Students face off in political debate

Published: October 21st, 2013

Category: News


Jamie Mann (2L), left, squares off with Matt Scheer (3L) as Professor Michael Allan Wolf serves as moderator, center. (Photo by Andrew Steadman)

By Andrew Steadman (2L)

The argument over the Patient Protection, Affordable Care Act and the government shutdown — the hot-button topic for every news network, political pundit and blog — came to the Levin College of Law on Tuesday.

UF Law’s chapter of the 8th Judicial Circuit Law Student Association (EJCLSA) hosted a debate on the shutdown and “Obamacare,” pitting law students from opposite sides of the aisle in an hour-long discussion of conflicting viewpoints.

Matt Scheer (3L), president of the Law School Republicans, faced off with Democrat Jamie Mann (2L).

Assistant Dean for Career Development Rob Birrenkott, the group’s faculty advisor, praised EJCLSA President Lauren Humphries (2L), Vice-President Bobby Walsh (2L) and Treasurer Alexandra Paez (2L) for organizing the event.

“The e-board deserves all the credit for the hard work,” Birrenkott said.

Paez introduced the debate’s faculty moderator, Professor Michael Allan Wolf, and explained the format of the debate. The side being asked a question had two minutes to answer, with the opposing side having one minute for rebuttal.

Wolf said his own feelings on the matter were mixed.

“I don’t know where to stand on this,” Wolf said. “I had to pay taxes today.”

Fielding his first question, Scheer made sure to point out that this month’s shutdown is not unique.

“Since 1976, the government has shut down 17 times,” Scheer said. “This is time number 18.”

Mann, however, placed the blame for the shutdown squarely on the House Republicans.

“We’re here because there is a failure to take the middle ground,” Mann said. “That side is refusing to make reasonable concessions, given how the process of government works.”

Throughout the debate, Wolf kept each side on topic to ensure neither debater could dodge the hard questions.

Mann and Scheer disagreed on whether the shutdown was the proper remedy for dealing with the embattled legislation.

“The law is the law,” Mann said. “You cannot simply tie up 4,000 pages of legislation in constant revision.”

Scheer said the proper time to fine-tune would be before allowing it to take effect.

The debaters had criticisms for their own parties as well.

On the topic of U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Lake City), Scheer had a suggestion.

“I would advise him to go find out more before he starts espousing his personal opinion based on what he read on Drudge Report,” Scheer said.

Mann said he was equally disgusted with all the members of the House of Representatives.

“Why should any of them be re-elected?” Mann said. “I would rather they make that argument, and I haven’t heard it from any of them.”

Both debaters agreed on one point – that the Tea Party was threatening the future of the GOP at large.

“The Michele Bachmanns and Steve Kings – and Ted Cruz in the past month – aren’t how you win votes,” Scheer said.

In closing the debate, Wolf praised both party representatives for their reasonable approaches to the problems at hand.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we had people like this in Congress?” Wolf said.