The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Congress a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Rep. Mike Quigley submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: As a member of the House from Illinois, please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER: Promote efforts to reform government and increase transparency to restore the public’s trust in government including passage of legislation to overturn Citizens United and get dark money out of politics.
Fight for the federal funding Chicago and Illinois needs to remain a safe, competitive place for families to live and work by directing federal funds to local infrastructure improvement projects and public safety initiatives.
End the gun violence epidemic gripping the streets of Chicago and the rest of the country by supporting the reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban and universal background checks.
Protect the integrity of our elections to ensure that all Americans can exercise their right to vote without foreign interference by helping states replace outdated voting equipment, hire experienced cybersecurity experts, and establish new cybersecurity best practices.
District running for: 5th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: 35 years of community engagement including successful election to the Cook County Board of Commissioners (3 times) and U.S. House of Representatives (5 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
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
Local Infrastructure in Chicago
CTA carries more passengers in a month in Chicago than Amtrak does nationwide in a year. It’s vital to the residents of IL-05 and Chicago as a whole that our local transit services like CTA and Metra are safe, efficient, and reliable. That means station improvements that make platforms more accessible for Americans with disabilities and easier for commuters to navigate, as well as hard infrastructure improvements like installing positive train control to make trips safer, and track work to reduce train congestion to make travel more efficient.
Additionally, Chicagoans know that our city is the most important freight hub in the country but what many may not know is that off all the time it takes for cargo shipped by rail to get from the East Coast the West Coast, nearly half of it is spent within our city limits. This impacts residents in a variety of ways, from limiting the economic growth driven by the freight industry to creating traffic jams at railway crossings. Flyovers, simple bridges which separate rail and automobile traffic, are a key tool to help alleviate much of the rail traffic. Federal grants, which the Trump Administration has moved to reduce or eliminate all together, are instrumental in creating these types of grade separations and I will continue to work in congress to protect those programs and the funding available to Chicago infrastructure improvement projects.
Finally, as one of the busiest airports in the world, O’Hare is an economic driver for our region. Nearly all of the airports in the U.S. that approach O’Hare’s size and importance have undergone major terminal renovations since O’Hare’s last refurbishment more than two decades ago. We need to bring the passenger-facing portion of the airport into the 21st century by updating terminals and concourse areas to continue to make flying to and through Chicago attractive to passengers from across the nation and the globe.
At the same time, living near an airport like O’Hare should not subject residents to relentless, disruptive noise. I’ve worked with the FAA and Chicago Department of Aviation to pioneer a unique runway rotation system to further limit the noise impact on residents. We need to continue to think outside the box and find novel ways to provide relief for Chicagoland residents exposed to airport noise without compromising the safety or efficiency of operations at the airport.
We know that Russia targeted 39 state election systems, including Illinois’, during the 2016 election. We also know, through the confirmation of 17 intelligence agencies, that Russia successfully hacked our democratic process to encourage voters to elect President Trump. However, the President not only continues to ignore these facts, but he has also attempted to undermine the various congressional investigations being conducted to discover the full extent of Russia’s influence. While the outcomes of these investigations remain to be seen, we must prepare for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections and the potential for additional attacks, because the Russians will continue to target our electoral process.
That is why I have made it a priority to harden our cybersecurity protections at the state and local level to ensure our election system can withstand similar attempts of interference by foreign entities. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am doing everything I can to understand exactly how the Russians are attempting to infiltrate our election infrastructure and to address vulnerabilities exposed in 2016. I’m proud to support legislation to assist states with much needed funding to replace outdated voting equipment, hire experienced cybersecurity experts, and put in place a set of cybersecurity best practices. We must empower local election officials to prevent the failings of 2016 and that requires giving them the tools necessary to adequately defend the security of our election system.
Homeland security grants
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the United States made significant changes to intelligence and law enforcement programs in an effort to adapt and evolve with the changes in enemy tactics and capabilities. These changes help save countless American lives, however the threats currently facing our country differ drastically from those that we faced 16 years ago. Specifically, we’ve seen an increase in attacks on soft targets like concerts, sports venues, shopping malls, and crowded streets. Attacks in London, Paris, Brussels, and at home in Orlando and Las Vegas confirm that soft targets are today’s largest security vulnerabilities because they are easy to attack and difficult to defend.
In order to remain proactive in the fight against terrorism and a constantly evolving threat environment, it is imperative we continue to prioritize grant programs within the Department of Homeland Security that develop new strategies to keep our communities safe. That’s why I offered an amendment to this year’s Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would have increased funding for programs like Transit Security Program grants and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grants which are designed to help cities like Chicago better secure soft targets. Adapting to and protecting against these evolving threats will help ensure the safety of our communities.
RELATED ARTICLES: Mike Quigley
QUESTION: If you are running as a Democrat, what is your best idea for getting any initiative you may propose advanced if the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 elections?
ANSWER: We live in a tumultuous time when too many Members of Congress would rather score political points than get things done to improve the lives of the American people. Families are worried that their neighborhood streets are no longer safe enough for their children to play on. Middle-class workers are still struggling to recover from the recession. And parents are fearful that the future of America will not be as bright for their children and grandchildren. These are serious issues that require steady leadership from people who are willing to put aside partisan politics and work across the aisle. Real legislative accomplishments don’t come from partisan bickering, they’re a result of hard work and honest, bipartisan compromise.
As the only Illinois member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have had success working with my Republican colleagues on the committee to drive resources back to Chicago. I will continue to fight for the federal funding Chicago and Illinois needs to remain a safe, competitive place for families to live and work. Whether it’s increased funding for Core Capacity grants to assist the Chicago Transit Authority or preventing harmful cuts to Homeland Security grants that help protect soft targets, the needs of Chicagoans have been and will continue to be my priority. And finally, as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I have made it a priority to combat terrorism and lone-wolf threats both at home and abroad. We are fighting a war much different than the those fight by our father’s or grandfather’s, so Congress must reprioritize resources and policies that really keep Americans safe against today’s threats.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: It may be an understatement to say that we’ve never had a President like Donald Trump. A man who campaigned as an insurgent and disruptor arrived in the White House intending to govern with the same approach. He seemingly took office expecting rule by fiat and edict and has received a harsh awakening on the way a democracy truly functions. Rather than attempting to pursue a policy agenda through bipartisan consensus, he’s chosen to stake out extreme positions on issue after issue in an effort to appease his shrinking base of supporters. He often goes out of his way to alienate people and he fosters a political environment that makes bipartisan cooperation in Congress nearly impossible. It’s alarming that the responsibilities of his office, along with an apparent lack of policy expertise, have done nothing to humble him or curb his worst impulses.
Perhaps most concerning to me are the President’s autocratic tendencies. His affinity for authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin is extremely troubling. He clearly values personal loyalty over all else and seeks to cast anyone who disagrees with him as an enemy. His attacks know no bounds, as he has targeted groups ranging from the media to immigrants and Gold Star families to the intelligence community. His insecurities lead him to take everything personally, both insults and accomplishments, and he has shown little respect for democratic processes, norms, or institutions. This is extremely dangerous. The Founding Fathers created a division of power and a system of checks and balances to ensure one person could not wield too much influence over the direction of the country. But a lot has changed since 1789, most notably the size, strength, and authority of the executive branch. We place great faith in the goodwill of our President and believe that no matter how bitter or hard fought an election might be, once sworn in, he or she will hold the best interests of every single American at heart. It’s become clearer everyday that President Trump doesn’t have the character and judgment we expect in a Commander in Chief – that he places too much precedence on his own fortunes and those of a select and unrepresentative few, and gives not enough thought or effort to the wellbeing of the rest of the country or its citizens.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: During his first year in office, President Trump has staked out extreme positions on nearly every significant policy issue we face. His harmful policies and inflammatory rhetoric have created one of the most divisive political climates in recent memory. Such an environment does not lend itself to bipartisanship or collaboration. The President has done nothing to mend these divisions, nor has he shown any of the goodwill needed for Democrats to trust that they can work in good faith with this administration. The impact of President Trump’s dangerous policies are far reaching and in some cases irreversible. However, if there are three actions this administration has taken that deserve some level of recognition, they are (1) calling for a $1 trillion infrastructure package, although I don’t support the Administration’s initial proposals to achieve this goal; (2) signing legislation limiting the President’s ability to lift sanctions on Russia despite fierce personal opposition; and (3) approving the export of lethal arms from U.S. manufacturers to Ukraine to help counter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.
However, President Trump has undertaken numerous actions that are completely unacceptable. In a variety of cases, the President has taken steps that are misguided, short-sighted and cold hearted. For instance, imposing a blanket ban on immigration from Muslim majority countries simply because of the religion of their inhabitants is as unconscionable as it is unconstitutional. America is a nation that prides itself on religious freedom and opportunity for all, and to restrict entry to an entire group of people drips of xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and racism. Similarly, President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program did nothing to improve our national security or the sanctity of our borders. Instead it simply turned the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people, who came to this country before they could choose to for themselves, upside down. DACA recipients abide by strict rules to maintain their status and our country is better for their presence and hard work. Pulling the rug out from under them is cruel.
Finally, the President’s decision to remove the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was a decision that will have long-lasting consequences. Not only does pulling out of the Paris Agreement do nothing for domestic fossil fuel producers who still need to compete in a global market committed to addressing greenhouse gas emissions, it completely isolated the U.S in the global community and ceded leadership to countries like China who do not have our best interests at heart. In addition, as the climate continues to change, every nation must do what science demands to address the causes of global warming. We are already beginning to see the consequences a warming world and without urgent action, severe storms, droughts, wildfires, changing weather patterns, and the social and economic impacts they produce will only continue to worsen.
QUESTION: What is your view of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Does Mueller have your support?
ANSWER: As a Member of the House Intelligence Committee, I have taken a leading role in the House’s efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections and determine what steps must be taken to prevent it from happening again. The major focus of the House and Senate investigations has been to uncover the extent of Russian election meddling, which includes the question of coordination with the Trump campaign. I have repeatedly voiced my support for the Mueller investigation and have worked to ensure proper coordination among all three prongs–the House, the Senate and the Mueller-led special counsel probe–to reduce confusion and foster cooperation. I believe this investigation is one of the most important in American history–and one of the most consequential things I will ever do in my career–and we must uncover the truth, not only because it is what the American people deserve, but because if we cannot defend our elections from foreign meddling we risk the degradation of our democracy.
Increased efforts to undermine the Mueller investigation, and more broadly our Justice Department, from both the President and Republican Members of Congress are nothing short of alarming. Some things are bigger than politics, and this investigation at its core is not a partisan exercise. It is about protecting the most sacred American virtue–a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Should the President take any actions to undermine the integrity of the Mueller investigation and move to have him fired, I believe it would trigger a constitutional crisis and truly test the mettle and character of Congress.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: Losses that ISIS has suffered on the battlefield have unfortunately done nothing to make the threats they pose less dangerous. Now, ISIS is getting creative, adopting terrorist tactics across a wider area, continuing its push into Europe, expanding to Northern Africa and inspiring attacks in the U.S. More than terrorist activity on the ground, the spread of extremist ideology and the recruitment of lone wolf actors are simultaneously the most important and difficult threats to protect against. Combating these threats takes a coordinated, non-military strategy. Now more than ever, the intelligence community needs cooperation from our allies to share intelligence.
Because of my position on the House Intelligence Committee, I see first-hand on a daily basis the indispensable work our intelligence community does in keeping us safe. We must strengthen our intelligence gathering and sharing capabilities and reject the President’s continued attacks on the FBI, and the intelligence community more broadly. Second, we must ensure that our intelligence agencies are working alongside all levels of law enforcement to increase security and awareness here at home. Third, we must respond to terrorists’ evolving and sophisticated use of technology, such as encrypted communications and their on-going exploitation of social media. Major social media companies must be compelled to do more as it relates to hate speech, propaganda and terrorism recruitment. A coordinated anti-terrorism effort between government and industry is necessary and overdue.
Protecting soft targets in Chicago also remains a top priority. That’s why I offered an amendment to this year’s Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would have increased funding for programs like Transit Security Program grants and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grants which are designed to help cities like Chicago better secure soft targets. Congress must also work harder to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people, including individuals inspired by ISIS, by enacting common sense gun legislation. Just in recent months, there have been reports that ISIS is encouraging “soldiers” to exploit weaknesses in U.S. gun laws.
It is crucial that we avoid using inflammatory rhetoric, which does little more than fan the flames of hatred and will not keep America safe. ISIS has established a sophisticated and effective propaganda machine. Unnecessary and provocative rhetoric from American public officials, often distorted and taken out of context, makes its way into recruitment materials targeted towards terrorist sympathizers. In fact, the intelligence community has warned that terrorists actually hope to stoke an increase in xenophobia, nativism and prejudice in the Western world.
Americans are understandably concerned for their safety, but we must not allow fear to lead to overreaction, bad policy, or unintended consequences. Instead, we must focus our resources on what really keeps America safe. President Trump’s unscripted social media attacks, the Muslim travel ban, assertions that the intelligence community is part of a “deep state” and a lack of coherent Middle East strategy all contribute to this danger and must be rejected.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: The most important action Congress could take to curb gun violence in the United States would be to expand background checks to all firearm transfers. 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 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 Background Check System is just one step to address these loopholes that plague our gun laws.
QUESTION: Do you favor a law banning the sale and use of “bump stocks” that increase the firing speed of semi-automatic weapons? Why? Do you favor any further legal limits on guns of any kind? Or, conversely, what gun restrictions should be done away with?
ANSWER: I strongly support any measure that would ban “bump stock” devices. These egregious devices nearly replicate the rate of fire for a machine gun and were intentionally built to evade the ban on machine guns–a ban that has been in place since the early 1930s. The United States has a long history of regulating devices like these given their threat to public safety. No individual gains access to a machine gun or “bump stock” device for sport, they do so with the intent to inflict as much harm as possible, in as short a time as possible. It is evident by the tragedy in Las Vegas this device has no place in our society.
Congress must also reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban that lapsed in 2004. Mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Orlando, and Las Vegas — just to name a few — have demonstrated all too clearly the need to regulate this style of weapon. The type of firearms that fall into this category are not used for hunting or sport, they are weapons of war. The original ban included certain types of ammunition that I believe should be banned again. A magazine capable of holding 100 rounds far exceeds everyday use. To put this in perspective, the military only uses 30-round magazines with their semi-automatic M16 issued rifles. As Anthony Scalia stated in his opinion of the District of Columbia et al. v. Heller case, “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” I do not disagree that Americans have the right to bear arms, but weapons used on the battlefield should not be among them.
There is no one size fits all solution to the gun violence epidemic, it will take a combination of small pragmatic measures. I look forward to continuing the fight for gun violence prevention and finding ways to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who wish to do us harm.
TOPIC: America’s growing wealth gap
As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation supported by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate is that it lowers taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans at a time of historic inequalities of wealth and income in the United States. We believe in free markets, but it does not look to us like the “silent hand” of the market is functioning properly, rewarding merit fairly. We are troubled that the top 1 percent of Americans own 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 90 percent own just 22.8 percent of the wealth. Tell us how we are right or wrong about this. Does the growing income and wealth gap trouble you?
ANSWER: I agree that too many hard-working Americans are struggling to climb the economic ladder as wealth continues to accumulate in the hands of the most fortunate among us. Despite record unemployment, wage growth is barely keeping up with inflation and too many individuals have chosen to leave the workforce. To make matters worse, over 80 percent of the tax cuts in the Republican tax plan will go to the top 1 percent while taxes go up for 86 million middle-class families. While tax cuts for corporations are made permanent, the comparatively minor benefit provided to the middle class will expire. This redistribution of wealth from the least fortunate to those at the top puts downward pressure on demand and significantly slows economic growth. As the income and wealth gap continue to expand, I worry that these large disparities will lead to an irreversible decline in educational attainment, health outcomes, and social mobility.
To level the playing field and tackle income inequality, I’ve supported legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, require paid family and sick leave, and strengthen protections for women and minorities who suffer from wage discrimination. I’ve also been an outspoken advocate for the expansion of unionization and strongly oppose any attempts to weaken the right to organize at both the federal and state level. These policies will give working Americans the tools they need to compete fairly in today’s economy.
At the same time, Congress can help create the conditions necessary to accelerate growth through a number of policies, such as increasing investment in areas we know will deliver long-term value like research and development, infrastructure, and education; expand exports through 21st century trade agreements that protect American workers; and pass comprehensive immigration reform that helps to boost GDP growth by over 3 percent in less than a decade.
Tax reform that simplifies the code, while making it fairer and more competitive also plays an important role in expanding growth opportunities. However, this can only happen if it’s revenue-neutral–meaning that every dollar in tax cuts are paid for with a dollar in revenue for elsewhere. The recently passed Republican tax bill fails this basic requirement by saddling future generations with $1.5 trillion in additional debt over the next decade, significantly worsening our fiscal outlook. Because of this, analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that the tax bill will add as little as 0.3 percent to GDP over the next two years and may reduce growth beginning in 2020.
TOPIC: International affairs
QUESTION: Do you support the Trump administration’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? How will this help or hinder efforts to secure a lasting peace between Israel and its Middle East neighbors?
ANSWER: Historical, religious and political realities make clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the Trump Administration’s proposal to move the U.S. embassy affirms this reality, as Congress has in the past. As new U.S. policies are enacted, I believe the Trump Administration must proceed with caution, restraint and flexibility so as not to further inflame tensions across the region. I remain committed to a two-state solution and recognize the best way to achieve the goal of lasting peace is through direct and bilateral negotiations.
Coupled with President Trump’s impulsiveness, the lack of strategy in the Middle East makes this decision less effective than it could have been had it been properly planned as part of a broader negotiation effort. President Trump has demonstrated he lacks the discipline and nuance to understand the full ramifications of this decision. We witnessed the complete lack of international support at the U.N. recently as not a single ally voted with the U.S., choosing instead to denounce the decision. The administration has been unserious in pursuing peace efforts in good faith–shown by tasking an unqualified person in Jared Kushner to lead the White House efforts and by regularly undermining Secretary Tillerson’s authority and autonomy at the State Department. This taken together ultimately hinders the efforts towards peace in the long term as one of the major points of leverage has been taken off the table.
QUESTION: Is military action by the United States a plausible response to the nuclear weapons threat posed by North Korea? How might a U.S. military response play out for South Korea, Japan and China? What alternative do you support?
ANSWER: While it’s true that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions continue to provoke and destabilize the Asia-Pacific region, President Trump’s inability to refrain from immature name calling and saber-rattling has undermined our efforts to bring stability to the Korean peninsula. I have been to the fragile demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, and received classified briefings from top military and intelligence officials on the ground. Those meetings confirmed my belief that any loose talk of military action by the Trump Administration risks a confrontation that would ignite another devastating war in the region and lead to the deaths of millions of innocent civilians and our service members stationed there.
Instead, I have urged and supported the hardening of economic sanctions against North Korea, particularly on the country’s energy sector, and I continue to push for greater cooperation from China, which is essential for creating the economic pressure needed to fully isolate North Korea and force Kim Jung Un to the negotiating table. At the same time these sanctions are only as effective as our ability to lead a united effort to crack down on violators, as was recently the case with the seizing of ships attempting to transport oil to North Korea. As we exploit North Korea’s growing reliance on international trade, the cost of Pyongyang’s actions will continue to increase.
Furthermore, the U.S. must continue to reassure our allies through coordinated policy efforts, as well as an acceleration of missile defense deployment in the region. That requires consideration of additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) units to support South Korea and Japan, as well as a strengthening of existing Ground-Based Interceptors to shore up the defense of the U.S. homeland. In the end, a diplomatic route is the only practical option to avoid a catastrophic confrontation.
QUESTION: The Supreme Court has ruled that the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban on eight countries with predominantly Muslim populations can go into effect while legal challenges against the ban continue. What is your position on this travel ban?
ANSWER: The Trump Administration’s travel ban, in any form, undermines American values and has severe national security implications. I stand by the lower court’s ruling that each iteration of the travel ban is unconstitutional, and I’m disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to allow President Trump’s third version of the ban can go into effect while they deliberate. The idea that our government should favor or penalize certain individuals based on religion is unacceptable and disrespects the legacy of our nation’s founders. Past generations have fought to ensure religious freedom for all and any ban that predominantly affects those from Muslim countries is a direct affront to the liberties and freedoms we hold dear. I’m often reminded of the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” The United States has always been a gateway for millions of immigrants from all religions and ethnic backgrounds. These words take on a new urgency in the face of the immoral actions by the Trump Administration.
That’s why I was proud to lead legislation that would revoke and defund the travel ban, as well as file an Amicus brief for the court proceedings detailing the flawed and unconstitutional nature of each iteration of the travel ban. Moving forward, I will continue to fight the travel ban in the House and the courts.
QUESTION: Has the United States in the last decade been accepting too many immigrants, and does this pose a threat to the American way of life?
ANSWER: Immigrants enrich our country and embody the ideals this nation was founded on. They come from every corner of the world searching for freedom and prosperity they believe the United States can provide. To me, the threat to the American way of life is when we embrace anti-immigrant and isolationist policies. Immigrants have and always will be the fabric that binds our country.
That means we must also address the failures of our legal immigration system which have resulted in millions of undocumented immigrants in this country living in the shadows. Fixing our broken immigration system will only be accomplished through comprehensive immigration reform that provides an earned pathway to citizenship, giving undocumented immigrants the chance to get in line, pay fines and back taxes, earn legal status, and become productive members of our society.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: Under no circumstances should we build a wall along the border with Mexico. Just like the travel ban, the wall directly contradicts the ideals America was founded on. The wall is a misguided attempt to fulfill a campaign promise that will only alienate the United States. At at time when our country is so divided, it is not a time to foster an us versus them mentality that fuels prejudice and anti-immigrant sentiments. Further, the wall is estimated to cost $15 to $25 billion and destroy wildlife refuges. If President Trump was truly attempting to stymie undocumented immigration he would push for comprehensive immigration reform that includes an increase in border security.
TOPIC: Affordable Care Act
QUESTION: The tax reform plan created by Republican majorities in the House and Senate would eliminate the Obamacare “individual mandate” that most Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine. Does this threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act? What more on this, if anything, should be done?
ANSWER: Seven years of relentless and false attacks on the Affordable Care Act could not stop the American people from standing up and pushing back against the Republican effort to repeal the law. I was proud to vote for the ACA and I was proud to stand strongly against repeal efforts this past summer.
Unfortunately, while ramming through this historically unpopular tax bill, Republicans also took the opportunity to repeal the individual mandate. While the ramifications of this decision remain uncertain, most experts agree that without the individual mandate, up to 13 million Americans could lose insurance coverage by 2027 and those who remain insured will pay more in premiums. The individual mandate concept, born out of conservative think tanks, is one leg on which the ACA stands. Young healthy people must be incentivized to buy and maintain insurance and the individual mandate was one tool the government implemented to that end.
Beyond the ACA, the tax plan is also providing Republicans the justification to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Reducing our safety net programs has long been a priority for the GOP, but the fact that they aim to do it immediately after giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations while adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit is unconscionable.
Despite constant assault, the ACA has demonstrated that government can play an effective role in healthcare, especially insurance or other coverage. 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.
Regardless of 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 uninsurance 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, 2017 saw a record number 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 saves lives and save money at the same time.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
ANSWER: These are extremely serious times in Washington, DC. Disturbingly, President Trump has chosen to pursue an extreme and divisive policy agenda at home while simultaneously lashing out on Twitter against some of our most dangerous adversaries, as well as our most trusted allies. His actions have consistently undermined our strategic interests abroad and destabilized already delicate geopolitical conditions.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I’m briefed daily on the threats our country faces and I work closely with our intelligence agencies so they can respond both expeditiously and effectively. I have also taken a leading role in the Russia investigation to determine how Russia interfered with the 2016 elections and whether the Trump campaign colluded with them to guarantee the President’s victory. I believe this is the most important investigation in American history and we must go wherever the facts lead us and respond accordingly.
Now more than ever, we need steady and decisive leadership in Congress. The stakes are simply too high and and this is no time for learning on the job. There is a clear experience and judgement gap between myself and my opponents that I believe voters should consider when making this choice.