Republican incumbent Peter Roskam failed to respond to repeated requests to appear with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board.
The Sun-Times also sent the candidates seeking the 6th Congressional District seat a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their district and the country. Roskam submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
As a member of the U.S. House, what are or would be your top cause or causes?
Roskam: Reining in out of control spending, strengthening the economy, and working to reduce the exploding cost of college/enhance the availability of career and technical education so every American has the opportunity to succeed and thrive.
Please list three highly specific needs of your district that you would make priorities.
Roskam: The opioid crisis in Illinois is critical, and there is bipartisan consensus on a path forward to combat this epidemic. We have come together, along with law enforcement and health care professionals, to introduce a series of bipartisan solutions to curb opioid abuse. We secured $16 million in federal funds for Illinois for opioid crisis prevention and placed a special focus on opioid legislation pertaining to senior citizens. I am currently sponsoring and advocating for several initiatives in the House to improve Medicare to protect seniors in cases of substance abuse and educate them about opioid dangers and prevention.
In 2014, the nuclear waste contamination in West Chicago had a huge impact on the local community. I worked to secure House passage of $20 million in federal funding for the environmental cleanup of the Kerr-McGee plant in West Chicago along with similar sites nationwide that participated in atomic energy programs dating back to WWII. The bill, HR 4923 (the FY15 Energy & Water Appropriations Act), passed 253-170 on July 10, 2014. The bill also included language directing the Department of Energy to provide sufficient resources in future budgets to eliminate the backlog and return to a more normal schedule to ensure backlog doesn’t happen again.
Obamacare has been a disaster for residents of the Sixth District, causing premiums to skyrocket and doing exactly what President Obama promised it wouldn’t – people lost their plans they liked and access to their doctors. Today, my constituents in McHenry County are left with only one choice of insurer – this is unacceptable. I voted for legislation that would fix this for the residents for the residents of the Sixth District and put people back in control of their own healthcare by allowing them to choose if they want to purchase coverage and what type/level of coverage is right for them and their families.
Who is Peter Roskam?
He is running for: Illinois 6th Congressional District
His political/civic background:
- U.S. House of Representatives (2007-Present)
- Illinois Senate (2000-2006)
- Illinois House of Representatives (1993-1999)
His occupation: U.S. Congressman, 6th District
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.A. Political Science
- Chicago Kent College of Law, J.D.
Campaign website: roskamforcongress.com
Recent news: Peter Roskam
Bipartisanship is virtually non-existent in the House. What would you do about that?
Roskam: I have a proven track record of working with both Republicans and Democrats to achieve real solutions. I know that collaboration, negotiation and compromise are the keys to getting anything positive accomplished in Washington. Based on my record, the Lugar Center at Georgetown University ranked me the most bipartisan member of the Illinois Congressional delegation, and one of the top 25 most bipartisan members in all of Congress.
For example, during a hearing I led on IRS abuses, my predecessor as Chairman under the Democratic majority, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) said, “I’ve been on this committee for some time, and I have never, ever seen in a very long time this degree, this spirit, of togetherness.” As a result of our work together on the committee, every Democrat joined me in voting to hold the IRS accountable for its abuse of the country’s civil asset forfeiture laws.
Just recently, I introduced a bipartisan bill with my Democratic colleague Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) aimed at reducing fraud and waste in the Medicare program. That effort is already receiving support from Republicans and Democrats alike and passed through the Ways and Means Committee overwhelmingly.
We need more people in Congress that are willing to work with those they disagree with to find solutions for the good of the country. What we don’t need is more hateful, divisive rhetoric from our elected officials, which is what my opponent’s track record has been.
Are you convinced that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in support of the candidacy of Donald Trump? Please explain.
Roskam: Yes—as U.S. intelligence agencies and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees concluded, the Russian Government clearly ran a significant operation to interfere in our 2016 elections. And yes, I believe many of Russia’s efforts were designed to support the Trump campaign.
As a Member of Congress, I also have a very important responsibility to recognize that the Russian information warfare didn’t stop there.
Consider that a USA Today analysis of ads run by the Russian firm charged with orchestrating the election meddling found that the majority of their online ads didn’t refer to candidates or campaigns, but instead aimed to sow discord among Americans on a wide range of specific issues, from race and religion to law enforcement and immigration policy. That is, the Russians were attempting to defeat our democracy itself, an alarming threat far beyond any one candidate or election.
In Congress, I have worked to recognize and respond to the danger Russia poses on many levels. For example, I recently joined Democrats and Republicans in passing H.R. 3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, an effort the White House set out to oppose. Working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, we successfully passed this law to impose a stiff financial price on Russia for its recent provocations including threatening the integrity of U.S. elections; its atrocious human rights abuses; support of murderous regimes like that of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad; the unlawful annexation of Crimea and aggression towards our ally Ukraine; unchecked cyber crimes; and other threats to America’s safety and security.
Do you support the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller? Please explain.
Roskam: Yes, there are serious allegations that warrant a thorough and impartial review.
If President Trump were to fire Mueller, directly or indirectly, what should Congress do?
Roskam: My ultimate responsibility is to the American people to uphold the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution. On any matter affecting the integrity of our government, I will evaluate the facts with the serious gravity the situation merits.
If Trump were to pardon his former campaign aide Paul Manafort, what should Congress do?
Roskam: As I stated before, my ultimate responsibility is to the American people to uphold the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution. On any matter affecting the integrity of our government, I will evaluate the facts with the serious gravity the situation merits.
Which three actions taken so far by the Trump administration do you most strongly support?
Roskam: My job as a Representative is to represent the values and principles of my district to Washington, not represent Washington to my district.
I have followed through on my commitment to advance our communities’ best interests no matter which political party may support or oppose an action. For three cases where the President’s policies match the interests of our district:
I worked with my colleagues to modernize and update the our previous tax code, providing real tax relief to the residents of the Sixth District and making our country a competitive place to do business in once again. I was happy to have the President sign our bill, enacting it into law.
Congress has been working with the White House to enact bipartisan, common-sense regulatory relief. Eliminating red tape and burdensome regulations so that our communities and businesses can succeed and thrive is something I’m glad to work on with the White House.
Earlier this year, the President made a bold decision to officially relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel. I have long urged this action, and it was strongly supported by many in our district. This was an important step in U.S.-Israel relations which signaled the deep respect and loyalty between our two nations.
Which three actions taken by the Trump administration do you most strongly disagree with?
Roskam: When President Trump’s policies will help our community, I will support them. When they don’t, I will oppose them. Here are three important times I have opposed President Trump because his policies were not good for our district:
I voted no on President Trump’s rescissions legislation that would have cut funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
I spoke out against the Trump Administration’s policy separating children from their parents at the border and voted for an immigration bill to fix this problem.
I demanded that the Trump Administration back down on threats to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative so important to our state’s environment and economy. I also worked to get bipartisan legislation enacted to restore those important funds.
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?
Roskam: Being a good steward of our environment for future generations is a responsibility we all share. I have opposed the Trump Administration’s policies that would harm the environmental interests of our state and district.
For example, I opposed President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the ‘Paris Agreement’ on reducing carbon emissions. The decision to withdraw from the agreement is foolish as the United States has the most influence with other nations when able to advocate our views from within the group.
I do believe the marketplace is a helpful disciplinarian as employers try to do things more efficiently and with less waste and as they appeal to the public’s sensibility about environmental stewardship. From a policy perspective, one way to reduce carbon emissions is to reduce the regulatory burdens on renewable energy sources and zero-emission energy sources like nuclear power plants.
Regarding more immediate environmental stewardship impacting our district, I spoke in opposition to President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal that eliminated the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Great Lakes are a tremendous asset to our nation and Lake Michigan in particular is so important as it provides drinking water for much of our district. That is why I worked with a coalition of over 60 of my colleagues to advocate before the House Appropriations Committee to restore the full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It is an ongoing process, but we successfully restored the funding through House passed legislation.
To what extent is climate change a man-made phenomenon? How serious is the threat to our children’s future? What should be done?
Roskam: We know the climate is changing and we know that there are all kinds of influences. It’s safe to conclude that humans have an impact. The question we all are trying to answer is what do we do about it. Many of us have differing views and ideas on how to do this but it’s important that we continue to have these conversations and work together to come up with solutions that will allow us to care for our environment in a way that is economically responsible. That’s why I’m a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus in Congress, a Republican and Democratic group working together to identify solutions.
What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence?
Roskam: Like many I have met with throughout our district, I am truly horrified by the mass shootings that have taken place and claimed far too many innocent lives. While I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to keep and bear arms, I also believe there are reasonable measures Congress can take to help ensure that we keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and the mentally ill. That’s why I’ve supported and sponsored several pieces of legislation that will help accomplish this important balance:
I cosponsored and helped enact into law the FIX NICS Act which strengthens the background check system by conditioning federal grants to states on their effective upkeep of the NICS background check system. Too often we have seen negative information on individuals in the hands of some authority somewhere, but never added to the database and thus never preventing the purchase of a gun as intended. It is past time we close that dangerous information gap and ensure the background check system in place functions as designed.
I cosponsored the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act to expand the mandatory background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads. The bill also allows physicians to enter mental health records into NICS without violating HIPPA.
I urged the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to reevaluate of the legality of bump stocks, which I do not believe should be allowed.
I cosponsored the Secure our Schools Act to improve student safety by establishing a grant program to help schools acquire alert buttons to rapidly contact law enforcement and improve incident response.
I cosponsored and helped enact into law the STOP School Violence Act to help our schools implement proven, evidence-based programs and technologies that stop violence before it happens and provides $50 million per year to create reporting systems for threats of school violence including phone apps, hotlines and websites.
I opposed the NRA when I voted against the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act which would allow out of state individuals with no license, no permit and no training to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois.
And I cosponsored the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act which would establish a grant program to incentivize and encourage states to enact laws that enable family members, law enforcement and others to petition a court for a gun violence prevention order to temporarily stop someone from purchasing a firearm if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
Is the media the “enemy of the people”? Please explain.
Roskam: The press is vital to informing the public about current events. Throughout history, a free press has shined a light on abuses in government, highlighted important trends in business and helped strengthen our communities. We must also recognize that the media has a great responsibility as a trusted source of information to report in a factual, unbiased manner. That means not just continuing to push back on inaccurate statements by others, but also accepting responsibility for the many recent inaccuracies by certain journalists as well. Those mistakes or erroneous claims are every bit as harmful when coming from the media as they are when coming from other leaders.
We’re amidst an important national conversation that ought to hold both the press and public leaders to a high standard.
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?
Roskam: Respectfully, I disagree with the board’s assessment on the tax law. I was proud to help craft this vital legislation and shepherd it into law. The benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are empirically aimed at the middle class. The bill that I pushed forward doubled the standard deduction; doubled the child tax credit and more than doubled the qualifying income limit; created an entirely new system to direct investment into low income census tracts (opportunity zones); made the first ever deduction for pass-through entities that are mostly sole-proprietor and family businesses; created a tax credit for employers to offset the cost of offering extended family and medical leave; and shifted a larger percentage of the total tax burden to millionaires. That’s on the individual side of the tax code, and it benefits ordinary American families – these successes cannot be dismissed out of hand in the interest of criticizing the corporate side of the bill.
Lowering the corporate tax rate is an idea that has been supported by economists of all stripes and was even proposed by the Obama Administration. For years other developed countries had been lowering their corporate tax rate while the United States stood idle and became increasingly uncompetitive. The results were as painful as they were foreseeable: Burger King didn’t relocate to Canada because of their love for hockey, they did it because it was not economically feasible to pay our high corporate tax rate. And when Burger King left, so did many of their jobs and associated tax revenue. What our legislation did on the corporate side was lower the overall rate and put penalties in place to stop companies that have been gaming our tax systems through complex inversions. Good actors and businesses that were paying the 35% are able to expand production in the United States and hire more employees with the benefit of lower tax rates. Companies that decided to invert to Ireland or move production facilities to third world countries to cut costs don’t enjoy that benefit. The Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) puts a 10% tax on companies that artificially move profits overseas and the Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI) provision requires that U.S. companies operating overseas must pay at least a 13.125% tax rate abroad or the United States will impose that tax here. What does all that mean? That the business side of the tax cuts legislation is focused on growth of American businesses, rising wages, expanded opportunity and new hiring. The business side of the tax cuts legislation is designed to benefit the middle- and lower-class. This is a key reason we are seeing the lowest unemployment rate since 1969 and increased workforce participation. It’s also why we are seeing record small business optimism, 401(k) values increase, an increase in the GDP and record low unemployment.
Opponents of the tax bill like to claim that the effects are minimal. They’ve call the benefits “crumbs.” They like to used skewed figures to find a way to call the tax cuts legislation unfair. But by the numbers, the tax reform law was a major win for the middle class, it was a major win in the Sixth Congressional District and it has helped revitalize the American economy.
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?
Roskam: Congress has laid the foundation through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and we’ve seen our economy begin to grow at a more healthy rate and we’re on track to see much more growth. In May, we saw the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 20 years and in June, we saw 600,000 more people enter the workforce. Many of these people had given up on finding a job but have seen the shift in the economy and it’s given them renewed hope.
On the heels of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, hundreds of employers – big and small – across the country began giving $1,000 bonuses to their employees and increasing the employer match into their employees 401(k)’s. Additionally, wages at a significant number of businesses was raised to $15/hour. Under new tax withholding tables, 90 percent of workers can see an increase in their take-home pay. Finally, as we approach our first Tax Day under the new code, thousands of families in the Sixth District will experience simpler filing and larger returns.
The Joint Economic Committee (JEC) found that the percentage of taxes paid by millionaires increases from tax reform and the percentage paid by many middle- and low-income taxpayers decreases. Our tax cuts were aimed at the middle-class, and the numbers bear that out.
The economy is growing and companies are hiring more people and as demand for more and better employees increases, so do wages. We’re seeing that happening right now.
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?
Roskam: Following the Helsinki press conference, I stood up to President Trump and denounced Russia’s interference in our elections and the President’s failure to confront Vladimir Putin when given the opportunity. I went and spoke one on one with President Trump urged him to be tough on Russian aggressions and hold Vladimir Putin accountable for his bad acts.
Russian provocations are a great and growing threat to peace and stability throughout the world, and we should not be deceived by a wiley operator like Vladimir Putin. Much work must be done to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia. If a proposed visit is not in service of that goal, it would not be appropriate.
How would you assess and grade the Trump administration’s efforts to recalibrate our nation’s relationships with Korea, NATO and Russia?
Roskam: I believe that the summit in North Korea was an important step for the stability and peace of the Korean Peninsula, however I neither overestimate Kim Jong Un’s willingness to cooperate, nor underestimate his ability to inflict harm. Kim Jong Un must prove his commitment to complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearization and begin the process immediately if the U.S. government is to truly move forward with improving relations with North Korea. Until we see tangible evidence, the U.S. must continue to apply maximum pressure on the regime and never forget the horrible conditions the North Korean people are forced to live in under the Kim Jong Un regime.
I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the U.S. relationship with Russia, but I will reiterate that work must be done to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia and any actions we take from a relational standpoint must be in furtherance of that goal.
NATO is the keystone of military cooperation between the United States and European allies and is a critical fixture of the post-war geo-political order. I voted to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to NATO’s principle of collective defense as enumerated in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. As Russia seeks to expand its sphere of influence by supporting rogue regimes and malign international actors, it is vital that NATO remain strong, cohesive and well-funded.
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?
Roskam: Every president’s first and most important responsibility is to keep the American people safe. I supported the President’s effort to temporarily pause entry for certain visitors from high-risk countries until we could put in place thorough vetting procedures. Several of the targeted countries lacked the ability to perform basic government services, let alone adequately vet travelers. It is ludicrous to admit foreign visitors into the United States when we don’t know simple facts like who they are, where they are going, and why they are here. This is especially true for visitors from countries roiled by military conflict or with a history of terrorism, or countries that refuse to cooperate and share information on their travelers with U.S. authorities.
It is a false characterization to call this policy a “Muslim ban,” regardless of what some have said. Only three countries now facing U.S. travel restrictions are in the top 25 worldwide in terms of Muslim populations, the highest being notorious terror supporter Iran, with the seventh largest Muslim population. Restrictions on Iranian travel have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the threat to the American people of unchecked entry from the world’s foremost government sponsor of terrorism. It’s also important to note that the policy doesn’t limit students, it allows many foreign workers, and gives everyone the opportunity to apply for entry through a waiver process.
The focus is on our national security, and this policy strikes the right balance between safety and travel.
What three major reforms should be made to United States immigration policy?
Roskam: I recently voted for an immigration bill that addressed my top three priorities for immigration reform: 1. Securing the border; 2. Protecting Dreamers from deportation; and 3. Ending the policy of family separations. While this bill did not pass, I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that these three priorities are front and center in efforts to craft a solution to the country’s broken immigration system.
Additionally, when I learned that children were being forcibly separated from their parents at the border, I was appalled. I spoke out against the President’s policy of family separation, and voted to fix the problem.
Do you support or oppose the family-based immigration policy sometimes called “chain migration”? Please explain.
Roskam: I have worked to ensure better treatment for immigrants and to prioritize immigration based on merit—those with military service and educational and work experience would be expedited. The current system of a random lottery for visas would be ended.
What would you do, as a member of Congress, to improve race relations in the United States? *
In this time of incredible connectedness and constant communication, our language plays a crucial role in how we relate to one another and our ability to live side by side in harmony and cooperation. Whether our differences are racial, ideological, religious or geographical – respect for one another is foundational.
Hateful speech, language that divides, attacking those with different beliefs—those are the types of action that make things worse. According to my opponent’s own words, people who disagree with him are “morons” who “can’t believe in facts.” We need more communication and cooperation, not more insults.
I am privileged to represent a district diverse in its makeup, with a rich tapestry of backgrounds and cultures. Throughout my time in Congress, I have been blessed to develop meaningful friendships with members of our local Ahmadiyya Muslim community, the Korean community, the Sixth District’s vibrant Indian community and many others. I have also been blessed to enjoy fellowship and develop productive working relationships with my congressional colleagues of different races and creeds. Working together, regardless of our backgrounds, we have made the country, and our district, more prosperous and secure. Being intentional about reaching out, spending time with one another and working to understand each other’s points of view is an important aspect of American togetherness.
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent?
Roskam: I have a proven track record of working across party lines to get things accomplished for our communities–Sean Casten has a proven track record of saying in his own words and showing by his own actions that he won’t work in a bipartisan way for the good of the Sixth District.
For example, I worked with constituents with all types of political views to bring our residents significant tax relief, while Sean Casten has run his campaign on repealing those tax cuts and raising taxes on just about everything. Sean supports raising property taxes, raising income taxes, raising the gas tax, creating a new carbon tax and is even proposing an unlimited new tax increase for Social Security.
I have demonstrated my ability to advance policies that benefit our communities and also to stand up to the Trump Administration when they are pursuing the wrong policies. By contrast, Sean regularly uses divisive, troubling rhetoric to divide, not unite. Simply consider his own words: he compared the President to murderous terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, called all Republican officials “pedophiles” and “morons,” and has repeatedly insulted those who simply disagree with his views.
I will continue to work on real problems and achieve real solutions.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.