Questions by Columbian staff writer Kathie Durbin
Q: Economic recovery: As a member of Congress, how would you work with other House members, the Obama administration and Washington state leaders to help small businesses and create jobs in Southwest Washington? Please be specific.
A: Southwest Washington suffers one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation. It’s indisputable: people are hurting and we need jobs. There are actions Congress and this administration can take now to stimulate job growth.
First, we have to control federal spending. Right now, the policy of this Congress is to run up a huge amount of new spending and put the debt on the nation’s credit card. That’s the wrong direction. It kills jobs, and over the long haul it threatens the future of the nation. I support a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment to force Congress to get serious about curbing its spending.
We can change the tax code so investment and job creation are actually rewarded. We can and should go back and reform health care to actually lower the cost of care because much of the burden of high health care costs is borne by our employers. Common sense solutions like Small Business Health Plans and lawsuit reform to deliver the same care at a lower cost will free up more capital for employers to grow their businesses and hire more people.
The administration must rule out, and I will oppose, any plan to create a federal Value Added Tax. Increasing the costs of our goods and services through taxation is no way to increase our competitiveness in a global marketplace.
Our goal should be to create an atmosphere where small businesses — the number one source of job creation — can succeed. I’m the candidate in this race who is a proven legislative advocate for small business; I was named a 2010 “Guardian of Small Business” by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Government programs and government spending won’t restore permanent jobs to our region and put us on the road to economic recovery. Recovery lies in the hard work and entrepreneurship of the American people.
Q: Columbia River Crossing: Our congressional delegation warns that the window for securing federal funding for a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia is rapidly closing, and that the region’s failure to reach consensus on a bridge design and the local funding match could kill the project. Do you believe a new crossing is essential to the growth of Southwest Washington? If so, what would you do to break the political gridlock? If not, what if anything should be done to improve the existing spans?
A: If elected, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure the federal government bears the lion’s share of responsibility for completing the Columbia River I-5 Bridge. No one needs to convince those of us who live in Clark County today the need for this project. The interstate highway carries 135,000 cars each day and is a vital artery for freight, meaning jobs in Southwest Washington depend on it. What won’t work is jamming through one plan that lacks local consensus. As a state legislator who represents Clark and Cowlitz Counties, I’ve spent countless hours listening to locals, officials and business leaders discuss this key project. I’ll use my position as this region’s federal representative to bring these interests to the table and secure the federal resources to get it done.
Q: Energy: Describe briefly your vision for the nation’s energy future and the region’s. What new energy sources should the federal government promote/subsidize? Do you believe it’s possible for the U.S. to wean itself from fossil fuels? Regarding the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, what steps, if any, would you support to hold BP accountable, repair the environmental and economic damage in the region, and strengthen federal spill prevention rules?
A: I believe in the “all of the above” energy approach. We need domestic energy sources including wind and solar, clean coal technology, nuclear and we need to protect the clean, renewable hydro resources we already have. I’ve been a proponent for biomass at the state level, because it’s a promising, clean form of energy that holds the potential for jobs and increased energy sources here in Southwest Washington. Incentives, not punishment, should be the path to more renewable energy. I don’t support cap and trade legislation that would increase the average family’s energy bills by about $1,700 per year.
My policy for oil companies is simple: clean up your own mess. Just as in the financial industry, the taxpayers should not be on the hook for the negligence or bad decisions of private companies like BP. I support removing the cap on damages paid by oil companies, and believe that questions of how the Gulf disaster took place must be answered before further deep ocean energy exploration is pursued elsewhere. All of us would love to see the day when our economy is no longer dependent on fossil fuels. But today, the reality is that every time gas prices go up, people lose jobs and I support safe and responsible energy exploration.
Q: Financial reform: What is your plan to protect American consumers from a recurrence of the abuses committed by Wall Street investment banks that led to the Great Recession? Do you favor reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or something similar?
A: My number one priority for financial reform is solving the problem of “too big to fail.” We can’t have a system where companies are free to take huge risks, and if they pay off they reap huge rewards, but if they fail the taxpayers are on the hook for massive bailouts. That’s privatized gains and socialized losses, and it’s what so many of us are so angry about.
I would be open to a number of approaches to achieve this goal, including potentially reinstating some portions of Glass-Steagall.
Q: Immigration reform: Assuming Congress does not act this year, what is your vision for strengthening our borders and dealing with the 12 million undocumented immigrants who are in the U.S. today? Do you favor amnesty? Deportation? A path to citizenship for illegals? What is your take on the Arizona law? Please be specific.
A: I understand the frustration that led Arizona to act aggressively. If we had the same violent drug wars seeping over our borders, I would not want others condemning actions we took to protect ourselves in light of the federal government’s failure to secure our borders.
As a Member of Congress I will do everything in my power to strengthen our existing border operations in order to get our borders under control. I do not support amnesty for illegal immigrants, and I don’t believe we can seriously discuss what to do with the people already here illegally until we’ve stemmed the flow of people crossing into our country illegally every day. Whatever it takes, whether it’s a wall, a fence, or new technologies, we must secure our borders.
I support high levels of legal immigration and will work to protect those who want to play by the rules. Our country has a tradition of openness for those who want to come to America and respect the law and I intend to uphold that tradition. Our rich heritage of diverse cultures is part of what makes America great.
Q: Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: President Obama announced in March 2009 that he would withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by August 2010, deploy 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and train Afghan troops, and begin withdrawing military forces from Afghanistan in 2011. Do you agree in general with those goals? Briefly, what in your view should be the nation’s future military and political objectives in these two countries?
A: Our country remains under threat from radical Islamic terrorism, and successful resolution of both wars must remain our goal. With Iraq moving in the right direction compared to even a year ago, we must now turn our attention to winning the War on Terror in Afghanistan. This means the U.S. must provide the support for General Petraeus to be successful in the counterinsurgency efforts. Politics should stop at the water’s edge; as a Member of Congress, I will support President Obama in his commitment to keep America safe and stabilize the region. I believe he was unwise to put a date on our withdrawal, but now it appears he is backing off from an arbitrary date and is committed to a successful outcome in Afghanistan.
Also fundamental is the federal government’s duty to watch after America’s veterans, especially those warriors who have been injured in the line of duty.