Democratic incumbent Jan Schakowsky is the Chicago Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 9th Congressional District race.
The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for the 9th Congressional District a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their district and the country. Schakowsky submitted the following responses:
As a member of the U.S. House, what are or would be your top cause or causes?
Schakowsky: 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.
Please list three highly specific needs of your district that you would make priorities.
Schakowsky: JOBS AND INCOME: We need to create good jobs and raise wages by investing in priorities like education and infrastructure and by supporting unions. Union members enjoy higher wages and 9 in 10 receive paid sick days, vacations and access to retirement plans. Higher wages – along with expanding Social Security – are essential to improving retirement security. This is especially true for women, who are more likely to work in low-wage jobs, work part-time, and take time out of the workforce altogether for caregiving responsibilities. As part of my effort to see wages rise in my community, I have been involved in ensuring that municipalities raise their minimum wages based on the Cook County ordinance.
CAREGIVING: Another specific priority of mine is supporting measures to help families meet those caregiving needs. In our area, many parents spend more on child care than they do on food, transportation and rent – quality infant care can cost more than $10,000 a year. At the same time, many families are also providing care for older adults – either taking time out of the workforce or struggling to afford adult day care or home health care worker services. I have been working on the issue of improving the quality of care for older adults, including in nursing homes, since I began my career.
IMMIGRATION: Finally, the Trump Administration’s cruel immigration policies are creating fear, dislocation and economic problems in our community. In the ninth district we have a long record of welcoming immigrants and refugees from all corners of the world, and they have contributed to our diversity, cultural richness, and economic well-being. Many, many of my constituents have contacted me to express their dismay about policies that separate mothers from their babies, that impose a discriminatory Muslim ban, and that seek to isolate immigrants through deportations and the repeal of DACA. I am working hard to reverse those policies and enact comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
Who is Jan Schakowsky?
She’s running for: U.S. Congress, 9th District
Her political/civic background:
- Member of Congress, 1998-Present
- Illinois House of Representatives, 1990-1998
Her occupation: Member of Congress
Her education: BA, Elementary Education, University of Illinois
Campaign website: www.janschakowsky.org
Bipartisanship is virtually non-existent in the House. What would you do about that?
Schakowsky: Bipartisanship is sorely lacking in the House. It can be difficult to find common ground when my Republican colleagues spend so much of their time looking for ways to rip health care away from millions of Americans, give trillion dollar tax-breaks to the top 1% and massive corporations, and gut consumer and environmental protections.
That being said, even in this climate, I have been able to find certain issues where bipartisanship still exists. One of my top priorities in Congress is to take decisive action on lowering the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs in our country. I believe there is a lot of room for bipartisan cooperation on this topic. In fact, one of several drug-pricing bills that I sponsor is currently bipartisan.
While there is no one magic bullet to bringing down prescription drug costs, I believe that requiring transparency in drug pricing is an important step forward. While drug companies make record profits and continue to raise the price of their drugs, they are under no legal obligation to justify or explain the massive spikes in drug prices. That’s why I have introduced a bill, H.R. 2439, the FAIR Drug Pricing Act, to take the first step in addressing skyrocketing prescription drug prices by requiring basic transparency for pharmaceutical companies that drastically spike the price of a drug. The bill is bipartisan in the House, with Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) cosponsoring. The late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was our Republican sponsor in the Senate.
I will continue to encourage my Republican colleagues in the House and Senate to follow Rep. Rooney and Sen. McCain’s examples by signing onto my bill. I am also a sponsor of five other drug-pricing bill, including H.R. 1776, the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, a comprehensive bill that would allow Medicare negotiation, safe drug importation, and close several patent law loopholes. I have and will continue to work to bring my Republican colleagues on board with these proposals as well. I believe our response to the prescription drug cost epidemic must be comprehensive, and I am still hopeful that it can be bipartisan as well.
This session, I have had several bipartisan accomplishments under my belt this Congress. Working with Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD), I was able to pass the Women, Peace, and Security Act. Signed into law last summer, it promotes the participation of women in resolving conflicts around the world.
As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, I’ve reached across the aisle to get the House to pass my EMPOWER Act, a bipartisan bill to expand geriatric workforce education and training programs to meet the needs of seniors.
As the Ranking Member of the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, I worked with my Republican colleagues to ensure that many crucial consumer protection provisions, such as the “Hot Cars” measure to prevent children from being needlessly killed and injured when left alone in vehicles, were included in the SELF-DRIVE Act of 2017.
Finally, I am an active member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, which brings together a bipartisan group of members (equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats are involved) to find solutions to the climate crisis. Earlier this year, my friend and colleague Fred Upton and I joined the caucus together.
Are you convinced that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in support of the candidacy of Donald Trump? Please explain.
Schakowsky: Yes, I am thoroughly convinced that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in support of the candidacy of Donald Trump. At this point, anyone who is not convinced is simply denying facts. From the very beginning, the entire American intelligence community was unequivocal in declaring that Russia meddled in our election. They left no room for doubt or debate. Their reports also indicated that they did so to sow discord in American politics, to undermine our democratic process, and yes, to support the candidacy of Donald Trump. Then, in July of this year, during a jarring and infuriating press conference featuring President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the Russian President publicly declared that he had supported and favored the candidacy of Donald Trump from the very beginning.
In Illinois, we have definitive proof that Russians hacked into our election database in 2016, though our delegation was briefed by government security experts who confirmed that the Russians did not alter election results. Whether Russia meddled in our election in favor of Donald Trump is no longer a question. The question is why Donald Trump is so intent on denying this fact and why he is so disinclined to even chastise Russia and Mr. Putin, let alone reprimand them for their meddling. By failing to take any sort of action, Donald Trump has left our democracy even more vulnerable to further attacks.
Do you support the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller? Please explain.
Schakowsky: I fully support the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. We need this investigation to continue to do its diligent work if we are to fully understand the scope of Russian meddling in our election, and how involved President Trump and his associates were. I also have faith in Mr. Mueller personally. I got to see Mr. Mueller at work when he was Director of the FBI and I served on the Intelligence Committee. From my time interacting with him then, I know him to be a straight shooter in whom I have a lot of confidence.
So far, as a result of the Mueller investigation, five Trump associates – Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos – have been charged with serious crimes. Flynn, Cohen, and Manafort have already pleaded or been found guilty. Alex van der Zwaan has already served jail time. 13 Russian nationals have been charged as well. Perhaps most troubling, Michael Cohen admitted that he had violated campaign finance laws while silencing women by paying them off at the direction of President Trump himself. This makes Donald Trump an unindicted co-conspirator in this investigation. Mr. Mueller’s investigation should be protected at all costs – our democracy depends on it.
If President Trump were to fire Mueller, directly or indirectly, what should Congress do?
Schakowsky: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation must be completed without interruption. If the President fired Mueller, there would be an explosion in America. 400,000 people have already signed up online, pledging to hit the streets in 950 protest events within hours of the announcement.
Congress would be called to act. One option would be to consider impeaching the President. Another would be for Congress to immediately launch an independent Congressional investigation with the same scope as the Special Counsel’s – and to put Robert Mueller himself at the helm.
Firing Mueller would send an even clearer message that the President has no respect for the rule of law, the American people, or their sacred right to vote. This action would further confirm that Donald Trump is not fit to lead our country. It would signal that the President sees the investigation’s conclusions as an existential threat to his presidency. It would be a bridge too far. At this point, Republican leaders would have to either join Democrats in taking immediate action to ensure that the investigation continued or become complicit in the President’s wrongdoing.
Similarly, I believe that if President Trump went through with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani’s threat to stop Mr. Mueller’s final report from being released to the public, Congress must make sure that it sees the light of day. The American people deserve the truth.
If Trump were to pardon his former campaign aide Paul Manafort, what should Congress do?
Schakowsky: A pardon to Paul Manafort would be a significant and unacceptable abuse of the Presidential pardon prerogative. To me, it would sound like a de facto admission of collaboration with Mr. Manafort in carrying out his crimes. Once again, it would be up to Congress (and Congressional Republicans) to speak out and act – reviewing the Presidential pardon powers and exploring more serious ways to hold the President accountable for his cronyism and corruption. This would be yet another confirmation that the President is completely unfit to lead.
Which three actions taken so far by the Trump administration do you most strongly support?
Schakowsky: Candidate Trump made several pledges that I supported during his campaign. The three main ones were (1) lowering the price of prescription drugs, (2) protecting Social Security and Medicare, and (3) renegotiating trade deals to protect U.S. workers. While his budget took aim at Medicare – cutting it by more than $500 billion — the jury is still out on his other promises. In particular, I hope to be able to work with him on meaningful solutions to high prescription drug prices – including price negotiation.
Which three actions taken by the Trump administration do you most strongly disagree with?
Schakowsky: Choosing only three actions taken by the Trump administration that I most strongly disagree with may be the toughest portion of this questionnaire so far. Because of their enormous and ravaging effects, I think the three that I disagree with the most are (1) his attempts to repeal and sabotage the Affordable Care Act, (2) his unilateral violation and withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran Deal, and (3) his support and passage of the GOP tax bill. If I could add a fourth and a fifth, I would add his xenophobic and inhumane immigration policies and his all-out assault of the environment. Luckily, I was able to expand on these later in your questionnaire.
Earlier in this term, I worked with a broad coalition of activists and allies to defend Americans’ health care and stop the Trump/Republican attempts to rip coverage away from millions of Americans. There were many different iterations of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they all included similar proposals to take protections away from millions of Americans, raise health care costs, impose crippling age taxes on older Americans, and allow for ‘barely there’ insurance plans to come to the market. Unfortunately, the fight to protect Americans’ health care from Republican assaults did not end when their proposals were voted down. President Trump and his allies in Congress have been sabotaging the Affordable Care Act in every way they can, by slashing the budget for enrollment outreach, unveiling rules to allow junk insurance plans on the market, and stopping cost-sharing reduction payments. This, again, will translate into less Americans covered, higher costs, and worse health care plans. I continue to fight back against this sabotage in every way that I can.
I played a pivotal roll, working directly with President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and outside groups to assure the approval of the Iran nuclear agreement. By unraveling the Iran deal, President Trump dismantled a landmark achievement in U.S. diplomacy and disregarded the fact-based findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s verification program, which had certified Iran’s compliance at least 10 times. By doing this, President Trump made the United States of America, our allies in the region, and the world much less safe, increasing the chance of war with Iran. By going back on an American promise, the President also imperiled our negotiating and deal-making abilities for the future.
Finally, the tax bill passed by President Trump and Republicans last December was a $2 trillion tax gift to the ultra-wealthy and an all-out assault on working men and women. 80% of the bill’s benefits will go to the country’s top 1%, and Republicans are already finding ways to make working men and women foot the bill. Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans have repeatedly said that they intend to fill the $2 trillion hole created by massive tax breaks for the wealthy by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — cuts that would undermine the health and financial security of virtually every American family.
The Trump administration has taken action to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at curbing climate change and limiting environmental pollution. The administration has done so in the name of supporting business growth and making the United States more energy self-sufficient. Most notably, the administration has begun to dismantle Obama’s federal rules over American coal plants, weakened automobile fuel-economy standards and ended American participation in the Paris climate agreement. What is your take on all this?
Schakowsky: There is no room for debate: climate change is happening, it has been enormously accelerated by human activity, and it threatens to upend every aspect of our lives. As the world comes together to forge solutions to this monumental crisis, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have brutishly rolled back the modest steps forward that had already been taken. The devastating effects of President Trump’s decision will be felt by our children and our children’s children for decades.
It is astonishing to see that President Trump is not content with merely sitting on his hands and doing nothing to address the ravaging effects of climate change, but has instead taken it upon himself to aggressively undo the progress that has already been made. First, Republicans in Congress used the ‘Congressional Review Act’ in an unprecedented way to roll back countless environmental protections created by the Obama Administration. Then, President Trump retreated from the world stage and eschewed America’s leadership role by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.
This summer alone, the Administration announced that they intended to roll back the emissions standards that were put in place to protect the air our children breathe. Then, the President allowed for further pollution of this air by proposing to undo the Clean Power Plan, which set strict limits on how much carbon dioxide states could emit and encouraged the transition to clean energy. In addition to completely impairing our children’s future, these actions will have dire, immediate consequences. Government studies recently released predict many lives will be lost due to the environmental policies of this Administration.
To what extent is climate change a man-made phenomenon? How serious is the threat to our children’s future? What should be done?
Schakowsky: Climate change is almost entirely a man-made phenomenon. The threat to our children’s future is existential. I am committed to promoting sustainable and renewable clean energy development, achieving energy independence through the use of sustainable 21st-century technologies and increasing energy efficiency. I am also a strong environmentalist and believe we have a special responsibility to protect natural resources and species, national parks and wilderness areas and the future of our planet.
Having lived near Lake Michigan for my entire life, I have a particular interest in protecting the Great Lakes, the source of nearly 20% of the fresh surface water in the world. I have been working closely with Region 5 EPA employees in Chicago to make sure they can do their job without interference from the Administration which continues to lay off workers and cut vital funding.
I support the agenda of the Alliance for the Great Lakes which issued its priorities for 2018: ensure access to safe drinking water, investing to improve outdated and failing drinking and wastewater infrastructure, funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, preserving the Clean Water Act and U.S. EPA, supporting existing invasive species regulations, preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, reducing runoff pollution, and reducing plastic pollution in our waters.I am working hard to promote clean air and clean water, prevent global warming, and prevent toxic emissions that threaten public health.
I am an active member of both the Safe Climate Caucus and the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which I engage with frequently to discuss and work on solutions to the climate crisis.
Unfortunately, the current debate in our country is not focused on how to move forward to combat the already-present effects of climate change. Instead, due to the President’s selfish, narrow, and ignorant views on the environment, we are forced to discuss how we will fight back against further attacks on our air, water, and lands. With the Administration withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, the only country in the world to do so, rolling back the Clean Power Plan and using his allies in Congress to undo environmental protections left and right, we have our work cut out for us.
What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence?
Schakowsky: An effective first step is passage of a unified Federal background check system for all gun sales. This proposal would be effective in keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and has the advantage of being supported y the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners and NRA members.
As we trudge through another bloody summer in the city of Chicago, which has, along with the state, strong gun safety laws, the need to take bold action at the federal level is becoming more and more clear. We know that guns purchased in states with weak gun laws are pouring over the Illinois border and being used to mow down our children and loved ones. 60% of the traceable crime guns recovered in Chicago come from out of state, with a majority coming in from Indiana.
As a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I count gun violence prevention as one of my top priorities in Congress. In 2015, my Democratic colleagues and I went so far as to stage a sit in on the House Floor, led by my dear friend and colleague John Lewis, to demand that Congressional Republicans take action on this issue beyond moments of silence, thoughts, and prayers.
There are legislative solutions to this epidemic that have already been introduced in Congress. For example, I support legislation like the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 (H.R.5087), which would regulate the importation, manufacture, possession, sale or transfer of assault weapons. I also support the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (H.R. 4240) that would provide a responsible and consistent background check process and ensure individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. I will do all that I can to advance those bills and other gun violence prevention legislation.
Gun violence is a scourge that must be confronted head on. From the streets of Chicago to classrooms, concerts, movie theaters, and nightclubs across the country, far too many lives have been lost to this senseless epidemic. Because you can simply drive across the border to Indiana and load up your trunk full of weapons at a gun show, any action we take must be taken at a federal level.
Despite massive obstacles like the gun lobby and the indifference of Republican politicians in our way, I have a renewed confidence that we’ll be able to get something done soon. Over the past six months, I have been heartened by the unwavering advocacy of student activists around the country who have joined forces with experienced gun safety advocates and communities who have been terrorized by gun violence for decades to fight back against the gun lobby and actually get something done. I have made it a priority to meet with and hear from student activists both in my district and across the country. Their courage, passion, and persistence is inspiring, and I believe that the NRA has finally met their match with these young students. I will continue to follow their lead in this fight and remain a strong voice for bold gun safety legislation in Congress.
Is the media the “enemy of the people”? Please explain.
Schakowsky: Absolutely not. Far from being the enemy of the people, I believe that a free and open press is a necessary and crucial pillar of any democratic society. Reporters and news outlets ask difficult questions and write big stories on behalf of ‘the people’. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Sun Times’ Editorial from mid-August titled “This newspaper is the ‘enemy’ of all that hurts ‘the people’.” I couldn’t agree more.
President Trump’s callous attacks on the press are dangerous and extremely troubling. Lashing out at honest reporting, labeling any negative coverage as ‘fake news’, and encouraging your followers to distrust the media are all examples of autocratic behavior. Labeling the media as the enemy of the people also puts journalists in immediate danger and it makes even more difficult for them to do their jobs. It gives comfort to tyrants and dictators all over the world who want to stifle the voices of the free press. Recently, in Myanmar, two Reuters journalists were sentenced to for seven years for reporting on the state-sponsored genocide. This is intolerable, and I will be leading several of my colleagues on a letter to the State Department demanding that the government of Myanmar be held accountable for this action.
I will continue to advocate for and support a free press, a Constitutionally protected right, and the rights of journalists. I will also continue to speak out against the President’s constant attacks on the press.
As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation pushed through Congress last December 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 the ‘silent hand’ of the market does not seem to be rewarding merit fairly. What’s your position on last December’s rewrite of the tax code? Would you push for further changes, or for the law’s repeal?
Schakowsky: I use a simple test to decide whether I can support legislation: will this proposal reduce income inequality or exacerbate it? The tax plan passed by Republicans in December fails this test spectacularly. It will make the rich much richer and make poor and middle-class Americans foot the bill with cuts to treasured government programs. This is why I worked and voted against it from the beginning. While the top 1 percent will benefit (obtaining more than 80% of the benefits when it is fully implemented), the law does little to raise wages, create new jobs or improve the lives of working families.
In fact, Speaker Ryan and other Republicans have repeatedly said that they intend to fill the $2 trillion hole created by massive tax breaks for the wealthy by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — cuts that would undermine the health and financial security of virtually every American family.
The evidence shows that the tax law is providing more incentives for outsourcing and that corporations are using the vast majority of their tax breaks for stock buybacks – benefiting CEOs and shareholders – rather than raising wages for workers. Stock buybacks in the United States have been on the rise for years, but have exploded since the passage of the GOP tax bill. In 2018 alone, buybacks are on track to reach $800 billion. When massive corporations use the benefit of their tax rate going from 36% to 21% to purchase their own stock, American workers get the raw end of the deal.
A recent study by the Roosevelt Institute showed that Walmart could boost their hourly wages to more than $15 an hour using the $20 billion it was spending on buybacks. A separate Roosevelt Institute study estimated that companies like Lowes, Home Depot, and CVS could give each of their workers a whopping $18,000 raise a year with the money they are putting towards buybacks. To hold these large corporations accountable, I have led my colleagues in sending letters to large corporations like AT&T and Walmart asking about how they will use their tax gains, and pushing them to invest in wages and their workers, not their CEOs.
The GDP is growing and productivity is up but, after adjusting for inflation, real wages have actually fallen in 2018. In order to speed up the recovery and make sure that working women and men share in it, I support living wages, an end to incentives to outsource jobs, and the elimination of barriers to allow workers to join unions and win higher wages and better benefits through collective bargaining.
As a leader in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), every Congress I play an active role in drafting the CPC’s budget proposal. In it, we propose a bold, progressive vision for the United States, where the wealthiest corporations and individuals are asked to pay for their fair share, so we can raise enough revenue to make necessary investments in health care, infrastructure, and education. This year, the CPC’s “People’s Budget” proposes investing $2 trillion to create a 21st Century infrastructure, transforming our water, transportation, and energy systems and creating good paying jobs along the way.
Speaking of income inequality, top executives of America’s biggest companies saw their average annual pay surge to $18.9 million in 2017, even as the pay of ordinary workers has remained flat for a decade. What, if anything, should be done to address the growing gap in wealth and income?
Schakowsky: In addition to raising the minimum wage, (I am a cosponsor of H.R. 15, the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and eliminated the $2.23 tipped minimum wage), I believe that the single most important thing we can do to raise wages is to protect the right of workers to join a union and collectively bargain. This is especially true as we witness an all-out assault on Unions in America, which has culminated this year in the Janus v AFSCME decision in the Supreme Court and president Trump’s three anti-federal worker executive orders, which have thankfully been overturned by a judge. Labor law reform is way overdue.
Between 1979 and 2016, the wages of the top 1 percent grew by 150% while the wages of the bottom 90 percent grew by just 21.3%. It is no coincidence that occurred as union membership declined, largely as a result of employers using unfair labor practices, refusing to negotiate contracts, pushing mandatory arbitration and imposing non-compete clauses that now restrict the ability of nearly 1 in 5 workers to change jobs. That is why I am a cosponsor of legislation like H.R. 6080, the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act, and H.R. 5728, the Workplace Democracy Act, which would protect the rights of working women and men. Finally, I believe that we need to reward companies that respect their workers. My bill, H.R. 3925, the Patriot Employer Act, would provide favorable tax treatment to those companies to hire American workers and pay good wages and provide good benefits to them. We should deny federal contracts to companies that violate labor law and engage in wage theft and eliminate tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs and profits.
Would it be appropriate at this time for President Trump to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the White House? Why so, or why not?
Schakowsky: Absolutely not. During their last meeting, President Trump had the opportunity to confront Vladimir Putin about Russia’s systematic and deliberate attack on our democracy. With the world watching, he could have once and for all stood up for our country, declared that Americans’ sacred right to vote will be protected, and made clear that foreign powers will be held accountable for meddling in our elections. Instead, President Trump bloviated his way through a press conference where he repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and denied what the American intelligence community has repeatedly confirmed: that Putin’s Russia interfered in our 2016 Presidential election, that they sought to undermine our democracy, and that they plan on attacking us again. The President’s shocking display went beyond incompetence and it bordered on treason.
To then invite Mr. Putin, one of the most adversarial foreign leaders on the planet, to the White House, would be an egregious insult to Americans. We need our President to stand up for his own people and to stop kowtowing to our enemies.
How would you assess and grade the Trump administration’s efforts to recalibrate our nation’s relationships with Korea, NATO and Russia?
Schakowsky: The relationships between the United States and North Korea, NATO, and Russia are all very different. I have been thoroughly unimpressed with President Trump’s efforts to ‘recalibrate’ each of these relationships.
I firmly believe that diplomacy is the right course of action in North Korea. We need a well-thought out, well-counseled, diplomatic approach to North Korea that takes into account the precarious complexities that this conflicted region and isolated dictatorship pose. Unfortunately, I believe President Trump has engaged in the opposite: a shoot-from-the hip, act-now-and-plan later strategy that lacks a long-term vision and has been embarked upon without the advice of experts. North Korea poses a grave threat to the United States and our allies in the region and across the globe. I continue to believe that pursuing a diplomatic solution to this crisis, like the one President Obama had achieved with the Iran Nuclear Deal, is the right course of action.
President Trump seems to be confused about our relationships with NATO and Russia. Whether Mr. Trump knows it or not, Russia is NOT an ally of the United States and NATO most definitely IS. As I’ve already mentioned, President Trump needs to change the entire tone of his relationship with Russia and hold them accountable for their involvement in undermining our democracy and meddling in our elections. When it comes to NATO, Mr. Trump has shamed and embarrassed our allies on the world stage, and seems to completely misunderstand the purpose, value, and nature of this global relationship. To improve all three of these relationships, President Trump must rebuild the diplomatic corps and work with competent senior advisors to develop a coherent international policy that puts safety, peace and security at the forefront, rather than the reckless, ego-driven approaches currently being implemented.
In late June, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban on visitors and immigrants from seven countries, five of which have Muslim majorities. What is your view on this ban?
Schakowsky: With his Muslim Ban, President Trump for the first time in our history, established a religious test to qualify for entry to this country. He slammed the door on some of the most oppressed and desperate people in the world – people seeking safety and freedom in the United States. The weekend it was announced, I joined activists, attorneys, civilians, and family members of those affected by the bans at O’Hare airport to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters being targeted. Despite how horrific this action was, it was no surprise. The President has made his racist and Islamophobic intentions clear from the day he began his campaign. I was completely opposed to the Supreme Court’s misguided 5-4 decision helping him fulfill the nativist promise. The Statue of Liberty wept the day the Muslim Ban was upheld.
As he has made abundantly clear, the President of the United States wants Muslims, Latin American children, and anyone else from what he deems a ‘sh*thole’ country to stay as far away from our shores as possible. It took the Trump Administration a year and a half of failed attempts to get from the President’s racist dream of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” to a watered down but still Islamophobic executive order that tragically passed the Supreme Court’s muster.
As the daughter of immigrants and a representative of one of the most diverse, multicultural, and welcoming districts in the country, I continue to fight to build the welcoming, immigrant-rich America that I know. The President is trying to redefine the character of this nation of immigrants, but we won’t allow it.
What three major reforms should be made to United States immigration policy?
Schakowsky: The United States of America was built by immigrants, made strong by immigrants, and made great by immigrants. I am a first generation American – the daughter of immigrants who, along with their parents, were given the opportunity to work their way into the American middle class and raise a child who would become a Member of Congress. I know first-hand what we mean when we say immigrants make America great.
The ninth district of Illinois is one of the most diverse and immigrant-rich districts in the country. Our thriving, caring, and peaceful community stands as a model of just how much immigrants contribute to our country. In my district, immigrants run small businesses, provide health and long-term care, lead places of worship, teach our children in schools and even serve in our armed forces. In almost every room that I speak in lately, I like to ask everyone to raise their hands and keep them up if they were born in a different country, then I ask those who have a parent who born in a different country to do the same, then grandparents. By the end, almost invariably, close to every hand in every room is raised – this was even true when I carried out this exercise in a gathering of ICE officials. We are a nation of immigrants.
This is why, as reforms to our immigration policy, 1) I support passing a clean Dream Act, 2) ending the separation of families at our southern border and require their reunification, and 3) 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.
President Trump’s anti-immigrant actions have given us pressing – and distressing – issues to address immediately. From his decision to throw the lives of Dreamers into limbo by ending the DACA program and his termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), President Trump has brought about a grave immigration crisis of his own creation. I believe his most recent action, the “zero-tolerance” policy at our southern border which has led to family separation and opened the door to indefinite family separation, is tantamount to state-sponsored child abuse and kidnapping. I believe somebody needs to go to jail over this. Additionally, it is imperative that we raise the refugee admissions caps which the Trump Administration has lowered to almost zero.
Do you support or oppose the family-based immigration policy sometimes called “chain migration”? Please explain.
Schakowsky: The policy you’re referring to is family reunification, and I support it. As I’ve mentioned before, I am the child of immigrants and a representative of one of the most immigrant-rich districts in America. I am the product of an immigrant success story, and I know that America succeeds when immigrants succeed. Allowing hard-working, law-abiding citizens to bring their relatives to our country shouldn’t just be “accepted”, it should be encouraged. We need our immigrant communities to be happy, thriving, and strong so they can continue to contribute to our country socially, culturally, economically, and in every other way.
I recently traveled to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where I saw the harrowing effects of President Trump’s family separation policies first-hand. The family separation I saw at the Southern Border was tragic and the very opposite of what I want to be carried out by my government in my name. We need to support immigrants and keep families together.
What would you do, as a member of Congress, to improve race relations in the United States?
Schakowsky: I believe that every person in the United States – white, black and brown – deserves equal opportunity and the tools that enable them to achieve their very best. We need to confront the longstanding, structural discrimination in American society that has prevented so many people of color from obtaining that goal — whether that discrimination comes in the form of income and wealth inequality, health disparities, the criminal justice system, or the lack of quality education. We need to affirmatively break down those barriers and take aggressive action against discriminatory practices.
Instead of solving those problems, President Trump through his hateful rhetoric and damaging policies has exacerbated them. I have spoken out against the President’s racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and otherwise hateful and divisive outbursts. I will continue to do so – his bigotry must be called out.
Instead of treating every person with respect, we are facing a situation in which racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant attacks are no longer off-limits. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University found a 12.5 percent increase in incidents reported by police last year in Chicago against people of color, Jews and members of the LGBT community.
There are specific actions that can be taken at all levels of government that would level the playing field for individuals and communities of color including: make major investments in communities of color in the areas of affordable housing, quality public schools, job training; address the wage gap between white and minority workers, especially women who earn far less than white men and even white women; address the issue of mass incarceration; take steps to end the discrimination against former prisoners when it comes to employment and voting; teach black history in all schools and make curricula more comprehensive to include all people of color and immigrants; make quality health care universal.
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent?
Schakowsky: I was fiercely opposed to last year’s GOP Tax Bill, which my opponent has claimed “should have happened a long time ago.” This legislation gives 83% of tax breaks to the top 1% and will raise taxes on 53% of Americans. In an era of striking economic inequality, it is unconscionable to support policies that promote and expand that inequality.
I have always been an advocate for comprehensive women’s healthcare, including access to safe, legal abortion care. A woman’s right to choose is under assault in unprecedented ways. We need strong voices in Washington to protect that right and my opponent would be an anti-choice voice in a crucial time for women’s rights.
My opponent also supports spending $25+ billion on President Trump’s useless, hateful wall along America’s southern border. I will oppose this administration’s inhumane policy of family separation, “zero tolerance,” and warehousing human beings in cages, leaving children to sleep on a concrete floor.