Running for: U.S. House of Representatives, 8th District of Illinois
Political party affiliation: Democrat
Political/civic background: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 2017-present; Deputy Treasurer for Illinois, 2007-2009; Special Assistant Attorney General for Illinois, 2006-2007; Member of Board of Illinois Housing Development Authority, 2005-2007; Member of the Village of Hoffman Estates Comprehensive Planning Advisory Committee, 2005-2007; and Judicial Clerk to Judge Joan Gottschall, U.S. District Court, Northern District of IL, 2001-2002
Occupation: Attorney and entrepreneur
Education: Princeton University, B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering, Certificate from the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs, 1995.
J.D. Harvard Law School, 2000
Campaign website: rajaforcongress.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, the state of Illinois and the country. Raja Krishnamoorthi 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?
My constituents, like people and families across the U.S., have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread effects on our economy. I have fielded many calls and inquiries from medical workers unable to find adequate personal protection equipment; small business owners who feared for their businesses and their employees; and parents and teachers concerned about whether and when their students can return to the classroom. Responding to each of the individuals who contacted my office for help has been my greatest priority over these past months of the pandemic.
At the same time, I have worked hard in Congress to do whatever is necessary to help our nation respond to this crisis and provide federal assistance to those who need it. I strongly supported and voted for all of the COVID-related relief bills that have passed the House, including the HEROES Act, which passed months before the Senate even resumed its efforts to try to provide additional support to Americans. As a former small businessman, I helped shape the Payment Protection Program (PPP) that has provided billions of dollars in loans to small businesses to help them pay their employees and stay in business. While there have been issues with that program, including not enough initial access for the smallest businesses, many of the problems have been corrected in subsequent legislation. Overall, the PPP has saved many small businesses across our nation and helped prop up our economy in very troubled times.
Finally, as chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, I have led important investigations into COVID testing and the development of a vaccine. Our work forced the FDA to change its policy toward regulating antibody tests, leading to millions of faulty and fraudulent tests being taken off the market. We are also working diligently to ensure that the Trump Administration’s initiative to develop a vaccine called “Operation Warp Speed” meets established standards of safety and transparency. Not only will this help ensure that any eventual vaccine is safe and effective; it is necessary in persuading sufficient numbers of people to choose to be vaccinated.
All of these steps have been taken in the absence of adequate – or even minimal – leadership from the White House. From day one of the pandemic, we’ve needed a forceful, coordinated response from the President. What we’ve received, instead, is bad information, buck-passing, and politicization of the crisis. In other pandemics, such as Ebola, the U.S. led the world’s response and helped find a solution. In this one, we’ve fallen behind almost every other nation — leading the world in COVID-19 deaths and total cases. For all these reasons, I would give President Trump an F for his mishandling of the crisis. In fact, his response has shown that he is not fit to hold the office.
What should the federal government do to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic shutdowns?
The first and most important thing we must do is to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and make sure that a sufficient number of Americans are inoculated. That is why I am working as chair of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy to make sure that the process of developing such a vaccine is done safely and transparently. Unless the American people have confidence that such a vaccine is safe and effective, we will not achieve the levels of vaccination that will provide herd immunity and give Americans the confidence to resume their lives, including work, school and travel.
While we wait for that vaccine to be developed, we must do everything we can to ensure that our country can survive economically. That is why I have strongly supported all of the coronavirus relief measures that have passed the House, focusing specifically on keeping our small businesses from permanently closing. I have worked to extend unemployment benefits to so-called “gig workers” who were not previously eligible. And I have supported a higher level of jobless benefits to help workers cope with increased expenses, such as paying for childcare.
Finally, the pandemic has revealed the shortcomings of our health care and health insurance system. It is unconscionable that the Trump Administration and its supporters in Congress are continuing to try to repeal Obamacare in the courts at the very time that millions of Americans are losing their health insurance along with their employment. I have supported the establishment of a so-called public option under Obamacare, which would provide millions of families with an alternative to private health insurance. In the next Congress, I will redouble my efforts to pass such a program whose importance has been demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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?
I believe the President’s executive order falls short of what’s required in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the systemic problem of police violence against African-Americans. For example, his order fails to eliminate the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants, such as the one that resulted in the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. It also fails to mandate heightened training for police officers across the country, and it fails to establish a national standard for the use of force. Americans want these changes now, and they will not be satisfied by the half-measures embodied by President Trump’s executive order. Moreover, Americans want these changes to have the force of law, not merely an executive order.
Any progress that the Trump Administration has made in addressing law enforcement practices has been completely undermined by its militarization of policing within our own borders. I have sent letters of protest to Administration officials over their use of unidentified agents and the issuance of bayonets to the National Guard in confronting peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. I also joined with my colleagues Bobby Rush and Danny Davis in challenging President Trump’s threat to send federal agents to Chicago without invitation from local authorities or proper coordination with the Chicago Police Department. These actions are serving to increase violence and division in cities across the country and placing Donald Trump’s political calculations ahead of the law and the Constitution.
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 strongly supported the Justice in Policing Act and was proud to vote for its passage in the House. I believe it was an appropriate response to George Floyd’s murder and the history of police violence towards African-Americans. I have proposed legislation that would build on the Justice in Policing Act by bringing more transparency to monetary settlements of police brutality cases, which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year — $113 million last year in Chicago, alone. In some cases, wealthy investors in so-called “brutality bonds” issued to finance such settlements actually profit off the suffering of victims and their families.
While I do not endorse the call to “defund the police,” I believe that we should look for alternatives to relying on law enforcement to deal with problems of mental health, drug addiction, homelessness and domestic violence. I also believe the next administration in Washington should return to the Obama model of pursuing Justice Department consent decrees with local police departments with histories of racial bias, such as the one currently in effect in Chicago. Unfortunately, the Trump administration abandoned this practice soon after taking office.
What’s your view on President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone?
In one word: disgraceful. It was the most egregious example of President Trump’s abuse of his pardon and commutation power to reward his political friends and protect himself from accountability. I believe this pattern of abuse is indefensible and perverts the power afforded to the President as a constitutional check on the legal system. The next Congress should consider how to curtail such objectionable practices by any future president.
Raja Krishnamoorthi 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 last three years, I have been privileged to serve in the U.S. Congress, representing the west and northwest Chicago suburbs comprising the 8th Congressional District of Illinois. I was elected on a pledge to fight for hard-pressed middle-class families and those who are trying to reach the middle-class. I am working hard to deliver meaningful legislative reforms aimed at strengthening working families and small businesses and expanding opportunities for them to succeed in a changing economy.
I reached across the aisle in 2018 and co-authored landmark legislation to address the growing national skills gap where employers have more than 7 million in-demand jobs that are unfilled because applicants do not have the requisite skills for the jobs. A House Republican colleague and I introduced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which passed the U.S. House and Senate and was signed into law by the President. That new law will help 13 million more students each year get a higher quality, skills-based education. The law provides a path for the millions of Americans who do not pursue a four-year college education to still be able to gain the skills and knowledge needed for good-paying careers. In fact, my bill is contributing to the City of Chicago’s Career Launch Chicago program, recently announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a news conference that I attended. That initiative marks a new partnership among Chicago’s City Colleges, the Chicago Public Schools and some major businesses to create work-based learning opportunities to put Chicago students on a path to successful careers.
In addition, I serve as Chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, where I am leading investigations into pressing public health and economic issues facing millions of Americans. For example, after learning that middle-school student vaping rose by 218 percent in the past two years with high school student vaping having risen by 135 percent during the same period, I launched the first congressional investigation into the youth e-cigarette and vaping epidemic. I have worked in a bipartisan fashion with Members of Congress and the Food and Drug Administration to limit e-cigarette marketing and advertising to young people. In fact, after the findings of our committee’s investigation into their marketing and advertising practices, JUUL halted all forms of domestic marketing and advertising. I have also introduced bipartisan legislative proposals to address youth vaping, including a bill (The PREVENT Act) with Senator Durbin and Republican Congressman Peter King that would provide $200 million for youth e-cigarette prevention programs in schools funded through a tax on the sale of vaping products. I am committed to protecting our children from e-cigarettes, which are particularly harmful to the health of our youth.
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.
When I was elected to Congress, I never expected to impeach anyone, much less the President. But I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and I take that responsibility very seriously – particularly as it relates to our national security and the need to protect our elections from foreign interference. As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I served on the panel that Speaker Pelosi charged with investigating the allegations set in motion by a whistleblower’s complaint about the President’s infamous July 25, 2019 phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine. In the service of that investigation, I have spent hundreds of hours in private depositions and public hearings, including personally questioning many of the witnesses. I have also read thousands of pages of documents, reports and other evidence.
It is important to note that the impeachment inquiry in the House has been a process that afforded President Trump the opportunity to participate, but he and his attorneys refused – purposely thwarting Congress’s constitutional role to provide a check-and-balance on the Executive Branch. Despite our committee’s subpoenas, the White House neither allowed a single witness to testify, nor did it provide a single page of the requested documents. Even without its cooperation, the Intelligence Committee was able to elicit extensive evidence and information. While some questions remain unanswered, two key facts are abundantly clear:
1) President Trump attempted to use the powers of his office to pressure a foreign government to help his re-election campaign;
2) And then he used the powers of his office again to obstruct the investigation by Congress into that pressure campaign.
For these reasons, I voted in favor of the two articles of impeachment against President Trump, as I believe it was our duty as a Congress to hold the President and his advisors accountable to the Constitution and to the American people. Regardless of how the resulting Senate trial plays out, I believe that the House has done its constitutional duty. The President’s actions, and his refusal to cooperate in our investigation, left us no other choice in staying true to the oath we pledged upon taking office.
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?
I am concerned about our huge national debt, which was exacerbated by President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that passed the Republican Congress in 2017. While greatly increasing the deficit, that bill provided an overwhelming percentage of its benefits to the very wealthy and to large corporations that bought back stock and paid big dividends rather than investing in new plants and new jobs. It was recently reported that corporations in the U.S. are paying an average rate of 11 percent in taxes – far below the rate paid by most individual taxpayers. Dozens of highly profitable corporations are paying no federal tax at all. This is wrong and unfair.
I support amending the Trump/Republican tax bill to bring back fairness to the tax code. For example, this unfair legislation passed in 2017 put a $10,000 annual cap on State and Local Tax Deductions (SALT) that disproportionately harms working families in high-tax states like Illinois. Nationwide, nearly 2 million taxpayers rely on the SALT deduction, and approximately half of them earn between $50,000 and $75,000 annually – the very definition of a middle-income family that needs tax relief. In Congress, I cosponsored and helped pass in the U.S. House the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act, which repeals the SALT cap put in place by the Trump/Republican 2017 tax law and brings fairness back to the tax code for the nearly 2 million taxpayers affected by the SALT cap.
In the short and long term, we must cut costs in government spending such as in Medicare (where the U.S. government is still prevented from negotiating directly with drug companies to lower drug spending) and the defense budget (where Congress routinely appropriates more money than what even the Defense Department requests), and we must restore fairness in the tax code (where, for instance, we must ensure that all corporations pay taxes). We must also truly reform our immigration system to ensure that our tax base is always populated by young, talented, entrepreneurial taxpayers, and continue our efforts to upskill our citizenry and close the national skills gap holding back our economy so that our residents are productive taxpayers.
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 Affordable Care Act and have voted consistently against Republican attempts to cripple or repeal it. It has afforded millions of Americans who formerly lacked health insurance coverage they need while preventing insurance companies from excluding those with pre-existing conditions. I regret that millions of Americans have lost coverage under Obamacare through the Trump Administration’s policies and regulations that are hostile to its intent.
I believe that healthcare in this country should be a right and not a privilege and that we must continue to strive to attain universal coverage. I believe the best way to accomplish that is by adding a public option under the Obamacare health insurance exchanges, so that people and families have an affordable alternative to private insurance. Such an option would provide competition for private insurance and, in so doing, could help drive down overall costs.
I also believe that Congress should end the current ban on the federal government’s ability to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry for recipients of Medicare and Medicaid. This would utilize market forces to drive down prices and make prescription drugs more affordable for all Americans – just as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has done successfully on behalf of millions of veterans who served in our military.
Finally, many of the most successful prescription drugs have been developed through the work and support of federal researchers and federal grants. I believe that taxpayers, who have paid for these advances in drug research and development, should reap some of the rewards for their investment. We ought to explore ways to limit or cap the profits that pharmaceutical companies are reaping from drugs developed with the help of taxpayers in order to reduce their exorbitant costs.
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 strongly support DACA, and I believe a path to citizenship should be created for the DREAMers who were brought to this country as children and for whom it is the only home they have ever known. Many of them are in school or serving our country in our military. Many others have started successful businesses and are paying taxes. Expelling them will harm these young people and our country as a whole.
The DACA program, established under the Obama Administration in 2012, allowed young people brought to America as children to stay in the country, so long as they posed no public safety or national security threats and staked meaningful roots in our country. Over time, we have learned that the DACA program not only benefits DREAMers and their families but also business development and national economic growth.
DACA-enrolled and eligible immigrants contribute $2 billion each year in state and local taxes alone. Ninety-one percent of DACA recipients younger than age 25 are employed, and 93 percent of those older than age 25 are employed. According to a recent study, repealing the program could cost the United States more than $460 billion in economic output in just one decade.
I also have a personal perspective on this debate. I was brought to this country legally as an infant by my immigrant parents. Thanks to the opportunities that America provided for my family, we were able to achieve the American Dream. After serving as president of small businesses in the technology sector, I have been privileged to represent my neighbors in the U.S. Congress. I closely identify with the 700,000 DREAMers across America who love this country and are contributing greatly to its future. They deserve to stay in the country they love and make the most of their lives.
What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?
My priorities for my district are jobs, healthcare, and fighting the epidemic of youth vaping.
Jobs: As I shared in a previous answer, there are thousands of good-paying jobs in our local economy that are unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the skills and training necessary to fill those jobs. There are also many excellent community colleges and other training centers in our district that can be better utilized to provide those employable skills. My overhaul and improvement of our career and technical education system with the enactment of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act will enable those businesses and educational institutions to work together to provide the education and training that will result in available, good-paying local jobs. In addition, I am continuing to work on behalf of the long-sought western access road to O’Hare International Airport that could bring hundreds of new businesses and thousands of new jobs to the west and northwest suburbs of Chicago.
Healthcare: The cost and availability of healthcare remains a huge concern for families throughout my district and across the country. I have fought to protect the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, from repeated efforts in Congress to repeal it. I support expanding coverage to more Americans by adding a public option to the insurance exchanges, which might also serve to push costs down for competing, private plans. And I am working hard to reduce the high cost of prescription drugs by facing down efforts by certain drug companies to restrict less-costly generics and by finally allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies on behalf of recipients of Medicare and Medicaid, as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs currently does.
Teen vaping: The explosive recent growth in the use of e-cigarettes by teens and even younger children is a direct threat to their health and brain development, yet it has gone completely unregulated by the FDA. I held the first congressional hearing investigating JUUL Labs, where we found that JUUL had targeted teens with their product design and advertising. I have called on JUUL and other vaping companies to end the use of flavored vapes that are particularly attractive to teens. I have also sponsored legislation with Senator Durbin that would tax those products to provide $200 million annually for a school-based education program to stop kids from vaping, and I have another bill to cap the amount of the addictive drug nicotine that is delivered in each vaping capsule. Many European countries and Israel have such limits and do not have the kind of teen vaping epidemic that we have seen in the U.S.
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?
I do not know my opponents personally and am not familiar with their records of service to our community. I am aware from news reports that two of them do not reside in the 8th Congressional District. As someone who lives, works and is raising a family in the 8th District, I am proud of my record of public service. I have served as an Assistant Attorney General of Illinois in a special unit formed to root out political corruption. I was a member of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, working to expand the availability of affordable housing across our state. I served as the Deputy Treasurer of Illinois, helping, among other things, to make unclaimed property more accessible for thousands of Illinois residents. For the past three years, I have had the privilege to represent my neighbors in the U.S. Congress, working hard to expand opportunities for working families and to protect them from harmful products.
I am running for re-election based on my record in Congress and my history of advocacy for the people and families of Illinois.
What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?
The epidemic of gun violence in our country is inexcusable. It is particularly unacceptable that parents have to worry about their children’s safety each day when they send them off to school. I recognize the right of law-abiding Americans to own a gun under the Second Amendment. But that doesn’t mean that we must sacrifice our right to regulate their possession to protect our families and children from harm.
First, it is critical that we pass and implement the bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8), which closes the “gun show loophole” and ensures there is a background check on every gun sale, including sales on the internet and in-person private sales. If enacted, this legislation would prevent domestic abusers, those with felony convictions, and people who have been involuntarily committed to mental hospitals from obtaining a firearm. I am a proud cosponsor of this legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019. Polling has shown that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners, support requiring a background check for every gun sale. Congress must stand up to the gun lobby and pass this sensible law.
Meanwhile, studies have shown that waiting-period laws that delay the purchase of firearms by even a few days have reduced gun homicides by close to 20 percent. Such laws are particularly effective in reducing crimes of passion, such as shootings of domestic partners and gun suicides. For this reason, I introduced the Choosing Our Own Lives Over Fast Firearms (COOL OFF) Act, legislation that would require a waiting period of three business days for all handgun sales. This bill has more than 70 cosponsors in Congress and has been endorsed by the Coalition to Stop 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?
Climate change is real, it is significantly man-made, and it is one of the gravest threats to American health, safety, and prosperity.
As the co-founder of the Congressional Solar Caucus and a member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment, I am working on numerous initiatives to address climate change by investing in renewable energy development. For example, I helped craft and pass a Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill that invests approximately $3 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, including a requirement that at least $35 million be allocated toward programs that lower costs to implement solar technology. I am also a proud cosponsor of climate-forward legislation, such as the 100% Clean Economy Act, which sets a nationwide goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
It is important to note that, rather than harming our nation’s economy, a full-bore investment in renewable energy could boost our economy and create millions of good-paying jobs. As the former president of a small business that, among other things, researched solar cell technology, I saw the domestic potential of this industry – along with the competition it faces from competitors like China that are investing far more in these sectors than we are. Recognizing the job-creating potential of the renewable energy sector, I started a non-profit organization that provides training in this technology to returning veterans and students from under-served urban areas. My hope was to provide them with opportunities to build their individual futures while strengthening our nation’s as a whole.
What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?
I consider Social Security to be a solemn promise we have made to our workers and senior citizens that the federal government must honor. That’s why I am opposed to cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. By lifting the cap on earnings that are subject to the Social Security payroll tax, we can extend the program’s solvency far into the future while making sure that the wealthiest pay their fair share. I also believe that we must fix our broken immigration system to allow more workers, especially skilled immigrants and those who have earned advanced degrees in our nation’s universities, to stay and contribute to the U.S. economy, as well as helping shore up our Social Security tax base.
Regarding Medicare, the greatest problem is the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. We should immediately repeal the ban on the federal government’s ability to negotiate drug prices with big pharmaceutical companies and use the power of the market to bring drug prices down. This has worked very effectively in the VA medical system, where the government has retained the right to bargain over drug prices. Since many popular and expensive drugs were developed through the help of federal research and funding, I would also like to explore the possibility of limiting or capping the profits drug companies make on those products so that taxpayers can enjoy a return on their investment through lower prices for the drugs they need.
What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?
There are currently more than 45 million Americans who owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Incredibly, outstanding student loans have surpassed home mortgages as the greatest source of personal debt in the U.S. This is undoubtedly a “crisis” that prevents millions of Americans from achieving financial stability, purchasing a home, and building a family-sustaining career.
Even as Congress debates future programs to forgive large portions of student debt, Congress must address pressing problems today with current programs designed to lower debt. For example, Congress must find a solution to ensure the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is implemented as intended. This program was created under the Obama Administration to provide graduates in public service permanent debt relief after submitting qualified payments for 10 years in a row. Unfortunately, under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the vast majority of PSLF applications have been denied, and many graduates counting on relief are drowning in debt. Noting Secretary DeVos’s inaction, some have advocated moving administration of the PSLF program to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where it was housed under the Obama Administration. But there is no assurance that the CFPB would be any more effective under the Trump Administration’s lax approach to providing debt relief.
In addition to strengthening loan forgiveness programs directly, we could help students and families make better choices through college data transparency. Simply put, in order to make an informed choice on where to invest their education dollars, students and families must have better access to post-secondary student outcomes such as average earnings, employment rates, and average student loan debt for specific institutions and degrees. That is why I co-authored the bipartisan College Transparency Act, which revamps our higher education data system to ensure college applicants and their families have reliable information that helps them decide where to make one of their biggest lifetime investments.
What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?
The United States and Russia have a multi-faceted diplomatic relationship, as well as competing economic and national security interests that influence the entire world. One thing is clear: Russia is not a democracy and is actively working to undermine liberal democracies throughout the world. It has threatened American democratic institutions through political interference and information warfare in our elections. Our intelligence agencies have confirmed this, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller addressed it directly in his report and personal testimony before Congress. Russian interference in our elections is not a “hoax”; it is a fact.
To fight against future election interference, I helped pass the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act through the U.S. House in October 2019. Specifically, this bill requires that candidates and political committees notify the FBI and other authorities if a foreign power offers campaign help. It also tightens restrictions on campaign spending by foreign nationals and requires transparency in political ads on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
I am also proud that legislation I authored, the KREMLIN Act, recently passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump. It requires the Director of National Intelligence to create several “intelligence assessments” to better prevent Russian aggression toward our NATO allies. Importantly, it directly calls out the Russian government for its efforts to weaken democratic institutions globally and deploys our intelligence community to prevent further Russian aggression.
What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.
There is no question that any President should take measures to prevent “dumping” of foreign goods on to American soil below cost, and to combat other unfair trading practices. However, I am concerned with the President’s consistently impulsive, unilateral approach to tariffs and other trade issues. By repeatedly taking impulsive action with regard to trade disputes, the President has escalated tensions and created uncertainty in industries that are central to the American economy. In addition, because his steps are taken unilaterally rather than multi-laterally in concert with our trading partners who may share similar concerns about certain nations’ trading practices (for example, China’s), President Trump has subjected American industries to countervailing retaliatory tariffs even as foreign suppliers steal a bigger share of our export business.
Our agricultural sector has been hit particularly hard by the President’s tariffs, which have resulted in retaliatory action by foreign countries like China. The $28 billion in tax dollars that President Trump has directed to farmers to compensate for their losses is more than twice the amount of tax money the Obama Administration spent to save the U.S. auto industry – money that was eventually repaid.
The President’s impulsive, politically driven tariffs have raised prices for U.S. consumers and driven foreign customers of our products to suppliers in other countries. We would be better served by a more thoughtful multi-lateral trade policy that focuses consistently on opening up foreign markets for U.S. goods and services instead of shutting them down.
Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.
I believe strongly that democracy is the best form of government and that we should work to encourage the growth of democracy in other countries. First of all, such countries are better partners for our diplomacy and better markets for our goods and services. Second, they tend to be better partners for promoting peace, as no two democracies have ever gone to war against each other.
That is why I am so disturbed that at the same time President Trump has repeatedly cozied up to authoritarian rulers like Vladimir Putin in Russia, Victor Orban of Hungary, and Kim Jung-Un of North Korea, the President has driven a wedge between the U.S. and our traditional, democratic allies in NATO and North America.
As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I will continue to support democratic governments and institutions as one of my top priorities. It is in our national interest, and our best traditions, to embrace democracy both at home and abroad.
What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?
The year 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a critical safeguard to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. Specifically, this treaty prohibits nations that do not have nuclear weapons from acquiring them.
The Trump Administration’s efforts in this regard have been particularly ineffective. The President’s personal diplomacy with the dictator of North Korea has not resulted in any concrete achievements while simultaneously alarming our close allies in the region such as South Korea and Japan. And his knee-jerk withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, which was working to prevent that country’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, has enabled its rulers to resume their weapons program while the other signatories to that agreement are left without U.S. participation or support.
One important task for the United States and its allies will be to conduct oversight and take preventative measures to ensure all countries -- particularly the ones that signed the NPT – adhere to its strict provisions. For example, in recent years Saudi Arabia has threatened to build nuclear capabilities despite signing the NPT in 1988. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Saudi Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 2019, which requires a joint resolution from Congress before the United States may enter into any civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.
Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.
I have no relatives on either 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.
I am proud that Newton Minow of Illinois is a friend and a mentor of mine. He is of counsel at the law firm of Sidley & Austin. Mr. Minow encouraged my participation in politics and public service and has been a role model for me.
A World War II veteran and graduate of Northwestern University and Northwestern Law School, Mr. Minow worked on John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign and was subsequently appointed the first chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Among other things, he foresaw the importance of communications satellites and pushed Congress to repeal laws that effectively banned them. He also was a strong proponent of the educational potential of television, which led to the Public Broadcasting System and quality children’s programming such as Sesame Street.
After his service in government, Mr. Minow returned to Chicago and the practice of law. But he continued to participate in public service through his leadership on the Presidential Debate Commission and in many other ways. He was a strong and early supporter of Barack Obama’s campaign for the U.S. Senate and, later, for the presidency. And he has continued to encourage and promote young lawyers, especially those from minority backgrounds, in their professional and public service careers. For his exemplary service to our state and nation, Mr. Minow was awarded the Order of Lincoln in 2014 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
My favorite TV show of all time is The West Wing. It portrays a President and a White House devoted to lifting up all Americans and seeking to unite us. It shows the frustration often inherent in public service, along with the great satisfaction in accomplishing important goals for our nation. Plus, it was simply great TV.