At Seven Presidents, Lautenberg won’t commit to seven debates

LONG BRANCH – U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg today said he would debate U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) if the pair could reach agreeable terms, and in the meantime excoriated his opponent’s vigorous early support for the War in Iraq.

"He was a cheerleader for this thing. He stood with President Bush when he signed the resolution that Andrews helped create," Lautenberg said of the congressman’s role in helping to craft the 2002 war authorization resolution.

Lautenberg argued that his own early declaration of support for the resolution – made while he was retired from the U.S. Senate and before he replaced U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli – is hardly comparable to Andrews’s, and said he might have voted against it had he been privy to government intel.

"If I was in the Senate at the time I might have had the chance to have briefings, as the congressman did," Lautenberg said.

The senator hinted that he would probably not participate in as many debate encounters with the south Jersey congressman as Andrews’s suggested seven but said he foresees a face-off.

"We’ll look at all the possibilities… and if the opportunity arises and it meets a format that is acceptable, then we’ll consider it," said Lautenberg.

Standing on the boardwalk in a drizzling rain with U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) at Seven Presidents Park in Long Branch, Lautenberg announced his re-introduction of a bill requiring tougher beach water quality testing and public notification standards.

"Our last BEACH Act, which is now law, was an important step in ensuring cleaner, safer beaches," said the senator, who is co-sponsoring the beefed up bill with Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH). "This new bill builds upon those efforts by further protecting our shores and our waters."

Pallone said he’s sure Lautenberg and Andrews would debate between now and election Day on June 3rd.

"In any campaign, you sit down with both sides and figure out how many debates you’re going to have," Pallone said. "You don’t do it through the media."

Asked how he and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10) could expect to credibly make Andrews’s support for the war an issue in the U.S. Senate campaign when they both support U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton for president – who also voted "yes" on the war resolution -Pallone said Andrews’s role as an architect of the resolution differentiates him from Clinton.

"Rob was a huge supporter at the time," said Pallone. "There wasn’t anyone in our delegation who was more supportive of the war and closer to the President and proactive on it." At Seven Presidents, Lautenberg won’t commit to seven debates