Robert Menendez, Joe Kyrillos claims tested on Truth-O-Meter

Republican State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, left, is preparing to challenge U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Republican State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, left, is preparing to challenge U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election.

New Jersey’s U.S. Senate race dominated the Truth-O-Meter late last week and through the weekend.

In case you missed it, the Truth-O-Meter checked claims by incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger Joe Kyrillos on topics including jobs, health care and taxes. They will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

Menendez and Kyrillos debated a number of issues Thursday at Montclair State University. They will debate again at 7 p.m. Wednesday on New Jersey 101.5 FM. Their third debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, will air Sunday at a yet-to-be-determined time on local ABC-TV affiliates and Univision.

Let’s review how both did on the Truth-O-Meter.

Kyrillos claims

During Thursday’s debate, Kyrillos repeated a claim he first made in August that the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world.

As in August, Kyrillos earned a Mostly True for this claim. The United States pays a statutory tax rate of 39.2 percent, which is the highest in the world among industrialized nations. The statutory rate is a combination of federal, state and local tax rates before any tax breaks are factored in. But the rate that businesses actually pay – called the effective tax rate – is among the highest in the world.

Kyrillos, a state senator from Monmouth County also raised concerns about jobs and debt. He claimed that unemployment and the national debt have doubled, and deficits have quadrupled during Menendez’s watch in the Senate.

Kyrillos’ numbers are about right, the Truth-O-Meter determined, but one senator cannot be held responsible for those statistics, experts told us. As a result, Kyrillos earned a Half True. PolitiFact New Jersey has pointed out in numerous fact-checks that lawmakers at all levels cannot be blamed entirely for broad economic trends or catalysts.

Menendez claims

The senator touched on national health care during the debate, claiming that Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s proposed overhaul of Medicare amounts to making it a voucher system.

Menendez received a Mostly True – the same ruling we issued on a similar claim in September from state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula. It’s worth noting that PolitiFact National issued the same ruling on a related statement by President Obama in August.

Ryan has proposed providing "premium support" payments to future Medicare beneficiaries, effective in 2023, to buy health insurance.  People can then use that money to buy insurance or to offset a plan’s costs. And while there are some distinctions between premium support and voucher, the word "voucher" generally describes this approach.

Menendez also talked about women’s health care during the debate and pointed out a few times that Kyrillos has voted against funding for women’s health care six times.

The Truth-O-Meter ruled the statement True after determining that between June 2010 and June 2012, Kyrillos voted six times against providing about $7.5 million for family planning services, which could include breast exams, pregnancy testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. The money could not be used for abortion procedures.

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