I offer my great thanks to everyone who asked questions of the candidates for the Second Congressional District last month. I think this has been a great experience, and while we could not use all the questions (there were just too many), I hope the responses to the selected questions are enlightening to all the voters. Except for the last question, they were both asked the same questions. I flipped a virtual coin to choose who would answer the first question first, and then alternated responses from then on.
Without further ado, here are the answers from the candidates, to the questions I selected.
Non-military discretionary spending has increased an estimated 84 percent since 2008. We should roll back discretionary spending to those levels and consider across the board cuts from that point. We need to take a close look at all programs and agencies, and eliminate subsidies and "corporate welfare" throughout the budget. For example: the subsidization of ethanol production to the tune of $6 billion/year. We are adding $3.5 to $5 billion to our Federal deficit on a daily basis and the debt we are racking up is unsustainable.
Deficits and debt matter. That is why I'm fighting to change the way Congress works in managing the federal budget. I've voted to reduce the influence of special interests in elections, and I support a new rule requiring all new federal spending or tax cuts to have a source of funding identified to pay for them. I also back a freeze on all general non-defense spending in the budget. I voted to suspend Congressional pay increases when the budget is not balanced. And I support extending the ban Democrats put in place on earmarks for for-profit companies.
I am opposed to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. It would be irresponsible to extend these tax cuts that would add $700 billion to the federal debt over the next ten years. You can't have credibility in tackling our financial problems if you take tax cuts for the rich off the table.
I support eliminating funding for defense weapons systems that are over-cost, behind schedule and unnecessary to combat the threats our country faces. According to the non-partisan Government Accountability office, 95 major weapons programs were a combined $295 billion over budget and on average 21 months behind schedule. This is unacceptable, and I voted to cut funding for the F-22 Raptor, the Transformational Satellite, and the Future Combat System among other wasteful defense spending programs.
I also voted to save taxpayers $68 billion by ending federal subsidies to private banks that issue student loans. I will continue to look to cut domestic spending programs that are not wasteful of taxpayer dollars.
You are absolutely correct Steve. Government closest to the people governs best and usually more efficiently. I believe there should be a greater effort from DC regarding what we used to call "devolution," that is, giving rightful power back to the States and getting it out of DC. A prime example, as you mentioned above, is education. While the responsibility of the education of our children lies with the parents, the local School Board and the State are the better partners to establish schools and assist the parents to see to their children's education.
The ability of Federal agencies to promulgate rules derived from general policies and laws passed by Congress is a major problem. It is an impediment to the start-up, development, and expansion of business and consequently an impediment to the creation of jobs and economic development in the US. Congress MUST take back their power and authority in this arena. Congress should pass laws that have the specific intent clearly stated, along with Constitutional authority for the law. The establishment of a required approval by Congress of regulation having a cumulative impact of greater than $100 million/year might be one way to avoid onerous regulation. Congress could consider the establishment of an oversight committee similar to one that Washington State has called the Joint Legislative Rules Review Committee. It is a Committee where the State Agencies could be called in to explain how their implementation of rules and regulations comply with the intent of law (but of course these type of committees are only as good as the people running them).
I disagree with the premise that the Legislative branch doesn't have supremacy in making laws. Congress makes its intent clear when it passes laws and uses the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct audits of the Executive branch to ensure that the Administration is complying with the requirements of the law.
In fact, when Republicans were in charge of Congress and consistently overlooked the glaring errors of the Bush Administration, I advocated for enhanced oversight. When Democrats regained control of Congress in 2007 we at once began exercising our oversight responsibilities - according to the Brookings Institute, Congress conducted more than 1,400 oversight hearings in the 110th Congress alone. These oversight hearings led to new laws to protect against Executive branch abuses such as rules preventing any Administration from handing out no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars.
I will continue to engage in active oversight of the Obama Administration and future Administrations to ensure that the Executive branch follows the requirements set forth by Congress.
I strongly oppose the privatization of Social Security. Washington state seniors have spent a lifetime contributing to this program and they are entitled to the benefits they have earned. Social Security must remain a safety net that covers all of our seniors. While Social Security is fiscally sound for the near future, the coming retirement of the baby boom generation will severely strain the system. We owe it to future generations to keep Social Security solvent; risky proposals and other cuts cannot be tolerated.
I support the establishment of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The Commission is tasked with finding ways to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015 in order to improve the nation's long-term fiscal outlook. Congress must attack the structural budget deficits and get government debt under control.
I fought to immediately begin closing the donut hole and strengthening Medicare so seniors can count on affordable prescription drugs and better benefits for years to come.
And I supported Wall Street Reform. Bigger banks on Wall Street gambled with seniors' retirement savings by putting profits and bonuses ahead of seniors financial security. I helped create comprehensive regulations for our financial markets, so that large banks, trading firm, or hedge fund manager can no longer recklessly gamble with Americans financial security.
First of all No, I do not favor privatizing Social security. Mr. Larsen is flat lying in his allegations to the contrary. The first thing that must be done is to stop spending the money that is collected for Social Security benefits, and restore the Trust Account. While the actions you have mentioned may be considered by the next Congress, none of them will "stabilize" Social Security as long as Congress continues to feed their insatiable appetite for spending and continue to grow the debt by deficit spending. Let's remember we were promised that: The money participants elected to put into the Program would be deductible from their income tax ... it is no longer deductible. We were promised it would be put into a "Trust Fund" ... it was moved it into the General Fund and subsequently spent. We were promised it would never be taxed as income ... it is now taxed ... it was the Democrats and Democrat Administrations that ignored those promises, and it was Larsen and the Democrats took over $500 billion out of Medicare this year to pay for the Health Care bill that the majority of the people didn't want. One must ask: If we didn't have a $13.5 Trillion debt, would we be asking these questions?
I believe this bill was quickly passed mostly in an effort to garner the votes of the teachers in the up coming election. As for the Medicaid portion of the bill...the benefits addressed therein would not have run out before January, allowing sufficient time for dealing with any potential shortfall. This Congress has not even passed a budget ... yet can they continue to use taxpayer money to garner favor and votes, spending money they simply don't have and continuing to pass unconscionable levels of debt on to our children and grandchildren. In their haste to go home and campaign to retain their power, they failed in their responsibility to pass any of the 12 annual budget bills, failed to deal with the expiring tax cuts which will mean tax increases for every taxpaying American, and failed for the first time in many, many years to even pass a budget.
I supported the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act. The National Education Association estimates that this critical funding helped save 408 education jobs in the 2nd Congressional District alone. According to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill provided $338 million for Medicaid assistance to Washington state. This bill was not designed to cover the entire hole in the Washington state budget, but it did cover part of the shortfall in the budget. This bill saved jobs and protecting our state against additional cuts to vital programs and services.
The bill was fully paid for by reducing funding for the food stamp program and closing a tax loophole that encourages corporations to ship jobs overseas.
If I could change the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, I would allow more flexibility for the school districts that had already made decisions for their fiscal year 2010-2011 budgets to use the funds in fiscal year 2011-2012.
And I add a similar question: Councilman Koster: If you and John Boehner are both re-elected, and he runs for Speaker again, will you vote for him? If so, why?
When I am re-elected and Nancy Pelosi is re-elected, I will be voting for her for Speaker.
I have made no commitment regarding my vote for Speaker. It does however appear at this time Congressman Boehner is the front runner and if he is re-elected will be the Speaker. I have heard from no Congressman, Boehner or anyone else for that matter, regarding the position of Speaker and/or asking for my vote should I be elected. We are currently focused on the election and intend to continue to do so until November 2nd.
We must secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws. We are a nation of laws and live under the rule of law. I oppose amnesty. I believe we must have a system in place to confirm citizenship and strict laws must be enforced upon those who knowingly hire illegals. We must also have in place a functional enforceable system for guest workers to meet the needs of agriculture. The security of our borders is a serious national security issue and this Congress and this Administration, as well as past Administrations, have failed in this regard. I would like to point out that while my opponent talks a good line on this issue, he has received a "D" grade from Numbers USA for his anemic voting record on defending our borders.
If by "closing our borders" you mean closing them to trade as well, then that is something that I would not support. In Washington state, one in three jobs depends on international trade. We need to have borders that are open for trade and tourism but secure enough to stop the flow of illegal immigration. I believe that we can strike this balance with the right application of people, technology, and infrastructure.
I am also opposed to using U.S. military personnel to guard our borders. This is a law enforcement activity that should be handled by the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If border communities need additional support, we can use the National Guard to provide additional border security assistance to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.
In my view, immigration reform must include a viable guest worker program to ensure employers have the best possible opportunity to hire legal temporary workers. I have heard repeatedly from farmers and other employers in my district and across Washington state about the need to hire temporary migrant workers to ensure their businesses can continue to operate and keep our economy moving in the right direction.
Comprehensive immigration reform must also include strict penalties for employers who knowingly and willingly hire illegal workers. And we must hold illegal immigrants accountable for breaking our laws. I do not support amnesty. If someone is here illegally, they must pass a criminal background check, and if they are found to have a criminal record they will be deported. Otherwise, they must go to the back of the line in order to become eligible to earn legal status. They must pay penalties and taxes. They must learn English. They must admit responsibility for breaking the law.
I've worked hard with the Skagit County community to help lessen the risk of flooding and move us towards critical flood control projects. This year, I fought for $1.137 million for the Skagit River General Investigation (GI) study, which will provide the boost needed to propel the GI toward project design and study completion. This is the largest amount of funding to ever be secured for this project. I have also worked with the Skagit community to prepare for the new FEMA flood insurance rate maps.
Regardless of the results from the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) project, rates for existing policy holders will not increase. Rates for policies purchased between when the existing flood insurance rate maps were published in 1985 to when the new final maps will be published will not see a rate increase based on the new maps - they are, essentially, grandfathered in. In July, I voted to reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This will help protect homes that are in newly designated flood plains as a result of the new FEMA rate maps. Homeowners in these areas will now be exempt from paying for flood insurance for the first five years and will be phased into flood insurance rates over the following five years. I do not believe we should eliminate the NFIP.
The town of Hamilton is subjected to floods year after year. I too want to move the town of Hamilton out of the floodplain and have been working on a solution to this problem.
In my opinion the Army Corps of Engineers has done a poor job trying to finish a $5-8 million (GI) study which is supposed to be the basic blueprint for a larger drainage wide flood control project starting at the upper Baker Dam and ending at Padilla Bay. The Corps seems to have had an excuse to do nothing by either not trying very hard or simply being ineffective to gain the necessary funding to get the GI finished. The solutions are at best complex and have been complicated by turnover at the corps, lack of funding, and lack of leadership provided by our federal delegation. We need to secure the funding to finish the study and bring the stakeholders together with a commitment to find a solution that perhaps not everybody with like but one that everybody can agree is the best solution. The National Flood Insurance Program offers flood insurance at a somewhat reduced rate ... and is maybe the only insurance option in some cases ... but has some "strings attached." Whether the County residents have Federal Flood insurance available depends on the County accepting standards and requirements of FEMA.
Councilman Koster, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone, including a Republican, who doesn't have serious criticisms of various Republican policies from last decade (whether or not they are the cause of the recession). You can say you too disagree with those policies, but if you're elected and Republicans win the House, many if not most of the members of your caucus will have been a part of those policies under Bush. Why should voters believe that a GOP-led Congress today won't let them down like last time?
I can only be responsible for my own votes in Congress and the voters have the right to hold me accountable. The #1 question I have been asked this year is this: Can we trust you to stay true to your principles and not become part of the problem back in Washington D.C.? My answer is three fold: (1) I must find a group of like-minded conservative people who will commit to challenge one another and hold each other accountable; (2) I must get back to the district on a regular basis, to be in front of my constituents, to listen to them, inform them, and to be held accountable; and (3) and most importantly, one must know what one believes before serving in Congress, and not be trying to figure it out who they are when they get there. I want to assure you that you can count on John Koster to continue to stand strong on his principles upon arrival in Washington D.C.as well as throughout his entire tenure as a U.S. Congressman.
Many of the current members who have been there during the Bush years did not necessarily agree with the policies you refer to. To assume they did is an incorrect assumption. I would refer you to the Republican Study Committee who have been standing strong for conservative principles and continue to do so. Let's remember that while George Bush was conservative on some issues, he often strayed from conservative principles, especially on fiscal matters. I urge you to check out the Republican Study Committee website to see for yourself what they stand for. I had the opportunity just last week to meet some of the candidates who are running this year. I can attest to the genuine conservative values we share, the resolve to get this country back on track, and their desire to get the job done and then go home ... back to their normal lives and for many, back to their small business enterprises. The people I met in DC last week have no desire to be career politicians. They simply want do what needs to be done and then go home!
Congressman Larsen, I've been hearing a lot lately from President Obama and Congressional Democrats about how the "failed policies of the last decade" caused our current economic woes. While it's obvious that it is possible that tax cuts and high spending could have contributed to the deficit and debt, it's not clear that they caused the problems with real estate, the banks, manufacturing, and many other problems we've been dealing with. Specifically, what Republican policies last decade caused the recession, and how?
I can't speak for the President or any other Congressional Democrat, but here is what I know.
When President Clinton left office in 2000 there was a $128 billion surplus. The last Bush Administration budget left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit. During that time, the national debt doubled from $5.6 trillion to over $11 trillion.
The Bush Administration failed to act in the face of mounting evidence of risky activity in the financial sector. The Securities and Exchange Commission did not use its authorities to implement regulations to protect consumers from subprime mortgages, nor did Congressional Republicans apply pressure on the Administration to do so. I supported the Wall Street Reform bill to end these abuses and prevent big banks on Wall Street from gambling with our retirement savings.
The Bush Administration supported Trade Agreements that did not include basic protections for labor or the environment, such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement. These agreements hurt the competitiveness of American exporters. I strongly support passing trade agreements such as the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement which will help U.S. companies access new markets on a more level playing field.
Our economy was also hurt by a lack of investment in higher education and research. Upon taking control of Congress, Democrats worked hard to expand Pell grants and reduce subsidies to private lenders to help more qualified young people go to college. Further, I supported a new GI Bill for the 21st Century to help the men and women who served our country advance their education. These investments in human capital will reap long-term benefits for our country.
Thank you very much to both Congressman Larsen and Councilman Koster for their willingness to participate and for their answers. It's been a very busy time for them, and I am sure that our readers appreciate it as much as I do.Posted by pudge at October 07, 2010 07:29 AM | Email This