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Stefanik visits Israel as part of delegation

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik speaks in July. (Provided photo — Sydney Shaefer, Watertown Daily Times)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik was in Israel last week, where she visited the new U.S. Embassy and talked to security officials about efforts to secure the country’s border.

Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, documented the trip on social media, posting pictures of her standing next to the 2018 dedication plaque for the embassy. President Donald Trump moved the location of the embassy from its longstanding home in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel,” she posted on photos of herself asking an Israeli Defense Force soldier about the Hezbollah tunnels into Israel and anti-tunnel technology. The National Defense Authorization Act contained money for this type of technology in the United States. She also looked over the Israeli border into the Lebanon region controlled by Hezbollah, received a briefing regarding the Syrian border in Golan Heights and posted a photo on her Facebook page, shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Post-Star sent two emails to her Washington spokeswoman, seeking additional comment about the trip and any reaction to Israel barring congresswomen Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from entering the country, because they have been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. There was no response from Stefanik’s office.

Congress candidate Tedra Cobb (D) speaks at a debate held by Spectrum News at its studio in Albany in October 2018. (Photo — Jenn March, Special to the Post-Star)

Cobb continues attacks

Democratic NY-21 challenger Tedra Cobb continued her criticism of Stefanik’s position on entitlement spending, using the 84th anniversary of the passage of Social Security to highlight what she called Stefanik’s attempts to cut benefits or privatize the program.

Cobb said in a news release that Stefanik in 2014 indicated that she supported raising the retirement age for Social Security but did not give specific details. In addition, in 2018, she voted to cut Social Security by $2.6 trillion over a 10-year period, cutting $308 billion in the first year. This was part of the Balanced Budget Amendment, which did not pass.

Stefanik also helped then-U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan prepare for his vice presidential debate in 2012. The official GOP platform called for including a privatization option for Social Security.

Cobb said Stefanik has accepted $600,000 of corporate money from the financial industry, which Cobb noted would benefit from privatization.

Cobb said in a follow-up interview that 170,000 people in the district rely on Social Security.

“I do not support any cut to this life-saving program. People have invested in Social Security, and I will make sure I protect it for our seniors,” she said. “I will not support any means testing for Social Security. I will not support raising the retirement age. I will not support any reform that is a cut.”

The Social Security trust funds are projected to run out of money in 2035 if nothing changes, according to the Social Security Administration.

To shore up Social Security, Cobb said she would support repealing the Trump tax cuts, which gave a huge break to the ultra-wealthy. She would also not support any privatization.

“We can remember when Wall Street tanked in 2008 and what happened to people’s life savings,” she said.

When seeking comment about the attack from Cobb, the Stefanik campaign cited the congresswoman’s record of bipartisanship to protect Social Security.

Stefanik’s most recent press release about Social Security on her official website was released on Oct. 12, 2018, about the cost-of-living announcement for Social Security, and she said she has helped Social Security recipients in her district recover more than $1.9 million in benefits.

She also voted in favor of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which provided a two-year budget deal that also protected Medicare Part B from a rate spike and ensured that the Social Security Disability Trust Fund can continue to pay full benefits, according to a news release on her website.

Neither Cobb nor Stefanik lists Social Security as an issue on their campaign websites. Stefanik’s only mention of it appears in the section called “Balancing the Budget,” in which she states: “Our national debt is now more than $20 trillion and is growing each day. That means our future generations are already saddled with crushing debt, and the programs that seniors count on, including Social Security and other entitlement programs, are in jeopardy of going bankrupt in the near future. Elise will continue to advocate for balanced budgets in Congress.”

Renewable energy credits

Stefanik has introduced legislation to extend tax credits for additional renewable energy technologies.

The Renewable Electricity Tax Credit Equalization Act would provide credits for biomass, geothermal, municipal solid waste, qualified hydropower facilities and marine and hydrokinetic facilities.

The credits for these types of facilities expired for the last two years and have not been renewed. The legislation would make the credit available for qualified facilities if the construction begins before 2025 and would remove the 50% deduction of the production tax credit for these technologies, according to a news release.

“I’m proud to introduce this legislation to stop the federal government from picking winners and losers among renewable energy production and to incentivize the utilization of clean renewable energy to bolster both our economy and environment,” Stefanik said in a news release.

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