Chicago Sun-Times Editorial board questionnaire responses
Our country faces some of the greatest challenges we have seen in decades – from significant national security threats both in our homeland and abroad, to domestic and financial security threats that include broken government agencies and out of control national debt. We cannot possibly focus on only a finite number of priorities but rather as a Congress we need to work together to address the wide spectrum of the problems we face as a nation – everything from protecting our social safety net programs to ensuring our healthcare system delivers not only access but also quality and affordable care.
Do you support pursuing the illusive “grand bargain,” which couples federal spending cuts with targeted tax increases?
I believe as a fiscal conservative that a core responsibility of legislators is to establish a yearly budget for the federal government within which the government should operate – something that American families and businesses around this country are forced to do every day.
We must unify as Americans and collectively refuse to be the first generation of Americans that leaves a country for our children that is in worse shape than the one we inherited. That is why I applauded President Obama for bringing together two respected figures from opposite political parties – Former Senator Alan Simpson and Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles – to form the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, designed to explore ways by which we can come together to set a pathway forward for economic solvency. The debt commission came back with recommendations that would have reduced the deficit by over $4 trillion, and included spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and ways to generate revenues. But unfortunately the President refused to consider the proposal in any meaningful way.
During my time in Congress, I co-sponsored a budget based on the principles outlined in the Simpson-Bowles commission recommendations. Our centrist budget earned wide praise for being a bipartisan plan to bring the deficit under control. USA Today called us the tiny band of heroes in an editorial highlighting Congressional leaders who broke party lines to bring the first bipartisan budget to the House floor in a generation. (click here to read the USA Today Editorial)
The choice is clear. We can choose to continue to postpone our impending spending and debt crisis and make the consequences of such failure even greater in the future, or we can seize this moment in our history and confront our problems as generations before us confronted the crises of their times. I choose to lead and believe that we can again set a course for this country for prosperity and strength.
What changes would you recommend to improve Obamacare?
A walk to the mailbox has become a needlessly stressful event for our local residents, as many families brace for letters from their health insurance carriers or their employers notifying them that they no longer have coverage. This can be devastating particularly for those in immediate need of healthcare services. But while this impact on local families has been entirely predictable for several years, our current leaders in Washington have put their own political well being ahead of ours, and refused to adjust the law to prevent this from happening. It doesn’t have to be this way.
My position on the Affordable Care Act that was passed by Congress in 2010 has been consistent. I support parts of what was signed into law, but unfortunately I do not support aspects of the law that are having, and will continue to have, a severe adverse impact on jobs, businesses, and families in our district. I have heard time and again from families, employers and medical providers that this legislation is overly burdensome and will not address the real problems associated with healthcare — namely access to quality care, affordable insurance, and cost.
We must come together and work to fix our broken healthcare system. We can start today by working together to craft legislation that will accomplish the objectives shared by the vast majority of Americans:
· Expanding healthcare insurance to ensure access to quality care
· Allowing Americans the freedom to keep their doctor
· Allowing Americans the freedom to keep their insurance
· Keeping the eligibility for young Americans to stay on their parents’ health insurance
· Curbing waste and implementing a Medicare common access card
· Allowing for coverage of those with pre-existing conditions
· Encouraging more competition in the healthcare provider markets
· Implementing common sense medical malpractice reforms to drive down unnecessary overhead costs throughout our healthcare system.
Unfortunately, the law did not contain many key provisions that would have addressed the rising cost of healthcare such as allowing insurance to be offered to consumers across state lines in an effort to lower costs to consumers, or reducing the practice of defensive medicine by healthcare providers that over prescribe procedures in fear of the consequences of lawsuits.
We can and should do better. I am confident that we can work to make our healthcare system more affordable, more efficient, and less bureaucratic. Doing so will give consumers and businesses in the 10th District confidence so that they can play for their futures.
Income Inequality / Minimum Wage
I believe that we need to address the issue of income inequality and we can start by raising the minimum wage. However, this is a serious economic issue and its time politicians stop treating it as nothing more than a divisive election year political tool. Getting this done requires real leadership and the rate increase must be the product of a bipartisan agreement that raises wages without slashing jobs from our fragile economy.
Does President Obama require congressional approval to pursue his plan to fight the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq?
No but it's important that he has it; otherwise it won't have buy-in from the American people and be viewed as legitimate.
What role should the United States play in promoting an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
The proper role for the United States is an unwavering commitment to Israel's defensible borders and long-term security. The national security of the United States is directly tied to the strength and security of the State of Israel. Israel is the preeminent, stable democracy in the Middle East as well as America’s strongest and most-trusted ally in the region. Our two nations share a proud and vital strategic, military, economic, diplomatic, and humanitarian relationship, and yet we currently face together many historic challenges in the Middle East.
Having been on the ground in Israel to see first-hand the critical security challenges that Israel and America currently face together in the Middle East, it clear to me why American leaders must have the courage to publicly express solidarity with Israel—especially when Israel is forced to act to defend its citizens. In these critical times, when many in the international community routinely target Israel for condemnation and attempt to delegitimize her very existence and humanitarian values, we must never be afraid to stand firmly with our ally.
It is ultimately up to Israel and the Palestinians to forge a peace agreement through direct negotiations. I believe that it is wrong for the United States to pressure Israel in a way that jeopardizes Israel's security or undermines Israel's position.
What changes do you support, if any, to the sweeping surveillance strategies used by the National Security Agency and the FBI, tactics proponents say are necessary to protect national security?
I am committed to protecting the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens, and will always be open to new ideas and reforms on how we can best do that within the context of ensuring the national security of the American people. These are serious issues with far-reaching consequences, and they deserve a careful and thoughtful approach in order to ensure that we do not lose sight of the proper balance. However, we must recognize that we live in a time where terrorists not only seek to do our country harm, but they also now have increasing capabilities of doing so. Turning a blind eye to these threats will not make them go away, and eliminating the resources and tools needed by the intelligence community will not make us any safer. Going forward, I am confident that we can continue to protect civil liberties while providing the intelligence community the tools it needs.
Does Congress have a role to play in reducing global warming?
Would you support a carbon tax or stronger regulation to limit greenhouse-gas emissions? If no, what remedies do you propose for combatting global warming?
For too long we have allowed the issues of energy production and consumption to become political and we are paying the price. The United States has an energy reliance problem that must be solved and we can solve it here in this country.
We must work actively to replace our reliance on oil deriving from hostile regimes and take this moment in history to put Americans to work producing all sources of energy here at home. We must upgrade our electricity grid and install demand response technologies to make it more efficient, more reliable, and smarter, and feed that grid with electricity generated from natural gas, wind and solar energy.
We must also give more attention to making our transportation fleet and traffic systems more efficient and effective, not just for the purpose of stretching our fueling resources, but also to ensure a high quality of life and prosperous economy. Citizens in the 10th District and across the nation waste far too much money and energy sitting in traffic. I support investments in transit systems, including extension of Route 53, as well as a newer and smarter road system that utilizes sensor technologies to open congested areas and reduce idling traffic. My energy plan encourages the use of alternatives such as plug-in electric cars, particularly for commuting purposes in high-density metropolitan areas, hybrid and flex-fueled vehicles, and the use of cleaner domestic fuels such as natural gas and bio-diesel by our trucking fleets.
In addition to expanding our domestic energy resources for transportation and manufacturing fuels, and adding to the types of energy that produce our electricity, I believe that conservation and energy efficiency also are crucial to an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy. It is often said that our greatest energy resource is the energy we waste. We must do more to become more energy efficient.
As an Eagle Scout and ardent custodian of the environment, and somebody who will continue to work tirelessly to reduce pollution and promote alternative energy, I do not support any legislation that seeks to disproportionately punish those in cold weather areas such as the 10th District by imposing excess taxes for heating our homes, particularly during these economic times. I believe that we can work together to find ways to lead the world in energy efficiency.
Our national security, our environment, and our economy demand that we work together to solve our energy problems. I believe that the explosion of new energy technologies offers an opportunity to create jobs and make the United States the hub for energy innovation for the world. Neither Republicans nor Democrats should hide behind party platforms when developing energy policy. More than almost any other issue, energy resources are a shared need that requires collaboration and policies that benefit us all.
Should reform of the nation’s immigration system be a priority for Congress before the 2016 presidential election?
What package of immigration reforms would you support, if any?
Washington’s failure to fix our immigration system has left us with broken borders, broken families and a wholly dysfunctional legal immigration process. For the sake of our communities, our security and our economy, it’s critical that Washington pass practical, bipartisan immigration reform now.
In addition to ensuring that immigrants who are already here and who seek nothing more than to come out of the shadows and contribute to our society are afforded a reasonable path to do so, we must also end the practice of educating the best and brightest from around the world at our universities, only to force them from our shores upon graduation to compete against us. Drastically limiting the number of work visas for highly skilled workers while preventing low-skilled workers who are already here from paying into our tax system is not only illogical but also severely hamstrings our economy.
In addition, I am a supporter of the DREAM Act, which would provide legal residency status to immigrants who were brought to our country as minors and who either serve in our military or complete at least two years of schooling at an institution of higher learning. I also support the Startup 2.0 program, which creates a new STEM visa so that U.S.-educated students who graduate with a masters or Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or math can receive a green card to stay in country.
Had I been in office and had the chance to cast a vote on the 2013 U.S. Senate immigration bill, I would have supported it. However, what’s critical now is that Democrats and Republicans come together and craft a bipartisan bill that can pass both houses and receive the President’s signature.
On education, the Obama Administration has prioritized investing in early childhood education, implementing the Common Core learning standards and evaluating teachers in part based on growth of student test scores. What is your view of each of these efforts?
It is important that every child has access to a high quality education because education provides the building blocks upon which our children will build their lives and careers. As a general matter, I believe that local school districts, educators and parents should have more control in our children’s education than the federal government and bureaucrats in Washington.
The 10th District is home to some of the best schools in the country. For students at these schools, I would have serious concerns about a state or federally mandated charter program that wasn’t also supported by the local school district. There are, however, students in the 10th District and in our region who do not have access to a quality education that will prepare them for success in life—and that is a tragedy. I believe we must always put the students first in these situations, and I would carefully consider the need for charter school interventions into failed school districts.
For example, I worked closely with the State Board of Education to restructure School District 187 in North Chicago after it became clear that the District was on the path to financial and educational ruin. New leadership was brought in to the School Board and instilled a Charter School so that North Chicago parents would have another educational option for their children.
School districts should be accountable primarily to their students and the community they serve. Well-intentioned federal programs can often impose a one-size-fits-all approach that does not work in local communities. No Child Left Behind is a perfect example of a federal education program that created many more problems than it solved. Accordingly, I hope that the federal government would let states and local communities take the primary role in providing accountability.
More stringent benchmarks can help schools set high standards to help students compete in the 21st Century, but I am concerned about the implementation and the assessments portion of the program. I’ve visited schools in nearly every community in the 10th District and have seen first hand that the vast majority are engaged and working hard to exceed state and federal standards, and it is devastating to our communities when our high-performing schools are labeled as failing by a federal assessment regime that is flawed. I believe the federal government should play a role in helping our schools reach for higher standards for students so we are better able to compete globally, but it should not be the primary actor.
What do you love doing when you’re not running for political office? (Extra points if you say something other than “spending time with spouse/kids.”)
When I’m not campaigning, I enjoy spending time with our three children and my wife Danielle. I’m an avid outdoorsman and Eagle Scout who is a Scoutmaster to the very troop I grew up in. Aside from being outdoors and volunteering for organizations throughout the Chicago area, you can find me cheering on our own Cubs and Bears!
District Running for: 10th Congressional District
Political Affiliation: Republican
Occupation / Name of Employer: President of Rose Pest Solutions
Campaign website: www.doldforcongress.com