Live coverage: Donnelly, Braun clash in Indiana debate

Live coverage: Donnelly, Braun clash in Indiana debate

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyFormer Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Biden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican MORE (D-Ind.) is set to square off in a Monday night debate against businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun (R), in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races.

Donnelly is one of 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in a state that President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world MORE won in 2016. While Trump carried Indiana by 19 points, Donnelly still has a small edge in polling in the toss-up race.

Libertarian Lucy Brenton, a business consultant who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate from Indiana in 2016, will also participate in the debate.


See The Hill's live updates from the hourlong debate below. The debate starts at 7 p.m. 

Candidates make their final pitch

Updated at 8 p.m.

In his final pitch, Donnelly said he would fight for health care and jobs while working with both parties.

"It's not about R or D or red and blue. It's about the red, white and blue," Donnelly said. 

Braun, who has been casting himself as a political outsider, used his final 30 seconds to contrast himself with Donnelly, who he argues would be "more of the same."
"I've done things in the real world. This gentlemen is a career politician," Braun said. "That's part of the problem." 

Donnelly, Braun get in heated exchange over pre-existing conditions

Updated at 7:58 p.m.

The question over the anti-ObamaCare lawsuit that could unwind protections for those with pre-existing conditions elicited one of the most heated exchanges of the night.

Donnelly lashed out at Braun for supporting the lawsuit, calling on Braun to denounce it.

“I can hardly believe you’re standing here and telling everyone you’re for coverage of pre-existing conditions,” Donnelly said to Braun. “Tell us you’ll denounce that lawsuit, you’ll denounce that effort on pre-existing conditions.”

For Braun’s part, he touted the health insurance he provided at his own business, saying that he’s the “only one here who had the nerve to take on insurance companies.”

“I would never be for any replacement of the Affordable Care Act unless it covered pre-existing conditions and it didn’t have any cap on coverage,” Braun said. “The government always wants to do stuff and they never worry about the cost of it, wouldn’t count on career politicians doing it.”

Donnelly sounds positive note on Trump's approach abroad

Updated at 7:54 p.m.
Asked about the U.S. relationships with its allies, Donnelly said he supports Trump's approach.

"I support President Trump's efforts. I want him to be successful," he said. 

"When a president is successful, that means the United States is successful."

Braun praised Trump's stance that NATO countries pay "their fair share." 

"Thank goodness he's taken on this stuff that others were either too politically correct or just unwilling to do," he said. 

Audience member asks emotional question about gun laws

Updated at 7:42 p.m.

A mother in the audience asked the candidates if they’d support a "safe storage" gun law since her 4-year-old son was killed at a babysitter’s house that left out a fully loaded hand gun.

Donnelly said that he supports the Second Amendment, but “believes the rights come with responsibility.” He said that the safe storage law “needs to be looked at.” The Democratic senator also called for the gun show loophole to be closed.

“We have to make it that there are some standards, not just rights but some responsibilities as well,” Donnelly said.

Braun called for looking into enhanced school security in the state and also taking a look at mental health in the context of gun violence.

“When it comes to things like storage, the places where we’ve tried to use gun laws generally impact folks who are law-abiding,” Braun said, adding that he’ll work to “always keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Candidates asked to weigh in on Roe v. Wade

Updated at 7:37 p.m.

Both candidates dodged questions about whether they think Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, was correctly decided. 

Still, Donnelly said he is a “pro-life” senator — even though the leading anti-abortion groups endorsed his opponent. 

“I am a pro-life senator … I believe in a stance that protects all life," he said. 

But, he said, he supports exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger. 

Braun said supporting exceptions is Donnelly “trying to have it both ways.” 

“When he says he's pro-life, I don’t think he can have it both ways," Braun said. "I would never demonize anyone that disagrees with me, but you can’t have it both ways. I’m the one being endorsed by the organizations that know where your heart is.” 

Donnelly, Braun both pick Republican role models

Updated at 7:25 p.m.

Asked about their "political role models", Donnelly said the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPoll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats Meghan McCain: COVID-19 battle made me doubt if nation will recover from pandemic Biden's year two won't be about bipartisanship  MORE (R-Ariz.) and Braun said former Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnBiden and AOC's reckless spending plans are a threat to the planet NSF funding choice: Move forward or fall behind DHS establishes domestic terror unit within its intelligence office MORE (R-Okla.)

When McCain ran for president, Donnelly said, "he said country first, and that's what this should be about is our country — how to make it so our children and grandchildren — we leave them a safer and stronger America." 

Braun said Coburn was "never afraid to bust the government." 
"He was honest. He would speak up, and that's what you're going to get out of me." 

Health care becomes wedge issue

Updated at 7:15 p.m.

Donnelly hit Braun on health care in his opening remarks, highlighting the significance the issue has taken in Senate campaigns this year. 

Donnelly said he was the final vote to "save health care," referring to his vote against the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal attempts last year. 

He also hit Braun for supporting a lawsuit led by 20 Republican attorneys general that argues ObamaCare is unconstitutional, and criticized the health care Braun offers his employees. 

“He has every time tried to take away pre-existing coverage, and he supports a lawsuit today that would do that," he said.

Braun defended his insurance plans, saying it "might not be the perfect plan, but it's a great plan." 

"I took on the insurance companies when no one else would," he said, noting his company kept premiums flat for 10 years.

Kavanaugh confirmation quickly grabs the spotlight

Updated at 7:10 p.m.

The first question of the debate revolved around the contentious Supreme Court fight over Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Will the justices end race-based affirmative action?  Are the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? MORE’s confirmation.

Braun has lashed out at Donnelly for voting against Kavanaugh’s nomination. Donnelly explained that his vote opposing the confirmation came down to concerns over “impartiality and judicial temperament.” He also touted that he backed Trump’s first Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch.

“I voted against Judge Kavanaugh because of concerns about his impartiality and concerns about his judicial temperament,” Donnelly said. “My job is not only to determine the nominee but to protect the court. Justice Gorsuch met every test.”

“Mike [Braun] was for Judge Kavanaugh on the first day,” Donnelly added. “If President Trump put up Bugs Bunny, Mike would have put him up on the court.”

Braun pushed back, accusing Donnelly of joining Democrats in obstruction of Kavanaugh.

“I think what you should have gotten from the recent spectacle, Democrats including Joe Donnelly will do or say anything when it comes to their political interests,” Braun said.

“It’s a blood sport — it’s a decision based not on what Hoosiers want but what [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Voting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress MORE [D-N.Y.] wants.”