Mike Quigley, 5th Congressional District Democratic nominee profile
He voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to take “an important first step towards ending police brutality and racial profiling.”
Running for: U.S. House of Representatives, IL-05
Political party affiliation: Democrat
Political/civic background: Over 37 years of community engagement including successful elections to the Cook County Board of Commissioners (3 times) and U.S. House of Representatives (6 times).
Occupation: Member of Congress; lawyer
Education: Roosevelt University (B.A.); University of Chicago (M.P.P.); Loyola School of Law (J.D.)
Campaign website: quigleyforcongress.com
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 their districts and the country. Mike Quigley 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?
It is the sad truth that the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been an abject failure. This disaster is a direct result of the failed leadership of President Trump, who has been more concerned with dodging responsibility and blame than actually winning this fight and saving American lives. From the start, the Trump administration’s response to COVID was disjointed, disorganized, and focused more on optics than results. Instead of crafting a federal testing and tracing strategy and securing adequate equipment for our essential workers, the administration dithered for weeks as first responders and essential workers were left without life-saving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before invoking the Defense Production Act to address PPE shortages. This inexcusable lapse, which continues to this day as the President has inexplicably declined to fully utilize this important authority, hampered America’s efforts to combat the virus and put our bravest and most selfless at unnecessary risk. Moreover, the administration shifted all responsibilities to the states and then stood in the way as governors have tried to fill the void. Since then, the President has been preoccupied with manipulated data, made up and potentially harmful cures, personal grudges, and stoking cultural divisions as more than 160,000 Americans have died.
Given a lack of leadership from the White House, Congress has stepped up to prevent massive economic catastrophe and to meet the public health needs of the American people. Congress has passed four separate COVID specific relief packages, totaling $3 trillion in aid. The House passed HEROES Act goes even further, providing an additional $3 trillion for expanded testing, state and local governments, schools, hospitals and families. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I was proud to help lead efforts to include emergency COVID funding in each of our must-pass funding bills. Since COVID has touched nearly every part of society, we know that our aid package must be holistic. House Democrats continue to stress that in order to save our economy, we must first control the virus.
Under the best of circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic was always going to be an unprecedented challenge and disruption to our normal lives. With capable leadership, as we’ve seen in many other countries, it is possible to beat back this virus and keep it at bay as our doctors and scientists continue to work to develop a vaccine. Sadly, President Trump’s performance during this crisis warrants a failing grade.
What should the federal government do to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic shutdowns?
The current public health emergency has created an economic crisis due to necessary business closures and social distance requirements enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses across all sectors of the economy are suffering through no fault of their own, which is why it is imperative for the federal government to step in and provide assistance. I fully support additional funds from the federal government to help create a strong recovery.
I believe we should continue to provide assistance for small businesses by extending and improving loan programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. We also need to extend the weekly $600 unemployment insurance benefit so Americans who are out of work can continue to pay their bills. We should also provide an additional round of stimulus payments to help put money in the pockets of Americans as they continue to struggle to make ends meet.
House Democrats recognized the urgency of this situation and passed the HEROES Act, a wide-ranging economic stimulus package which includes the legislative proposals I listed above. The legislation extends federal supplemental unemployment benefits through the beginning of 2021, provides another round of stimulus checks to help individuals make ends meet, and includes robust funding for rental assistance and other housing programs to prevent a flood of evictions. It also helps spur economic growth by expanding the terms of the Paycheck Protection Program, enhancing tax credits for small businesses and providing sufficient funds for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) which supply vital services to the low-income and underbanked community.
All of these programs are crucial to provide emergency relief and help people weather the immediate economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. However, we’ll need additional long-term investment to truly recover and put our economy on a track to consistent and sustainable growth. To that end, I was proud to support the passage of House Democrats’ ambitious $1.5 trillion infrastructure package, the Moving Forward Act, which would begin to take the steps needed to get people back to work, address America’s ongoing housing crisis, and ensure resilient, low-carbon infrastructure. The bill includes $100 billion for public transit, $130 billion to upgrade high-poverty schools, $30 billion for hospital infrastructure, $100 billion for affordable housing. The faster the Senate and President act to pass this legislation into law, the sooner we can begin construction on the America we want, not just the one we had before this crisis.
There is more that can and should be done to help get our economy back on track and to ensure the places and institutions that make up the backbone of our communities are not permanently wiped out. Congress must continue to work on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to deliver necessary aid to the American people.
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?
George Floyd’s murder was tragic and quite simply, he should be alive today. President Trump’s Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities included important measures like the implementation of de-escalation training and the banning of chokeholds. Unfortunately, the executive order did not go far enough. It did not include the ban of no-knock warrants, which led to the death of Breonna Taylor, nor did it include an end to qualified immunity for police, which would give Americans a voice in court when their rights are violated by police misconduct.
President Trump’s executive order underscores his failure to recognize that strong policing reform is only part of the solution in addressing systemic racism in our country. Instead of rallying behind efforts to combat police brutality and end discrimination, Trump prefers instead to stroke racial tensions, which we saw again in his defense of confederate monuments and military base names. This blatant disregard for civil and human rights should not and will not be tolerated. We simply must demand more from our president.
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?
I voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act because this important legislation takes an important first step towards ending police brutality and racial profiling. By banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, this legislation will help reduce the use of excessive force by police in communities of color. By establishing a national database to track police misconduct, we can hold law enforcement officers accountable for their actions across state lines. By demilitarizing our police force, we can stop the unnecessary transfer of military grade weapons to local law enforcement. By reforming the qualified immunity doctrine, we can eliminate the shield that too many police departments have used to avoid responsibility for their actions in court. I believe these policy measures will make our communities safer and help save lives. That’s why I will continue to call on the Senate to pass this legislation so we can fix a broken system that has been plagued by over-policing and the loss of too many black lives over the years.
What’s your view on President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone?
Roger Stone lied to Congress, including under my questioning, as he testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the Russia investigation. He also lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators and was subsequently charged with seven criminal counts including providing false statements, obstructing justice and witness tampering. And, he lied to the American people when he falsely claimed he had no contacts with Julian Assange or Wikileaks in support of Donald Trump’s election.
The seriousness of Roger Stone’s crimes should not be diminished. Not only did he make a mockery of congressional oversight, he also degraded our democracy with his election meddling, working hand in hand with what the U.S. intelligence community has deemed a hostile intelligence service. His commutation was the culmination of a shameful chapter that has deeply damaged the credibility of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Trump’s actions should be understood as an attack on the independence and integrity of both the Justice Department and the Intelligence Community, which has generated unwarranted distrust of our national security professionals.
As president, Donald Trump has made no attempt to conceal his disdain for the law, especially when it gets close to him and his inner circle. Attorney General Bill Barr’s leadership at the DOJ has made it plain that in Donald Trump’s mind, there are two standards of justice: one for him and one for everyone else. Barr has shown an unapologetic willingness to interfere with the justice system to reward those who show loyalty to Trump—like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn—and punish those who have betrayed him by publicly testify against him—like Michael Cohen. Beyond the legal considerations, we should demand more of our leaders. Even the perception of impropriety by the President—any president—harms our rule of law and undermines the fairness of our system. These precedents are incredibly dangerous for our democracy.
After his commutation, Robert Mueller said it best: Roger Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so. I wholeheartedly agree and believe history will judge him harshly.
Mike Quigley 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.
Safe and fair elections are the foundation of any democratic system. Voters must have faith that the electoral process will accurately reflect the will of the people. In recent years, however, this critical system has come under attack. The U.S. intelligence community confirmed that Russia targeted state election systems, including Illinois, in the lead-up to the 2016 elections. Elections security experts have advised us that the vulnerabilities that existed in 2016 continue to persist across the country, and U.S. intelligence officials warn that Moscow and other foreign actors will employ similar attacks in the 2020 elections.
For the past several years, I’ve sounded the alarm that our election infrastructure is outdated, low-tech, and nowhere near where it needs to be to prevent future intrusions. That’s why I was proud to use my position as Chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), to secure $425 million in new grants to help states protect, fortify, and update election systems from cyber-hacking. This was the first new funding for EAC grants since we appropriated $380 million two years ago. Today, perhaps more than at any other time in our nation’s history, state and local election officials face unique challenges that require access to federal guidance and support. This new funding will help fill those gaps. Moving forward, I will continue to lead on this issue and fight for additional election security funding for states to prevent foreign governments from attempting to disrupt and influence our democratic process.
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.
President Donald Trump’s use of the office of the presidency to pressure a foreign government to interfere in our elections was an unprecedented abuse of power. The facts of the case were clear and undisputed. I know this to be true because, as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I was intimately involved in the day to day investigation. Our committee found clear, consistent, and compelling evidence that President Trump abused his power, withheld a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in military aid from an ally, and after his scheme was uncovered, he obstructed Congress to try to cover it up.
Ultimately, I voted in favor of impeaching President Trump because if Congress had failed to hold the President accountable for his actions, we would have forsaken our duty, betrayed our oaths of office, and sent the message that some people can avoid justice.
Throughout the impeachment inquiry, the President and House Republicans were afforded every opportunity to participate in the process. House Republicans were included in every deposition and able to question each of the witnesses. During the public phase of the inquiry, Republicans were again given the same privileges as Democrats and the President was invited to present a defense multiple times. Unfortunately, from the beginning, Republican arguments about process were a transparent attempt to distract from the facts of the case.
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?
The federal government cannot continue on its current fiscal path. In the next two decades, we will face serious problems with our debt that our children and grandchildren will be forced to confront. The costs of an aging population and unsound tax policies will continue to rise sharply, a fact that Congress must resolve. To deal with this issue, we must have a long-term plan.
Bipartisan solutions to our budget woes exist, but talk is cheap. They only work if Members are willing to take tough votes. That’s why one of the most important votes I’ve taken in Congress was for a long-term bipartisan budget plan - a bill that was supported by only 37 of my colleagues. Introduced by Republican Steve LaTourette and Democrat Jim Cooper, it was modeled after the Simpson-Bowles Commission deficit reduction plan. The plan included the three “B’s” I believe are necessary for any deficit plan. It was big, balanced, and bipartisan. By authorizing $4 trillion in deficit reduction through a mix of revenue raising and spending cuts, the plan was something that members of both parties should have agreed on.
When the deficit reduction plan failed, Congress could have mustered the courage to try again. Or, we could have taken the opportunity to deliver smart tax reform that would help the middle class and spur sustainable economic growth. Instead, President Trump and congressional Republicans chose to help corporations and the top 1% over hard working Americans by passing the 2017 tax bill. Moreover, their misguided bill exacerbated our budget crisis based on projections that it will add $1.5 trillion to our deficits over the next decade. Predictably, the Republican tax plan has done little to promote economic prosperity and the debt crisis created by these cuts is being used by the administration as justification to slash hundreds of billions from programs that would create real growth.
Now more than ever we need to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and make smarter investments that will grow our economy and create jobs. For example, we should be investing in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure rather than on duplicative federal programs or new tax cuts for the wealthy. For every billion dollars we invest in transportation infrastructure, 30,000 jobs are created. The reason I joined the House Appropriations Committee was to fight for smarter investments and bring much needed federal dollars back to Chicago.
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?
I strongly support the goal of universal healthcare coverage for all Americans. Nearly a decade of relentless attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could not stop the American people from rejecting Republican efforts to repeal the law. I was proud to vote for the ACA as one of my earliest votes in the House and I was equally proud to oppose numerous repeal efforts that Republicans lead in past Congresses. Polls show healthcare is the most important issue to the American voter.
The ACA was incredibly important and significantly expanded coverage. We are much closer to the goal of universal healthcare because of the ACA. Furthermore, the law has demonstrated that the government can play an effective role in healthcare. The U.S. has the most innovative and groundbreaking healthcare system in the world—we are largely responsible for most major medical breakthroughs and our medical schools are the global gold standard. Chicago in particular is a major beneficiary of this system as home to world class academic medical centers. Investment in the research and development pipeline has paid dividends time and time again.
Yet despite these achievements, until passage of the ACA, the U.S. struggled to bring down the uninsurance rate. Now, as a result of the law, 25 million more Americans have coverage and the uninsured rate is at a historic low. In the face of the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine the law and starve the ACA of its necessary resources, we continue to see record numbers of new beneficiaries signing up for coverage. This fact speaks directly to the demand made by the American people and the understanding, regardless of politics, that healthcare is a right not a privilege. Additionally, healthcare costs have significantly slowed and more people are getting preventative services like cancer screenings, birth control, and primary care earlier. The ACA was built on the concept that prevention can save lives and save money at the same time. In order for those gains to be felt across the entire country, Americans need to be insured. It is past time to finally move beyond the empty rhetoric of “repeal and replace” and support solutions that can further increase coverage.
I believe the Democratic party must continue to be aspirational in our goals for the healthcare system, but we must also be pragmatic about what we can achieve in a divided government right now. That’s why I’ve cosponsored bills like the CHOICE Act, which would add a publicly-operated health insurance option to individual markets, the Medicare Buy-In and Market Stabilization Act, which will give the almost 60 million Americans ages 50-64 the option to purchase Medicare, and Medicare-X Choice Act of 2019, which would build on the existing Medicare framework to establish a public option for individuals and small businesses. All three of these proposals empower individuals with low-cost, government-run alternatives, which introduces new competition to the health insurance market and helps to drive down premiums. Most importantly, they get the U.S. closer to universal healthcare.
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.
America has always symbolized the promise of freedom and a refuge for immigrants since the founding of our nation. Throughout our history, immigrants of all races, religions, and nationalities have come to America and enriched our society in their own unique way. That legacy is why our nation has always been great. Unfortunately, President Trump doesn’t subscribe to this vision. He views immigration as a partisan tool to divide our country and he’s willing to punish anybody that will help him score points with his base. For example, despite saying that he supports Dreamers who were brought to this country illegally as children, President Trump took action in 2017 to end the DACA program without establishing a reasonable alternative in its place. His callous decision subjected thousands of innocent young people to the threat of deportation.
That is why I proudly supported the American Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6, which would reverse the administration’s cruel policies towards Dreamers by offering them legal protections and a path towards citizenship. The bill would grant permanent residency for eligible Dreamers who entered the U.S. under the age of 18 and who were continuously present in the U.S. for 4 years prior to the date of the bill’s enactment. Dreamers are our friends, neighbors, and coworkers - and that is why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should take up this legislation in the Senate, to ensure that they have the certainty and protection they deserve.
I will continue to support commonsense immigration policies that ensure the protection of our borders, while also allowing for a path to citizenship for those who want to contribute to the tradition of American prosperity. Until such reforms occur, we must do all we can to prevent the unnecessary detention and deportation of millions of members of our community.
What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?
Gun Violence Prevention: No perfect solution exists to end all gun violence, but we know from the experiences of other countries that a combination of small but practical policy solutions can severely reduce it. That’s why since coming to Congress, I’ve been proud to support legislation requiring mandatory background checks on 100 percent of gun sales; limiting the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill; and requiring tougher penalties for criminals caught trafficking guns across state lines into Illinois.
Infrastructure Development: It’s no secret that our national infrastructure is in an unacceptable state of disrepair- a fact that is crystal clear in Chicago, home to America’s largest freight crossroads, one of its largest airports, and one of its oldest and most complex public transit systems. In my role on the House Appropriations committee and as Vice-Chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked hard to bring home billions of dollars in federal funding for key Chicago transportation infrastructure projects like CTA’s Red Purple Modernization program and the emergency repair of Lake Shore Drive when it was forced to close during last year’s Polar Vortex. As crucial as annual appropriations are to keeping our city and country moving, it’s clear that we need a massive, dedicated infrastructure funding bill to help tackle the extensive maintenance backlog we’ve accumulated. Congress should hold the President accountable to follow through on his campaign pledge to dedicate a trillion dollars or more to our infrastructure needs and I will continue to work in the Appropriations Committee and with my colleagues across Congress to make that a reality.
Climate Change: Changing atmospheric conditions are a global crisis with local implications- from increased flooding on Chicago’s streets due to more frequent and more severe storms, to impacts on our food supply as drought and fire take their toll on agriculture sectors around the world, to our safety and security on city streets as climate change multiplies and exacerbates global conflict. To keep Chicago’s beautiful summers and typically frigid winters and ensure it has a future as a safe, liveable city, we must confront the climate crisis head on. I’m open to any solution that drives down greenhouse gas emissions, such as a price on carbon or a free market cap and trade approach, and I believe that the United States must immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement and retake its position as a leader and catalyst of action. By ignoring this problem running from our responsibilities as President Trump would have us do, we are putting our children’s and our grandchildren’s Chicago at grave risk.
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?
Maintaining a connection to the local community is one of the most important things any elected official can do to be successful. That’s why throughout my career I’ve prioritized community involvement. Since 1982, when I began my career in public service, I’ve participated in thousands of community meetings across the district. Those meetings ranged from my involvement in No Lights at Wrigley Field to regular visits with the many neighborhood associations in the city to speaking with local chapters of Indivisible that were established after President Trump’s election. And despite a heavy workload in Washington, D.C., I still make it a priority to attend hundreds of community meetings each year. These meetings are a critical opportunity for me to connect individually with my constituents and learn what policy issues are on their minds on a day-to-day basis, which are often not the issues cable news pundits are highlighting. These conversations have enabled me to bring the priorities of regular Chicagoans back to Washington to guide my work in Congress. Without these connections, I would not be able to fulfill my job as fully or responsibly. In all that time, I’ve never seen my opponent participate in any of these important community meetings.
What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?
The most important action Congress could take to curb gun violence in the United States would be to expand background checks to 100 percent of gun sales. When it comes to preventing gun violence, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Elected officials must stop cowering to the gun lobby and address the gun violence epidemic our country is facing. Whether a sale is online, at a gun show, between neighbors or family members, or at a licensed dealer, the process to purchase a firearm should not differ. I experienced this first hand when I visited a gun show in Indiana. The ability to purchase a semi-automatic rifle with no questions asked is not only disturbing, it is nonsensical. Lax gun laws in Indiana drive much of the unprecedented violence we see in Chicago. According to the Chicago Police Department, 20 percent of all crime guns come from Indiana. Requiring mandatory background checks and providing adequate funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is just one step to address these loopholes that plague our gun laws.
That is why I am proud to support policies that require unlicensed gun sellers to use the same verification system by requiring them to sell their guns through licensed dealers only, and to close the so-called “Charleston Loophole,” that currently allows the sale of a firearm to proceed if a background check is not completed within three business days. We need to do everything we can to hold Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accountable for not holding a vote on these policies. His unwillingness to act will continue to have consequences as shootings across the country have demonstrated the need for these bills to become law. We cannot – and will not – relent, until the Senate has passed bipartisan House-passed gun violence legislation, and the American people can live free from the fear of gun violence.
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?
That climate change is occurring and is principally driven by man-made greenhouse gas emissions is an empirical and verifiable fact. The increase in carbon dioxide that scientists have recorded over recent decades is unprecedented. Similarly, global temperatures have risen precipitously and at a speed which cannot be accounted for by the natural variations of earth’s climate and weather.
We are already seeing the consequences of this human-driven warming. Australia is experiencing unprecedented fires, much like those that have occurred in California and much of the West in recent years. Severe storms like hurricanes are becoming more frequent and powerful, droughts are becoming deeper and more common and changing temperatures and weather patterns are wreaking havoc on critical habitats and ecosystems.
Climate change is an economy-wide threat, potentially impacting our food production, transportation, housing, and even immigration and our national security. Long term, there is no greater threat to future generations. Fortunately, we know that taking the urgent action needed to meet the challenge of climate change and transition to a resilient low-carbon future can be a major driver of economic growth. There are more than 3 million jobs in the US in the clean energy and energy efficiency industries and that number will only grow as more renewables are included in our power generation mix.
However, this transition will not happen on its own; good public policy is needed to pave the way. Under President Trump, we’ve lost precious time to take decisive action on climate action. We simply cannot afford to waste another moment. The US must regain its leadership role in this space, catalyzing global action rather than serving as an excuse for other nations to fall short of their commitments. To do this, we must invest in the research and development of the new and improved technologies that will be needed to reduce emissions in line with what science demands to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate. This includes increased investments that will spur more renewable energy production as well as a renewed focus on less heralded projects to help prime our electric grid for the unique demands of a low carbon power generation mix. In the past two congresses, I’ve authored legislation designed to help the Department of Energy pave the way for the energy sector to address some of these foundational, but less flashy, challenges.
Modernizing and preparing our energy grid is important, but ultimately we need to continue the decarbonization of our power and transportation sectors and start accounting for the astronomical costs of carbon pollution on society. Most importantly, we need to stop wasting time relitigating the very existence of this problem. It is our moral and ethical obligation to act. If we continue to allow our own intransigence to stand in the way of protecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans and billions around the world, we will have failed our children and handicapped their potential prosperity.
What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?
Medicare and Social Security are bedrock programs that must be fortified and protected. In order to remain solvent and assure future generations access to these programs, we must be willing to modernize and reform them. We also must look to the entirety of our federal budget and prioritize where and for what purpose we spend taxpayer dollars.
While we must be willing to reform parts of Medicare and Social Security to ensure their continued existence and solvency, we must do so in responsible ways. If we want to get serious about reforming our entitlements, we could begin by replacing our fee-for-service model with a value-based payment model in an effort to reduce Medicare spending. In the United States, consumer driven and patient centered care is reshaping the healthcare landscape, empowering patients to make informed medical and financial decisions while simultaneously supporting providers. A value-based model would reimburse doctors and hospitals based on outcomes, as opposed to predetermined rates, helping to incentivize innovation and reduce overtreatment. Medicare Advantage has provided models for more coordination of care, which can help drive down costs. Congress also has the ability to slightly raise the Medicare payroll tax, which would further extend Medicare’s trust fund as the number of beneficiaries continues to grow and those individuals live longer.
Since coming to Congress, I have also steadfastly supported measures to improve our Social Security system. Last Congress, I was a proud cosponsor of the Strengthening Social Security Act, which would increase benefits and ensure that COLA calculations better reflect the cost of living for seniors, while at the same time improving the financial condition of the Social Security Trust Fund by phasing out the cap on income taxed for Social Security. Also, this Congress I am a proud cosponsor of the Social Security 2100 Act, which would increase benefits for current and future Social Security recipients, cut taxes for seniors by eliminating a tax on their benefits, and ensure that the system remains solvent for the rest of the century.
Medicare and Social Security have been providing quality healthcare and retirement security to America’s seniors, disabled and low income populations for generations. When considering reforms to these programs, it’s important to recall a time when seniors had no way to pay for doctor visits and were making tough choices between food and medicine. Medicare and Social Security have been directly responsible for increasing the quality and length of life for millions of Americans. These programs serve the most vulnerable among us. The dignity and certainty they provide cannot and should not be strictly limited to the wealthy.
What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?
It is clear that our nation is experiencing a student loan crisis. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are currently struggling to pay back their student loan debt. With tuition costs rising faster than inflation over the past few decades, student loans are now a necessity for many seeking a college education. This is extremely concerning as our current law makes it difficult for individuals with student loan payments to reduce or eliminate debt. This becomes a vicious cycle. In fact, according to Congressional Research Service (CRS), approximately one in six adults are still paying off their student loans and the cumulative amount of federal student loans debt now exceeds $1.4 trillion.
I believe providing our students with access to the best possible education and making college more affordable should be paramount goals for Congress, especially as so many Americans battle economic hardship. This will help our graduates achieve their dreams of buying homes, starting families, and opening businesses, all while injecting more money into the economy. We must not allow our students to be deterred from accessing higher education because of high costs and debt burdens.
That is why I support policies that encourage employers to offer student loan assistance as a tax-exempt benefit for employees to help pay down their debt and allow students with high interest rates to refinance their loans to a more affordable rate. We also need to seriously consider free community college, where students who graduate high school with a 3.0 GPA or better and meet state standards for English and math skills, have the opportunity to attend community college at no cost.
An investment in our nation’s education is an investment in our country’s future - both economically and socially. I will continue to work together with my colleagues to develop innovative and pragmatic policies that make college accessible and affordable for all Americans.
What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?
Despite its weak economy and many domestic issues, Russia plays an outsized role in geopolitics. As we learned firsthand in 2016, they continue to present unique and serious threats to the United States—not least of which is the stated goal of disrupting democracy and invalidating the vote. Americans deserve leaders who see the Russian government for what it is and are able to make nuanced policy decisions in response to those realities. We must take a strong stand against Russian aggression in Ukraine and across Europe. We must have an aggressive, cohesive strategy to combat Russian cyber warfare, especially election interference and disinformation. And, we must also be willing to engage with Russia on security issues in which we have shared interests, like nuclear nonproliferation and terrorism. The Trump Administration’s lack of a Russia strategy is beyond irresponsible—it’s dangerous. And President Trump’s personal deference to Vladimir Putin is simply unacceptable from the nation’s Commander-in-Chief.
Our relationship to Russia remains complicated, as it has been for decades. However, this Administration has exacerbated an already delicate, and sometimes volatile situation. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty has made not only the United States, but the world, less safe. Similarly, he aimed to rip up the Open Skies Treaty, which is largely responsible for keeping international air travelers safe. International agreements like the INF and Open Skies are rarely perfect. There are constant and evolving challenges to enforcement. And yet, they are necessary to maintain peace and security. They demand an investment in diplomacy. And, they require a posture of strength from the President. With his apparent desire to appease Putin, President Trump has failed us by every benchmark.
For the first time since World War II, Europe was invaded when Russia rolled tanks into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. The world stood in united condemnation and implemented targeted sanctions. Yet, instead of providing robust support for Ukraine to stand up to Russia, President Trump chased wild conspiracy theories, cut off congressionally mandated aid and threatened Ukraine’s President Zelensky. And for this abuse of power, he’s been impeached. It’s yet another glaring example of how dramatically President Trump has retreated from the consistent U.S. position towards the Kremlin. Instead of supporting our ally Ukraine who remains under siege, he adopted the Russian attitude towards Ukraine, spread their disinformation and most alarmingly, altered our foreign policy for his political interest, and not in the interest of the American people and our allies.
What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.
There are many reasons for the United States to try and reign in the unfair trade and investment practices of known abusers like China. Stealing our companies’ intellectual property, forced technology transfers, lack of market access to U.S. products and mandatory joint ventures are not in line with the values and norms that anchor our rules-based trading system. When a foreign country fails to abide by the established rules of international trade, the United States should work with our allies to bring all stakeholders to the table to address these issues in a fair and comprehensive manner.
However, by imposing unilateral tariffs and threatening to escalate a globally disruptive trade war with China, the European Union, and our North American trading partners, President Trump is pursuing a dangerous strategy. His actions threaten to increase the price of everyday items American consumers and businesses purchase, harm American exporters who are subject to retaliatory measures and undermine the international economic system the United States created and has led for the last seven decades. Instead of imposing higher tariffs on a broad range of consumer goods, the Trump administration should focus on efforts to enhance productivity in all sectors by working with Congress to make it easier for America to export our goods, services, and ideas to create and support the good paying jobs that are staples of middle-class lives and critical to our economy.
For the U.S. to remain a leader on the world stage, we must embrace the economic opportunities available through modern trade agreements that prioritize workers’ rights and environmental protection. Tens of thousands of businesses throughout Illinois and Chicago—the vast majority of which are small businesses—do billions of dollars worth of exporting every year. These exports are helping to support over 100,000 good paying, high quality jobs in my district and millions more throughout the country. Free trade agreements, if done right, have the ability to create more of these jobs by eliminating barriers to trade like unfairly high tariffs that prevent products made in the U.S.A. from entering new markets.
Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.
The United States has stood as a beacon of freedom and democracy since our founding. While it’s true that too often, we don’t live up to our own creeds, our foundational principles demand that we must always endeavor to create a more perfect union. We are most effective extending these values beyond on our shores when we lead by example and export our beliefs, not when we attempt to force them upon others. As the recent past has shown in the Middle East, this mission is a test of our soft power, not only our military might.
Unfortunately, the stable and prosperous world order established in the aftermath of World War II is now being dismantled by its principal architect. As FDR said, self-interest is the enemy of all true affection. The United States is a powerful leader, but we cannot stand alone on the world stage. Despite the current administration’s preference towards an “American First” policy, we need allies. My work on the Intelligence Committee has demonstrated first hand just how important those relationships are when it comes to intelligence sharing and national security.
The Trump administration’s incredible inconsistencies—and its degradation of these values at home—has significantly weakened our ability to promote democracy abroad. When the President of the United States solicits foreign interference in our elections, verbally attacks our public servants and law enforcement, unilaterally withdraws from long standing international agreements, fails to implement policies that protect civil liberties, traffics in bigotry, conspiracies, racism and nepotism, it should come as no surprise that democracies around the world have been shaken and autocrats have used this opportunity to ascend.
What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?
The evolution of nuclear weapons into smaller and more tactical battlefield armaments increases their likelihood of being used. In my time in Congress, I have consistently stood against the development and testing of tactical-style nuclear weapons and I will continue to use my position on the House Appropriations Committee to fight against funding for continued nuclear development and for additional resources for nonproliferation programs at the Departments of State and Defense.
Perhaps the most important impediment to the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons since their advent has been the steady and reliable leadership of the United States on the international stage. Under both Republican and Democratic presidents, America has been a force for peace and steadfastly against the spread of weapon-nuclear technology.
Under President Trump, America’s retreat from key international agreements such as the Iran Nuclear Deal have opened the door for instability and for other global powers who don’t share our commitment to nonproliferation to shape international policy. President Trump’s retreat is as shameful as it is dangerous. Congress must assert its role in international relations and formally ratify key agreements such as JCPOA, to prevent this president from leading us down a dangerous path.
Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.
I do not have any relatives on my public or campaign payrolls.
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.
During my time in Congress, I have often found myself reflecting on the example of Senator Everett Dirksen, who represented Illinois in Congress as a member of both the House of Representatives and the Senate for more than thirty years. A staunch conservative, he nevertheless built strong relationships with his counterparts across the aisle and worked on a bipartisan basis to champion causes that he believed in. Most notably, Senator Dirksen was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. In addition to shaping and supporting the laws, he helped break the Senate filibuster that delayed the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Senator Dirksen edited the House version of the Civil Rights Act in the hopes of gaining additional Republican support and lobbied his colleagues individually until he achieved the necessary support to end the filibuster and pass the bill. Just a few weeks after he secured the votes, it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.
Senator Dirksen was a lifelong champion of the civil rights movement, despite his lack of political popularity with black and liberal voters back home. When the Senator believed in an issue, he was always willing to work across the aisle to shepherd its success. Today, we are sadly even more politically divided than we were during Senator Dirksen’s time, so I believe we can learn more from his example now than ever before.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
Anybody who knows me well is aware of the fact that I’m a big fan of the Simpsons. Having grown up down the road in Carol Stream, there’s something about the Simpsons’ lives in Springfield that I find recognizable. Whatever the appeal, the show has remained an incredibly well-written satire of American culture. However, I believe its early seasons were some of the best television ever produced. The Simpsons effectively skewered the more traditional family sitcoms that came before it and found a unique way to make a hilariously dysfunctional family relatable to its viewers. And the show often brought levity to serious topics - something I think we could all use a little more of these days.