of Secretary of State John Kerry.
Lynch noted he had voted in 2002 to create a Joint Interagency Homeland Security Task Force to ease communication and cooperation between federal state and local agencies, while Markey opposed it.
“You can say you wrote this and wrote that. I understand policy,” Lynch said. “But when the issue came up to create that joint task force, I voted yes, you voted no. I don’t know how you spin that."
Markey replied that if he did oppose the task force, it was because the measure was “excluding a provision that would have made the bill even stronger.”
In a statement after the exchange Markey hit Lynch on four fronts, saying he was the only member of the state’s congressional delegation to vote for a 2 percent across-the-board cut in discretionary spending for the Homeland Security Department; to vote against boosting funding for state and local DHS grants; to oppose funding for state and local Federal Emergency Management Administration programs. Lynch was one of 17 Democrats to vote against state and local grants for homeland security activities.
In an e-mail Lynch campaign spokesman Conor Yunits called Markey’s accusations “laughable charges - process votes typical of Washington establishment. All of these increases have offsetting cuts. Congressman Markey, by contrast, has consistently voted against funding the entire Homeland Security department.”
In addition to opposing the joint task force, Yuntis wrote Markey voted against Homeland Security funding in 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2011, and was one of five Democrats to vote against funding the Transportation Security Administration in June 2009.
The two lawmakers had taken opposing sides on several other security measures, Yuntis said. Lynch supported reauthorizing three Patriot Act allowing for "roving" wiretaps on suspects who use multiple devices or modes of communication; access to "any tangible thing" deemed related to a terrorism investigation, and the ability to seek warrants to conduct surveillance of "lone wolf" foreign terrorist suspects who may not be connected to a larger terrorist group. Lynch voted to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Service Act, which governs electronic surveillance of foreign terrorism suspects.
Markey, according to Yuntis, voted against all of those measures, and was one of 16 House members to vote against a resolution extending sympathies to victims of 9/11 and thanking foreign leaders and citizens of all nations who aided the United States.
However Markey campaign spokesman Andrew Zucker wrote in an e-mail Lynch had distorted his rival's record. Markey opposed the joint task force, Zucker wrote, because the congressman and others feared it would lead to military officials performing some duties traditionally reserved for law enforcement.
"Stephen Lynch's desperate personal attacks on Ed Markey's national leadership on stopping terrorism and keeping America safe were a clear sign of desperation from a candidate with nowhere left to turn," Zucker wrote. "Ed Markey's record of forcing 100 percent screening of air cargo on passenger planes after 9/11, leading the charge to end the TSA's misguided decision to allow dangerous knives on planes and fighting for increased safety at nuclear and liquid natural gas facilities speaks for itself, and no amount of false attacks from Stephen Lynch will change the fact."