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Janice D. Schakowsky, 9th Congressional District Democratic nominee profile

Her top priorities include health care, climate change and an overhaul of the immigration system.

Janice D. Schakowsky, 9th Congressional District Democratic nominee and incumbent candidate, 2020 general election, questionnaire
Janice D. Schakowsky, 9th Congressional District Democratic nominee and incumbent.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Candidate profile

Janice D. Schakowsky

Running for: 9th Congressional District

Political party affiliation: Democrat

Political/civic background: Member of Congress, former State Representative

Occupation: Member of Congress

Education: BA in Education, University of Illinois

Campaign website: janschakowsky.org

Facebook: schakowskyforcongress

Twitter: @repschakowsky


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. Janice D. Schakowsky 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?

Donald Trump gets a F- for his mishandling of the Coved -19 pandemic. The United States has the worst outcomes in the world – the highest number of cases and highest number of deaths. Because of his complete failure to take positive steps to control the virus, Donald Trump is responsible for many of those deaths, despite the fact that he has said “No. I don’t take responsibility.” Donald Trump has not only ignored the advice and the data provided by the best scientists in the world, including those in his own administration, but he has and still is spreading misinformation: “The virus is a hoax”. “The virus will disappear – like magic.” “Take hydroxychloroquine. I did and it didn’t hurt me.” “Maybe we should be injecting bleach”. He has modeled dangerous behavior, including not wearing a mask, and conducting rallies that have resulted in surges of the virus among attendees. He continues to proclaim that the U.S. is doing better than any other country.

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

Economic recovery is impossible without getting control of the virus. The two crises – health and economic stagnation – cannot be separated. Until Americans see that the virus is under control, they will not go to go to restaurants and stores; they won’t want to fly or travel, send their children to school, go to work, or engage fully in any of the activities that one associated with a growing and healthy economy. We need more testing and contact tracing and have needed those basic elements for months.

The government will have to make it possible for Americans to comply with the behaviors that will get us out of this disaster: wearing masks, staying home, social distancing, hand washing. Instead, the Republicans are resisting and delaying extended unemployment insurance, food support, moratorium on evictions, access to affordable health care and prescription drugs.

All over the country, we have seen states and cities try to reopen for business, school, recreation, etc. and then have to reverse those decisions. Reopening seems to be working better in places like New York where the virus is under control. The best hope for economic recovery in the near term, is the discovery and mass distribution of a vaccine.

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?

It would be generous to characterize the President’s executive order on police reform as a half-measure. And we see this here in Chicago - look at what’s happened just the last few days. Communities are still being ripped apart, and citizens are searching for leadership. We saw what happened on the streets of Portland Oregon. It looked more that fascism than police reform.

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 in favor of the Justice in Policing Act, and was proud to do so. It was an excellent first step towards achieving our goal of ending systemic racism. Ending racism extends beyond just police reform however, and requires broad reforms that aim to empower individuals and protect them from violence, poverty, and discrimination.

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

The President who said he would “restore law and order” has sought to undermine the rule of law in order to advance his own personal gain at every turn. Commuting the sentence of Roger Stone is a dangerous, but logical, next step in the evolution of the President’s corrupt Administration. Compare his commutation of the Stone sentence to the treatment Alexander Vindman received after he came forward to share his legitimate concerns with respect to the President soliciting an in- kind campaign contribution from the Ukrainian Prime Minister. This makes clear the President governs only for himself, and that honorable public servants must bend the knee to our corrupt President.

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.

My civic responsibility is what drove me to run for Congress in the first place and motivates me each and every day. I started my career as a consumer advocate, fighting to put freshness labels onto food at the grocery store. Today, I chair the prestigious Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, which allows me to fight for my constituents’ safety and welling every day. Over the last year I have worked to take dangerous products off shelves, provide oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, and I am writing the first national legislation to protect Americans’ data privacy.

Numerous important bills have already passed out of my subcommittee during this Congress. They include: The STURDY Act to address furniture tip overs; The Safe Sleep for Babies Act to address dangerous inclined sleepers and crib bumpers; The Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act to address the flammability standard for upholstered furniture; the “SafeWeb” Act to protect Americans from fraud, spam, and deception online; BrandUSA Reauthorization to promote American tourism; The Nicholas and Zachary Burt Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act to provide grants to states to provide carbon monoxide detectors to low income families; and the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act to create a safety standard for portable fuel containers.

In my district offices, I oversee a team of dedicated staff who help constituents navigate the complicated and nerve-wracking federal bureaucracy. We fight for veterans’ benefits and make certain Medicare and Social Security benefits are properly administered. We help immigrants with their visa and immigration processes and help families stay together and reunify.

I am regularly working with the Army Corps of Engineers to utilize the skill and capacity of the Federal Government to make infrastructure improvements in the district. We have fought to implement flood remediation of the Des Plaines River, deal with our eroding lakefront shoreline, and tackle environmental cleanup.

I fight in the halls of Congress to bring federal funding to the district; combat climate change; deliver community security grants; end attacks on the SNAP program; and to lower the cost of prescription drugs. And as the representative of a district of immigrants, I fight for comprehensive immigration reform that results in a pathway to citizenship and does not tear family apart or depart children who only know America as home.

Recently I introduced the “Mentoring to Succeed Act”, legislation that increased support for school-based mentoring programs in order to help at-risk youth thrive in their schools, careers, and life. My bill would invest in mentoring programs that help students overcome adversity and trauma and develop the workforce skills employers are seeing. I believe that as students face increased social and psychological strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mentoring to Succeed Act is more important than ever.

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

Leading up to this election I have taken an oath eleven times ‘to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ The biggest threat to our Constitution is sitting in the oval office. This President has violated the law at every turn, stealing power from the judiciary and legislative branches and using it to advance his own personal interests. He has jeopardized our national security, abused and tarnished the Office of the President, and proved that he is incapable of putting our nation, its people, and our democracy first.

After months of fair and transparent investigations and committee hearings, thousands of pages of reports, and countless hours of witness testimony it became clear that our oath and the Constitution provided only one path forward. A path that led us here, to the introduction and passage of Articles of Impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.

It was never my goal or wish to impeach a President. But the facts allowed for no other choice. My vote was not about politics but rather it was about doing the right thing. I believe my vote in favor of impeachment put our nation, its people, and our democracy first, as I swore to do.

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?

As a proud Member of the House Budget Committee, I know full well the fiscal challenges this country faces. And can say, without any hesitation, that the poorest Americans should not be expected to shoulder the load for debt and deficit reduction. I would oppose any efforts to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SNAP, school lunch or any other nutrition programs.

On the other hand, the wealthiest Americans continue to profit, even as the country finds itself in the current crisis. The taxes they pay are obscenely low, which is why I have been re-drafting the Fairness in Taxation Act, which would make sure Americans who have succeeded pay their fair share in taxes. After the election, it is my fervent hope that Joe Biden is President and the Democrats are in the majority in the Senate. At that time, I would support Congress consider repealing the 2 Trillion tax “scam”, 83% of the benefits of which went to the top 1% of Americans, that was passed under Trump. That tax cut failed to “pay for itself” but rather left a huge hole in the budget.

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 am a founding member of the Medicare for All Caucus as well as an original cosponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2019. I came to Congress to fight to make sure that every person in our country has access to affordable, quality and comprehensive health care. It’s time we join the rest of the world in guaranteeing universal coverage. And it’s time Republicans stop trying to destroy Medicare and, instead, join us in making sure that we provide Medicare for All. I believe health care is a human right, and I will fight to make sure that every person is able to get the medical care they deserve.

I am a co-sponsor of every bill that has been introduced that would improve access to health care in our country, and bring us close to universal coverage. As a member of the Energy and Committee, I helped write the Affordable Care Act. In the House, we were able to pass a bill that included a public option. Unfortunately, in negotiations with the Senate, we love that provision. I would support a robust public option, that allows Americans to choose a government sponsored health plan, but will continue to push for an even more comprehensive plan

Under both Medicare for All and Medicare for America, individuals and families will have no out-of-pocket costs for preventive and chronic disease services—including pediatric, maternity, and emergency services — and prescription drugs—generic or brand name as necessary.

Both plans lift the current prohibition on Medicare’s ability to negotiate prescription drug prices—a ban that has kept drug prices artificially high and increased healthcare costs for millions of Americans.

One of the advantages of Medicare for America is that it would, for the first time, create a Long-Term Care Policy for the United State, something desperately needed as our populations ages.

Do you support or oppose DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and why? Should a path to citizenship be created for the so-called DREAMers? Please explain.

I support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and the DACA program because of rich contributions these citizens make to the country. Our communities are more vibrant because of them. For these young Americans, home is here - this is the only home they have ever known.

Last year, I was proud to vote for the second time for DACA when I cast my vote for H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act. This legislation creates a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and provides certainty for those living in the country under Temporary Protected Status. As a first-generation American myself, I have long been in favor to comprehensive immigration reform, providing a path to citizenship to the millions of immigrants and refugees that seek a better and safer life in the United State.

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

Before the COVID-19 epidemic (the solutions to which I discussed earlier on this questionnaire), the three issues I heard the most about from constituents are healthcare, addressing climate change, and achieving a comprehensive and compassionate overhaul of our broken immigration system.

The driving passion that led me to public service is to make sure that every person in our nation has access to affordable, comprehensive and high-quality health care. The Affordable Care Act has brought us closer to that goal – eliminating bans on coverage for people with pre- existing conditions, prohibiting higher premium charges to women, expanding access to guaranteed coverage and premium assistance, and improving Medicaid and Medicare. Instead of barebones policies, the ACA’s essential health benefits include cost-free preventive care (including contraceptives), maternity care, prescription drugs and mental health services. I am committed to blocking efforts to repeal those protections. But, as a long-time Medicare for All supporter, I know that we have much more to do.

I have introduced legislation to lower prescription drug prices and insurance premiums, and I am the lead cosponsor of the EACH Woman Act to ensure that every woman – no matter where she lives, how much she earns, or what type of insurance she has – has abortion coverage. Access to the full range of reproductive health services and ensuring that Roe v Wade is protected not just in statute but in practice remains a top priority, especially given assaults by the Republican Congress on Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.

In regard to climate change, the science is clear—climate change is real and the federal government must lead a national transition to clean renewable energy sources in order to avoid devastating consequences. One particular area where I’ve been focused is protecting our land and water resources from the dangers of fracking and to advance efforts to shift toward a truly clean energy future.

In regard to immigration I support passing comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are living and working in our country, contributing positively to our communities, and obeying our country’s laws. These people left everything they knew and had behind; they were either fleeing perilous circumstances, seeking to improve their family’s wellbeing, or both; they endured life-threatening circumstances just for the opportunity to reach our shores and get to work. We would be doing a great disservice to our own country if we fail to harness their strength and gumption by allowing them to earn citizenship.

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

My entire career, I’ve focused on helping Americans access quality, affordable healthcare, regardless of zip code or income level. As discussed elsewhere in this questionnaire, I played a major role in drafting and passing the Affordable Care Act and have spent years fighting for a universal healthcare plan.

As stated on his website, my opponent does not believe government should play a role in the healthcare system and would leave consumers at the mercy of insurance companies.

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

The Senate must pass H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Check Act, immediately as a first step. The legislation contains a number of common sense steps that would make our communities safer. In my view, however, we must go further, by reinstating the automatic weapons ban, as well as addressing root causes of gun violence, to include poverty, systemic racism, and access to mental health treatment.

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?

Not only is climate change real, it’s THE existential threat to our society, to our way of life, to human civilization.

Everything needs to be on the table - I am a proud supporter of the Green New Deal, as well as H.R. 2, both of which would heal our planet and ensure workers prosper as we transition to new ways to support our way of life.

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

More than anything, we must stop in its tracks the President’s blatant attempt to raid the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds, through the payroll tax deferral. This unconstitutional end-around Congress will do NOTHING for those who find themselves out of work as the crisis looms large, and very little for those still working but most in need during the crisis.

Consider: for the poorest 20%, a payroll tax cut means about $250 in tax savings. For the Richest 1%, this is a $51,840 windfall.

Beyond that, Congress must eliminate the cap on taxable income as far as the payroll tax goes. It was bad policy when it was enacted, and it’s become more antiquated as the nation has grown more prosperous.

Additionally, I am a strong supporter of Social Security 2100 Act, authored by my friend and colleague John Larson. This legislation would expand the Social Security benefit, and ensure the Trust Fund is viable until 2100.

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

Student loan debt now exceed all credit card debt. I would call it a crisis, and I support student debt elimination. I truly believe doing so would fight inequality and unleash a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship.

What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?

One thing is for certain: Our country’s relationship with Russia should not be what it is today where all roads lead to Putin. Every foreign policy action of our president seems to be designed to benefit Moscow: Denial of Russian actions impacting the 2016 election; Threats to NATO; the Syria withdrawal; abandonment of allies; the list goes on and on.

At this moment, Russia is once against interfering with the November elections. Our intelligence community has confirmed this. And we the IC also has reliable evidence that Russia paying a bounty to the Taliban for each murder of an American soldier in Afghanistan.

With these activities going on, there is no way to normalize relations with Russia. Vladimir Putin is running circles around Donald Trump, raising questions about the true nature of the relationship.

Once the U.S. has a new administration, it will be important to redefine our relationship with Russia in a much more constructive and transparent way.

One of the first things we must do is project strength and unity with allies in order to deter further Russian aggression. This means we must strengthen our relationship with NATO and focus the global community on diplomatic efforts to slow Russian misbehavior.

It is in the mutual benefit of both of our countries to seek arms controls, especially on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. We must find ways to work together on important multi-party agreements as was done on the Paris Climate Accords, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

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

Tariffs are an important tool that can and should be used to ensure that American businesses aren’t competing with goods and services that come from countries that break the rules.

American trade policy should prioritize protecting American businesses, workers, and consumers from products that come from low-road countries that don’t protect worker rights, human rights, and women’s rights.

That said, the President has engaged in a multi-front trade war, and isolated allies when we need to be shoring up support in order to hold China to account for their failures to provide adequate protections for workers and religious minorities, and to fight corruption. On the whole, the President’s trade policies are not fulfilling the key campaign promise he made, to fight for the forgotten men and women of this country.

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

Throughout my career, democracy promotion has been at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy strategy because democracies are more likely to be our ally, share our values, uphold human rights, and strive for peace with their neighbors. To achieve our goals, the U.S. has advanced policies abroad (utilizing our money, diplomacy, and expertise) to promote human rights and rule of law, strengthen civil society, establish free and fair elections, and other strategies to develop the fundamental elements of healthy democracies. I have supported these initiatives that are primary run by the Department of State and USAID. As the world’s leading democracy, peoples around the world who yearn to be free look for us for support and guidance. In that regard, we have the responsibility to share what we have learned and help others develop open and free societies. The Marshall Plan’s development of post-war Germany and Japan stands as arguably the best example of how our country can nurture lasting democracies, and establish U.S. allies, around the world. More recently, U.S. democracy promotion efforts in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America have demonstrated a mixed record of success.

I look forward to the day that we can return to a standard of professionalism, commitment to diplomacy and use of smart power. This Administration has hollowed out the State Department, associated itself with dictatorial leaning governments and leaders, and diminished the reputation of the United States around the globe.

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

One thing we can do immediately is work to return to the “Iran Deal”, an international agreement negotiated by President Obama which effectively cut off every pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon. I was very proud to have done the hard work of making certain this agreement passed the House of Representatives. The Iran Deal agreement proved that enforceable, nonproliferation agreements can be forged even within the most difficult circumstances.

I believe nuclear weapons should be abolished around the globe. Congress can play a key role in this effort by first starting at home, and decreasing, then eventually eliminating, the production of our own nuclear weapons. This should happen in conjunction with intense global diplomacy to have our friends and adversaries do the same – Russia being the top priority. The United States and Russia have enough nuclear weaponry to destroy humanity many times over. This grotesque amount of nuclear ammunition is not necessary to maintain the element of deterrence necessary to avoid nuclear war.

I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 921, which would prohibit the President of the United States from conducting a first-use nuclear strike without a Congressional declaration of war. That restriction is more important than ever now that President Trump is in office.

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

None

What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln?

I admire and draw inspiration from the legacy of my late friend, Senator Paul Simon. Paul was a man of integrity who never shied away from doing the right thing. He opposed the death penalty even though that position was not popular downstate. What people understood about Paul is that he never put his finger to the wind to decide a policy decision. When he shared his views, he truly believed them. Paul was on the side of working families and everyday Americans. I miss him.

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

I’m a huge fan of the show “Madam Secretary”. Why? The main character, Elizabeth McCord, who served as Secretary of State, and now President, is smart, self-confident, powerful, courageous, and can solve all the world’s problems within one hour.