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Robin Kelly, 2nd Congressional District Democratic nominee profile

Her top priorities include health care, job creation and more resources for small businesses.

Robin Kelly, 2nd Congressional District Democratic nominee and incumbent, 2020 election, candidate questionnaire
Robin Kelly, 2nd Congressional District Democratic nominee and incumbent.
Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Candidate profile

Robin Kelly

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois, their districts and the country. Robin Kelly submitted the following responses:

Are you satisfied with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Why or why not? What grade would you give President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic, and why?

No, I am not satisfied with the handling of the pandemic. First, the President stated that COVID-19 was a hoax. He did not advocate for people wearing masks and dismissed the guidance from infectious disease specialists who focus on the treatment and mitigation of deadly transmissible diseases. President Trump has shown poor leadership in holding huge campaign rallies with thousands of people in direct opposition to recommendations from his own COVID taskforce stating that social distancing is the best method of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Why or why not? I have been concerned about a number of issues regarding the federal government’s response to the pandemic. Many lives could have been saved if we had responded sooner with clear messaging and guidance. In the early days of the pandemic the administration was sending PPE and ventilators to foreign countries but knew the virus was headed for the United States. When COVID reached our shores, the administration fought with states over PPE and refused to act in a timely manner to provide what was needed in the hardest hit states.

What grade would you give President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic, and why? I would give President Trump an F for spreading misinformation and publicly casting doubt on the nation’s foremost scientists who have stepped forward to help citizens stay safe during this time.

What should the federal government do to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic shutdowns?

The federal government must invest in job creation programs. Infrastructure projects that will create jobs and give unemployed folks the opportunity to get back to work. Creating more jobs will stimulate the economy by allowing individuals to spend their hard-earned paychecks. In addition, we must ensure that working families have affordable and reliable childcare so that they can work without worrying about their children. Small businesses have suffered the brunt of the economic slowdown. We must provide more resources for the small businesses including but not limited to a more refined and flexible PPP program specifically targeted to businesses. Finally, we must pass legislation that will get money into the hands of Americans – this includes another round of economic impact payments and reinstating the enhanced UI which has run out.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, President Trump signed an executive order on police reform. It calls for the creation of a database to track police officers with multiple instances of misconduct, federal grants to encourage police departments to meet higher certification standards on use of force, and the greater involvement of social workers and mental health professionals when the police respond to calls dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction. The order also calls for police departments to ban the use of chokeholds except when an officer feels his or her life is endangered. Will this be enough to address concerns about police brutality? If not, what other steps should be taken?

These are positive first steps in the fight against police brutality. But we must address the implicit bias against communities of color inherent in the training of police officers. We should enable investigations into police departments with repeated patterns and practices of police brutality and create accountability for those who are found to repeatedly violate the constitutional rights of individuals. We must also ensure that there are more social workers and mental health professionals available in the community to work with law enforcement to provide resources and services to individuals who are experiencing homelessness or are in the grips of mental illness.

Also in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the House passed the Justice in Policing Act, which would ban police departments from using chokeholds, develop a national standard for use of force, limit the transfer of military weapons to police departments, define lynching as a federal hate crime, establish a national police misconduct registry, and limit qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits over alleged misconduct. Do you support this legislation? Why or why not? What other steps, if any, would you like to see the federal government take on police reform?

Yes, I support this legislation. In fact, I voted in favor of it on the House floor.

Why or why not? It is crucial to the safety of our communities that individuals especially minorities can feel safe within their communities without the fear of being attacked by the very individuals who are supposed to protect them.

What other steps, if any, would you like to see the federal government take on police reform? I introduced a bill, H.R. 7536, the State Attorneys General Empowerment Act of 2020. This bill would expand the power of state Attorneys General to investigate and resolve unconstitutional patterns and practices by law enforcement agencies within their states.

What’s your view on President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone?

I believe in the sanctity of the powers vested in the office of President of the United States. I don’t believe that it is appropriate for the President to use his power to commute the sentence of someone before considering what is in the best interest of the country and understanding the implications of commuting sentences of someone who is convicted of lying to Congress and working with foreign governments to affect our democracy. This is clearly a case of the President rewarding his friend, who could have implicated him in a crime, for loyalty. It is an abuse of power by definition.

Robin Kelly submitted the following responses before the March primary:

Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or other paid or volunteer work to improve your community.

For the past two years, I have focused my legislative energy on the issues facing Illinois families. I passed legislation to help lower the price of prescription drugs (H.R. 1503), reduce barriers to dental care for seniors and working families (H.R.2422), my MOMMA’s Act (H. R. 1897) will help in stemming the maternal mortality crisis America is facing, and my Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (HR 2920) supports innovative partnerships between technical colleges, community colleges and businesses that train students for careers in high-demand fields.

Since coming to Congress, I’ve introduced the most gun violence legislation of any Member of Congress. In 2019, we were able to pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) which ensures that a background check is conducted on every gun sale, closing loopholes that allow a significant number of guns to be sold without a background check, especially via the Internet and at gun shows.

I’m proud to serve Illinois families of the Second Congressional District, and I’m honored that in serving my district, I was found to be the most effective legislator in the state of Illinois by the Center for Effective Lawmaking. https://thelawmakers.org/find-representatives#/

What are your views on the decision by the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump? Has the impeachment process been fair or not? How so? If, in your view, the president should not have been impeached, would you have supported censure? Please explain.

I firmly believe that our Founding Fathers were deeply and rightfully concerned about this exact situation President Trump has put this nation in. That is why in our founding document – the U.S. Constitution – they gave us a process to redress these concerns and protect our great nation. This impeachment is not only fair, it is a Constitutional imperative.

The President actively and aggressively abused his powers for personal and political gain to the detriment of U.S. interests and our national security. This President beckoned foreign nations to interfere with America’s democratic elections.

This Administration continues to be a corrupting influence on the norms and institutions that have made America great and a beacon of freedom and democracy.

How would you reduce the federal budget deficit, which now stands at about $1 trillion for 2020? What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?

To keep America’s fiscal house in order, we must spend and tax strategically. We should invest responsibly in infrastructure and not saddle ourselves with non essential defense debt. We also must work to decrease income inequality and support fair tax increases on higher income Americans. Everyone should pay their fair share including corporations.

What changes would you like to see made to our nation’s healthcare system? Would you shore up the Affordable Care Act or work to repeal it in full? What’s your view on Medicare for All? And what should be done, if anything, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs?

The Affordable Care Act helped rouse reforms in the delivery of American healthcare, and we’re all better for it. While the ACA helped spur critical investments in important preventative and population health measures, the ACA alone cannot bridge the health divide. It is important that the public health, legislative, and scientific communities coordinate to address health inequality in a targeted and aggressive manner. As a Member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, I have worked tirelessly to introduce common-sense, practical health reforms that support the objectives of the Affordable Care Act. HealthCare is a human right, and I support legislative reforms that benefit the overall well-being of our communities and that reduce barriers to accessing care.

The Trump administration is awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court as to whether it can end the DACA program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Do you support or oppose DACA and why? Should a path to citizenship be created for the so-called DREAMers? Please explain.

I support the DACA program and believe in a path to citizenship or DREAMERS. America is a nation of immigrants; it always has been and always will be. I support comprehensive immigration plans that will create a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, end family separation entirely and comprehensively reform our broken immigration system to ensure new Americans can continue contributing to our nation’s success and families remain together.

What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?

Improving America’s healthcare and making health care costs and the price of prescription drugs more affordable.

Ending gun violence

Investing in community infrastructure (transportation, education, skilling workforce)

What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?

I’m am and have been active in my community year round. Whether it be as an elected official or before I was elected, I have been active and engaged inn my community. I didn’t just surface when I decided to run for office.

What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?

We meed federal legislation around trafficking and straw purchases. Additionally, the Senate must act to protect American families and pass HR 8 the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and get it in front of President Trump to sign into law.

Last, I’m a strong believer in the ethos that “nothing stops a bullet like an opportunity.” Dramatic, deliberate, and consistent economic investments in our communities, jobs for our youth, and mental health resources will help stem America’s gun violence epidemic.

Is climate change real? Is it significantly man-made? Is it a threat to humankind? What if anything should Congress and the federal government do about it?

There is nearly uniform agreement within the scientific community that climate change is real. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concur that climate change is indeed occurring and is almost certainly due to human activity. To the extent that our nation has taken affirmative steps to mitigate the impact of climate change, the current Administration’s dismantling of Obama-era policies is both reckless and irresponsible.

In 2019, I voted to help pass HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act, the first climate bill to pass the House in a decade. Congress must make climate change a legislative imperative – as it impacts our health, our food supply, our national security, and every part of our lives. Some common sense things that we can do now are increase funding for mass transit, reform our system of providing tax breaks for energy inefficient industries, and providing funding for renewable energy research and investment.

What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?

America’s seniors have spent a lifetime paying into Social Security, saving for their retirement, and preparing for their golden years. They deserve to be able to collect on all of their hard work. That’s why I’ve worked to ensure that Social Security is preserved not only for current retirees, but for generation of seniors to come.

Protecting the solvency of Social Security is one of the most contentious issues in Congress and has led to a variety of radical proposals. I’m committed to responsibly reforming Social Security to ensure the longevity of these programs. To aid in bolstering social security, we should raise taxes on higher wage earners to make sure they are paying their fair share into the system.

What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?

I would absolutely use the word “crisis.” It’s abhorrent that the cost of higher education has grown astronomically over the past 20 years burdening many students and their families with crippling debt and making college inaccessible to countless more. Student loan debt is the second largest type of debt in America, greater than credit card debt and exceeded only by mortgage debt. I’ve supported federal policies that increase college affordability, and promote student loan refinancing, and lowering of student loan interest rates.

What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?

Our nation should hold Russia – like any nation – accountable for its actions. We must make sure our democracy is protected from threats foreign and domestic, and we cannot tolerate any Russian efforts to undermine our democracy.

What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.

President Trump’s misguided and ill-conceived trade war with China and other nations is having a massive and negative impact on Illinois farmers and rural communities.

The Presidents China tariffs dynamically impacted Illinois pork producers and soybean growers. Illinois is home to more than 40,000 soybean growers and 2,000 pork producers. We can’t afford to hamper family farmers who are already struggling under record-low commodity prices.

Instead of working to empower and grow rural communities and farming families, the President’s policies are at risk of killing their livelihood and ending Illinois’ rich family farming tradition.

Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.

America has long been a beacon of hope and hallmark example of the promise of democracy around the world. We should strive to continue to be an example to the world of democracy and remain committed to making this union and this world more perfect.

What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?

Congress must work with our allies, the diplomatic community and national security stakeholders to hold nuclear actors – and those who aspire to be – accountable. There are numerous diplomatic tools at our disposal to incentivize nuclear de-escalation, and sanctions to hold actors in the nuclear space accountable.

Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.

The Congresswoman’s daughter, Kelly Hamilton, is a billing clerk in the Water Department at the Village of Matteson.

What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.

Barack Obama. He showed us strength through compassion and what is possible when we put people before politics and work together as nation.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

Grey’s Anatomy.