SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren fought Wednesday over who would be better at creating jobs, protecting Medicare and keeping down the cost of higher education during their third debate in Massachusetts' closely-watched Senate race.
Warren faulted Brown for voting against a series of Democratic-sponsored jobs bills and noted that Brown has vowed to repeal the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act if re-elected.
Brown said he opposed jobs bills that would have also hiked taxes on the private sector, and said that while he supported Massachusetts' landmark health care bill, he opposes the federal version because it also includes tax increases.
Brown referred to what he called "Obamacare" as a "jobs crushing bill" and warned seniors that it would cut Medicare by nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars. Warren said it would not cut benefits by "one penny."
The event was raucous at times, with supporters of each candidate occasionally applauding or booing during the hour-long match-up at Springfield Symphony Hall.
Warren criticized Brown for opposing the so-called Buffett rule, which would require those earning $1 million a year or more to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
"Senator Brown voted with the billionaires, not with the secretaries," said Warren, who also criticized Brown for signing the no-new-tax pledge from conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
Brown said there needs to be a "top-to-bottom review" of the federal tax code rather than a reliance on additional tax increases.
"I'm not going to be raising taxes on anyone in Massachusetts or anyone in the United States," Brown said, who also warned that taking away oil subsidies could push up the cost of gas at the pump.
On women's issues, Warren said she would be the stronger of the two.
Warren faulted Brown for supporting an amendment, which was defeated, that would have let employers or health insurers deny coverage for services they say violate their moral or religious beliefs, including birth control.
She also criticized Brown for voting "against a pro-choice woman from Massachusetts to the U.S. Supreme Court" — a reference to Elena Kagan.
"I want to go to Washington to be there for all of our daughters and all of granddaughters," Warren said.
Brown said he supported the amendment because "I am not going to be pitting Catholics against their faith," and opposed Kagan because of her lack of judicial experience.
Brown also described himself as "pro-choice" and said he and Warren "both support Roe v. Wade."
The candidates agreed on some foreign policy goals.
Both said that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has to go given the thousands of individuals killed since the uprising against him began.
"The citizens there are being slaughtered," Brown said.
Both said Iran has to be prevented from developing nuclear weapons.
"It's destabilizing to the world," Warren said.
The two sparred on higher education.
Brown faulted Warren for her nearly $350,000 annual salary as a Harvard Law School professor, which he said adds to the cost of education.
Warren noted that she went to public colleges — the University of Houston and Rutgers University — adding that the country needs to reinvest in education to help other students get a college degree.
Warren criticized Brown for procedural votes against a bill that would have prevented a doubling of federal student loans. Brown said he ultimately voted for a bipartisan measure that did not raise taxes.
Warren on several occasions accused Brown of using the same "playbook" as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Polls in Massachusetts have shown Obama with a wide lead over Romney.
Warren also invoked the late Sen. Edward Kennedy at one point in the debate, after Brown cited a study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses that "Obamacare" would cost 17,000 jobs in Massachusetts.
Warren said the NFIB was a group that had endorsed Republicans, including Brown, and once "referred to Ted Kennedy as public enemy number one."
Brown was elected to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Kennedy in 2009.
One notable topic that failed to surface was the controversy surrounding Warren's claims of Native American heritage that led off the first two debates.
Brown said he didn't raise the issue because, unlike the first two debates, he wasn't asked about it.
Wednesday's debate was their first in Western Massachusetts.
LeBlanc reported from Boston.