Name as it appears on the ballot: David Price
Full legal name, if different: David Eugene Price
Date of birth: 8/17/1940
Home address: 2200 N. Lakeshore Drive, Chapel Hill
Mailing address: P.O. Box 1986, Raleigh, NC 27602
Campaign website: www.priceforcongress.com
Occupation & employer: U.S. Representative
Home phone: 919-854-4155
Work phone: 919-854-4155
Cell phone: 919-854-4155
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina and the nation? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The number one issue facing our nation is jobs. That's why my top priority in Congress is moving the economy forward, supporting local businesses so they can create jobs here in the Triangle area.
Years of Republican leadership in Washington brought us a regulatory free-for-all on Wall Street and mounting deficits and debt that left us dangerously weak when the recession struck. When President Bush left office, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs, and retirement savings were being wiped out. We brought the economy back from the brink, but our recovery has been slow and tough for many Americans, and we haven't fully regained the losses brought on by those failed economic policies. I'm confident we will recover, but we've got to press ahead to strengthen our region's ability to attract and keep jobs. We cannot fall back to the policies that brought us to the brink.
After living most of my life in the Triangle, I understand what really makes our region go: the advanced research and top-notch higher education opportunities that fuel our economy, the businesses that find a nurturing environment in the Triangle, and the high quality of life that our families enjoy. It is my top priority in Congress to strengthen these things so that we are prepared to compete for well-paying jobs now, and in the future.
I want to work with our business community and local leaders to continue to increase opportunities for scientists and doctors at our universities and businesses to advance their research, to discover new products and cures for diseases, and then employ North Carolinians as they market them. I have been a longtime advocate for university research that is helping to transform North Carolina industries to compete in the high-tech global marketplace. I also worked to pass a monumental new investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, leading to the manufacturing of new green technologies right here in the Triangle. When it comes to federal research programs, my opponent B.J. Lawson wants to eliminate funding for medical research and drastically cut scientific research, willfully hampering our economy in the Research Triangle.
As I visit with local businesses throughout the 4th district, listening to their concerns, I hear time and again that credit is tight, keeping businesses from hiring and expanding. I voted to increase small business lending, a measure that finally got through a Republican filibuster in the Senate and was recently signed by the President. I also helped enact tax incentives for businesses to hire and to recapitalize. We will need to stay on the case to ensure our small businesses are being supported and nurtured in the Triangle.
These businesses also need highly qualified workers. Having one of the best educated workforces out there is what sets us apart from the rest of the world -- which brings me to another key difference in this race. My opponent, B.J. Lawson, would totally eliminate federal support for education, taking away nearly four billion dollars each year from North Carolina's public schools, leading to huge tax hikes or more school overcrowding and teacher layoffs. He wants to abolish the Department of Education, leaving students to fend for themselves with higher loan rates and reduced grant opportunities so fewer kids can go to college.
Instead, I have fought to cut interest rates on student loans, increase the size and number of Pell Grants, and enact a 21st Century GI bill to give our returning soldiers an opportunity at higher education. I authored laws to improve community college courses for high-tech jobs, to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers for our schools, and to make student loan interest tax deductible.
You don't create jobs by abandoning public education and research -- in the Research Triangle, of all places! You don't build up our economy by tearing down the very things that make this region competitive, but that's exactly what B.J. Lawson wants to do. I have always worked to make our region stronger, and that's what I will continue to do as the Triangle's representative.
(On reining in reckless behavior on Wall Street, protecting consumers from abuse, and balancing the budget, see Questions 5d and 11.)
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective in the U.S. House? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
Government should be an instrument of our common purpose. My role as the Triangle's representative to Congress is to ensure that the federal government is a reliable partner in local efforts to improve our quality of life. Whether it is promoting educational opportunity, community college training, good highways and transit, clean air and water, or innovative research, I have fought for the needs of the Triangle and pledge to continue doing so.
Through my role as Chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked to develop a real partnership with our local first responders and ensure that our communities are better prepared for disasters of all kinds. I have worked to fully rebuild federal disaster response capabilities from the low point revealed by Hurricane Katrina, and to more adequately secure our ports, transit facilities, and airports. At the same time, I have used my position to guard against potential abuses of our civil liberties.
I have also sought to ensure that candidates and elected officials are held responsible for their behavior. In 2002, Congress passed my "Stand By Your Ad" Act, which requires candidates to appear in their ads and take responsibility for the content. In response to the Supreme Court's recent decision allowing anonymous special interest groups to spend unlimited funds attacking or supporting candidates, I've proposed measures to require these groups to identify themselves publicly so we know what they're after. I worked to include these provisions in the DISCLOSE Act, which the House has passed but which is being blocked in the Senate by Republicans.
My efforts in favor of congressional ethics reforms led to a ban on travel paid by lobbyists and the creation of an independent office to bolster investigations of potential ethics violations. And as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have pushed for pay-as-you-go budgeting and transparency for earmarks.
I voted against the Iraq War and continue to advocate for an orderly withdrawal. I was one of the leaders in Congress pushing for a ban of permanent military bases in Iraq, which we enacted. I support a responsible redeployment from Afghanistan and have cosponsored legislation to require an exit strategy from the conflict. I have been at the forefront of efforts to rein in the abuses of private security contractors. My work continues today as I work to pass legislation ensuring that all contractors are subject to U.S. criminal law and that the executive branch faithfully executes that law. And I've worked to restore America's moral leadership in the world by sponsoring legislation to close Guantanamo, prohibit torture, and stop outsourcing sensitive intelligence operations.
I am Chairman of a bipartisan House commission that works with developing democracies throughout the world to help them strengthen their legislative bodies. Effective legislatures are important to ensure a government's accountability to its citizens, and they improve the long-term prospects for peace and stability in critical regions throughout the world. My experience with the Commission also equips me with a keen awareness of the need to strengthen our international alliances and to emphasize diplomatic engagement to achieve our foreign policy goals.
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
My experience with the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill during the early 60s helped shape my political and moral outlook, and it forever taught me that committed people applying pressure within our communities and political system could lead to significant progressive change. It put me on a path that led to teaching American politics, political theory, and ethics at Duke. After taking on various political assignments, I decided to run for Congress myself in 1986.
Throughout my years of public service, I have tried to ensure that government works in concert with the needs and goals of the people of the Fourth District. I believe that faithful representation and effective leadership are rooted in a sense of common purpose, which includes promoting the values of equal opportunity and social justice. That is why I have been a strong supporter of public schools, expanding opportunities for higher education, as well as investing in research and innovation as ways to spur economic growth and secure job opportunities for generations to come. And it is why I continue advocating for justice for the uninsured, especially our children.
I also believe that the United States has a responsibility to serve as a force for good in the world by living up to our values and supporting multilateral approaches to international problems. That is why I am so actively involved in helping to strengthen our alliances abroad and supporting legitimate, responsive governance in emerging democracies through my House Democracy Partnership.
4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Nothing rouses emotions like the debate over illegal immigration. As the Triangle's representative, I have always worked to deal with this vexing issue fairly and pragmatically rather than resorting to bumper-sticker slogans or anti-immigrant rhetoric even though some politicians seem to think that's the popular thing to do.
I am a longtime supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, by which I mean bringing our immigration policy in line with our labor market needs and the complex realities our communities face. We've got to have a way to secure our borders and hold employers accountable, but also have a rational process for bringing law-abiding immigrants in our communities out of the shadows and putting them on a path to legal status. I also support the American Dream Act to allow immigrant schoolchildren to pursue higher education and become productive Americans if they've proven themselves to be hard-working, upstanding students. We should not be shutting the doors of opportunity to these children.
My opponent, B.J. Lawson, is seeking to score political points with the far-right, anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party. He says there's no need for immigration reform and, instead, wants to deploy our active-duty military to the border. He portrays comprehensive immigration reform as "amnesty." The fact is, requiring immigrants to pay a fine, pay back taxes, and go through the process of applying for legal status is a fair, commonsense approach to an extraordinarily complex problem. It is reprehensible to stoop to tactics that encourage anti-immigrant sentiment.
5. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a. What has our nation learned from invading Iraq? How will that inform your decisions if elected? What should our policy in Iraq be today? Should we base substantial military forces there for the foreseeable future?
I hope we have re-learned some of the basic principles that served us well throughout much of our history: that military force should be used only when there is a direct threat to our national security and only after all other policy options have been exhausted, and, more broadly, that our security lies not just in the size of our military but in the strength of our moral example and the depth of our relationships. I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and was an early sponsor of legislation to require a withdrawal plan from the conflict. Our experience in Iraq should persuade every elected official to demand a higher burden of evidence and a more comprehensive plan before voting to send our troops into harm's way. I am also hopeful that it will lead to a long-term shift in our national security strategy, away from the projection of massive force overseas and toward a more comprehensive approach based on strong homeland defense, skillful diplomacy, and support for multilateral solutions to global challenges such as climate change, food insecurity, and nuclear proliferation.
I believe President Obama is on the right track by ending combat operations in Iraq, redeploying our military, and leaving the country's future in the hands of its civilian leaders. While there may be a continued role for our military to play in advising and training Iraq's security forces, I am strongly opposed to building permanent bases in Iraq and have helped lead the fight in Congress to block funding for them.
While my opponent, in front of some audiences, tries to show his independence from Bush foreign policy, his views about our role in the world would make even Jesse Helms blush, further isolating the United States and abandoning our commitment to moral leadership. For example, he would have us withdraw from international institutions like the United Nations. And he wants to eliminate foreign aid, leading to untold suffering for millions of the world's most desperate individuals, including current efforts to prevent and treat HIV-AIDS and malaria in Africa, and disaster relief in Haiti and flood-ravaged Pakistan.
b. Evaluate the war in Afghanistan and the situation in Iran. What is our goal in those places, in your view? What should our policies be? What legislation should be introduced to address those issues?
Nearly nine years after we invaded Afghanistan to overthrow al-Qaeda and its Taliban sponsors, the situation in the country remains far from encouraging. The security gains made in the early years of the conflict have largely evaporated, thanks to President Bush's disastrous decision to redirect our efforts to Iraq, while the promise of a legitimate and effective Afghan government has been undermined by rampant corruption and electoral fraud.
Our challenge now is to bring our military involvement in the region to a responsible end, while addressing the legitimate interests we have in stability and legitimate governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This means redoubling our efforts to help Afghanistan's civilian and military institutions meet the basic needs of their people and prevent the country from reverting to a failed state, while making clear that our military presence there is time-limited. It also means reinforcing Pakistan's efforts to secure its territory and develop civilian institutions that can counter the appeal of violent extremism.
I am a cosponsor of legislation that would require the President to develop an exit strategy from the conflict, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to hold the President accountable to his plan. I am also the chairman of a bipartisan congressional commission that is working intensively with the parliaments of Afghanistan and Pakistan – member-to-member and staff-to-staff – to help them become stronger and more effective.
Iran poses a distinct challenge that requires a distinct response. Iran's successful development of a nuclear weapon would have destabilizing and potentially disastrous consequences for the Middle East, but I am firmly opposed to unilateral military action against the regime for several reasons: It would be unlikely to eliminate the threat; it would garner undue sympathy for Iran's extremist government; and it could provoke a broader regional war.
Unfortunately, the Ahmadinejad regime appears hell-bent on consolidating power at home while resisting international efforts to find a peaceful solution to its nuclear ambitions. I voted in favor of legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran's petroleum imports, but in order to be effective, such sanctions must be accompanied by a concerted and forceful diplomatic effort that includes Russia and China as constructive partners.
c. Universal health care: Why don't we have it? What have you learned from the current health care debate? What specific reforms do you support, and what will you do to get them passed? What has this process told us not only about health care but about the way that politics work?
The American people deserve a health system that works for them, and that's why after decades of trying – and a particularly intense year of debate – I was proud to support legislation to reform our nation's health insurance system. The new law has already begun to end insurance company abuses such as denying coverage to sick children, and new consumer protections will be coming on line in years to come as the law is implemented.
Although the new law doesn't create a single payer system, it is designed to achieve universal care by expanding eligibility for our safety net programs and creating state-based insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. These exchanges will allow the uninsured, self-insured and small businesses to purchase insurance at the low group rates that big companies have always been able to negotiate. The net effect will be that more than 30 million uninsured Americans will finally obtain coverage.
Because the Republican Party, including my opponent, forcefully opposed health reform, the legislation is a product of much compromise in order to secure votes for passage. Therefore, the law is not perfect and will require monitoring and future refinement. Two major shortcomings of the reform are that it did not include national insurance exchanges, instead establishing exchanges in every state, and that it did not include a carefully crafted, public insurance option as one of the exchange's offerings. Both of these provisions would help bring down the cost of insurance for individuals and small businesses and were included in the original House bill I supported. I have also cosponsored legislation to establish a public option (HR 5808) within the new law's framework.
In addition, the law's requirement that businesses file 1099 forms for many additional expenditures was, in my opinion, a mistake and I have voted to repeal it. Of course, the implementation of the law is just as important as its passage. That's why I'm committed to ensuring that the law's patient protections are strong in practice, that we are using every one of the law's tools to cut costs and improve the affordability of coverage, and we are adequately incentivizing more collaborative and efficient models of care.
What I learned from the health care debate is very much like what I learned in the 1960's during the civil rights movement: There are always powerful forces that will resist change, but it is possible to rise above them to do what's right.
If I am reelected, I pledge to oppose efforts to repeal the health reform law, as my opponent and the Republican leadership began advocating even before the ink was dry. We should never again give insurance companies a free pass to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, drop your coverage when you get seriously ill and need it most, and disallow children up to 26 to be listed under their parents' plan.
B.J. Lawson's ideas on health care are even more extreme and unfair to the middle class than those of the Republican leadership in Washington. He would dismantle traditional health insurance coverage and replace it with a system in which patients pay cash every time they visit the doctor and rely on catastrophic insurance coverage for invasive procedures. While a "Cash for Care" approach might work for wealthy individuals who can afford to divert a large percentage of their income to health savings accounts (and for the doctors who treat those wealthy patients), the message to middle class families of my opponent's scheme is: you are on your own. Lawson says "healthcare is not a responsibility of the federal government," which means he also wants to eliminate Medicare (coverage for seniors) and Medicaid (coverage for the poor).
d. What do you see as the primary sources of our current economic problems? What measures should Congress use to resolve address them? How would you begin to reduce the federal deficit? Is this an issue of not enough revenue or of overspending? What are some of the possible negative consequences of your proposed solutions?
The financial crisis made it painfully clear that our nation's economic policies became dangerously out of touch with the needs of the American people under the administration of President George W. Bush. His deregulation of the financial industry put Wall Street ahead of Main Street and encouraged banks to gamble with their customers' money. His housing policies encouraged mortgage lenders to take on riskier clients without adequate consumer protections to protect them from defaulting on their loans. The cumulative result was the near-collapse of our financial system, leading to a credit crisis that has hampered business activity, a foreclosure crisis that has impacted millions of Americans, and the loss of jobs that have been slow to return.
After the American people rejected Republican economic stewardship and elected President Obama, we made tough decisions and brought the economy back from the brink, but this is a slow and tough road to recovery. Credit is still tight for businesses that want to expand and create jobs, and though our economy is adding jobs, they are not being created fast enough. I support measures designed to increase lending for small businesses, tax credits for businesses to hire, and a strengthening of provisions to spur business R&D. (See Question 1 for additional measures I am pushing to bolster the Triangle's economy.)
I do not agree with my opponent's plan to replace the progressive income tax with a 30% national sales tax that increases the burden on the middle class while reducing it for the wealthy (the so-called "Fair Tax"). And I certainly don't agree with his hands-off, anything goes attitude toward Wall Street. That's the same approach that got us into this mess. (See Question 11 for measures I support to prevent another financial crisis).
I do believe that a key component of our economic recovery is returning to balanced budgets, because the Bush deficit dangerously weakened our ability to climb out of this recession. I was part of the efforts in 1990 and 1993 that finally balanced the budget and produced a thriving economy. Not only did we run annual surpluses; we paid down more than $400 billion of the national debt.
As soon as President Bush took office, he reversed that trend with tax cuts that weren't paid for, a prescription drug law that wasn't paid for, and two wars fought off-budget with borrowed money. By the time President Bush left office, our national debt had skyrocketed to nearly $9 trillion – a fiscal turnaround of almost $15 trillion over the course of the decade. When the financial crisis hit, we were left fighting a recession from this dangerous position of weakness.
So part of protecting our recovery has to be fixing our budget deficit – honoring the pay-as-you-go rules and making the tough decision to once again balance the country's checkbook. Just like in the 90s, making these decisions will not be easy. It will require some difficult compromise and shared sacrifice among the American people. But the importance of restoring fiscal balance is simply too great for the President and Members of Congress to stubbornly refuse to cooperate. I have proven that I can come to the table and will readily do so again if re-elected.
e. The stimulus legislation and the bailout: What worked and what didn't? What would have done differently in hindsight? How will that inform your opinion in the future? Under what circumstances would you advocate for such legislation?
I discussed in Questions 1 and 6d the origins of the financial crisis and the depth of the recession that resulted, so I will not reiterate how dire a situation our country faced less than two years ago. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act proposed by President Bush, which many refer to as the "bailout," was a measure that nobody delighted in supporting. I certainly had no interest in "bailing out" Wall Street firms and business leaders who speculated recklessly, endangered our country's consumers and homebuyers, and resisted regulation that would protect the public interest. My concern was for Main Street - for the people depending on a sound economy and the availability of credit to buy a house or car, to run their business and meet payroll, and to save for college and retirement. Like it or not, we were and are all in this together, and the financial crisis threatened the entire economy, including the individual financial well-being of every American. Sitting on the sidelines was simply not an option, or at best, it would have been an incredibly irresponsible one. (See Question 11 about how we must avoid facing this Catch-22 ever again).
Difficult choices had to be made to stop our economy from bleeding to death, and respected economists – both liberal and conservative – agree that the emergency measures were critical to avoiding another Great Depression. A recent analysis by Alan Blinder, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, found that without these emergency measures, economic output would have dropped 3 times more than it did, twice as many jobs would have vanished, and the unemployment rate would have hit 16.5 percent.
The Recovery Act, a critical part of these emergency measures, has also been critical to saving jobs right here in the Triangle. The law has put people to work locally building new infrastructure (including the new National Guard headquarters in Raleigh and a new high-speed rail line from Raleigh to Charlotte), conducting scientific research at our region's universities, and developing new alternative energy and energy efficiency technologies that will put the Triangle at the forefront of the green economy. The Recovery Act also prevented many teachers and first responders from being laid off, it cut taxes for small businesses, and it provided income tax relief for 95 percent of working Americans.
Two areas that were not adequately addressed by the emergency economic stabilization efforts were the housing foreclosure crisis and the lack of available credit for small businesses. Although there are a number of initiatives Congress enacted and the Obama Administration instituted to try and prevent mortgage foreclosures, I supported additional, more aggressive measures to keep people in their homes. For example, during debate of the Wall Street Reform bill, I supported a provision that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to alter the terms of mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure. Although I believe this measure would have helped stave off many more foreclosures, it was not included in the final bill.
Additionally, every time I sit down with Triangle-area businesses, I hear about the difficulty of accessing credit through the banks in order to effectively run or expand their businesses. I fault the Treasury Department for not making full use of their emergency authorities to spur the banks to support business development through responsible lending. That's why I joined an effort to pass a small business lending bill, which has just been enacted into law. This legislation will help provide loans and cut taxes for millions of small business owners to get them hiring again.
f. Education: What should classrooms of the future look like? What will you do about the dropout rate, the achievement gap and the lack of students excelling in math and science? What can be done to attract and retain better teachers in American schools?
As a lifelong educator, I understand that America's children are her greatest resource, and robust support of public education is essential to ensure that our young people can fulfill their potential and our country can maintain its competitive edge. That's why improving public schools and making higher education more affordable are among my highest priorities in Congress.
I wrote and helped pass the Price Education Affordability Act, which gives parents and students a tax break on their education loans. I also authored legislation to recruit high quality teachers to classrooms throughout America, modeled after North Carolina's successful Teaching Fellows program. And I authored legislation to strengthen high-tech worker training through community and technical colleges with my Advanced Technical Education Act.
For our elementary and secondary schools, the federal government should encourage innovative reforms that address persistent challenges such as high dropout rates, the achievement gap, and the lack of students excelling in science and math. A recent, constructive example of this is the Race to the Top initiative, which I supported. North Carolina was recently chosen to receive up to $400 million in Recovery funds through this program to support innovative teaching models to boost student achievement, and to help train and retain the next generation of teachers. Congress also needs to reform the flawed No Child Left Behind, which was designed to promote accountability in public education. More should be done to reflect the unique needs of different student populations, to adequately promote teacher recruitment and professional development, and to establish more thorough and comprehensive measurements of progress.
My opponent holds views that are extreme and detrimental to public education. He readily admits that he wants to eliminate the Department of Education, and with it, critical support for special education and teacher improvement. This would take nearly four billion dollars each year away from North Carolina's public schools, leading to huge tax hikes or more school overcrowding and teacher layoffs. His plan would leave millions of college-aspiring students to fend for themselves with higher loan rates and reduced grant opportunities. He also wants to eliminate the Department of Agriculture, and with it, the federal school lunch program – a program that not only ensures that 31 million children are nourished and ready to learn, but that for many of these kids is the only square meal they can count on for the day.
7. What is your position on capital punishment?
I believe the death penalty should be an option under limited circumstances involving the most heinous acts; yet at the same time it is absolutely essential to address any flaws in the administration of the criminal justice system. That's why I voted in favor of the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act, which is designed to ensure that death row inmates have access to post-conviction testing of DNA evidence that may exonerate them.
8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights and Don't Ask Don't Tell?
I believe in equal rights for all. I am a cosponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1283), which would repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. I also directly confronted the Pentagon for discharging a former UNC ROTC cadet and forcing her to repay the military for her college tuition after revealing her sexual orientation.
I'm also a cosponsor of the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA, HR 2015), which would prohibit hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and the Respect for Marriage Act (HR 3567), which would require states to recognize all legal marriages performed in other states. I also support legislation to expand the Hate Crimes Act to include violence targeted at one's sexual orientation, and a bill to extend Family and Medical Leave Act benefits to domestic partners.
My opponent, B.J. Lawson, has refused to distance himself from the extreme anti-gay views of the Republican Party – refusing to state publicly whether gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military (see 2010 Project VoteSmart Questionnaire). He also refused to respond to the question: "Should marriage only be between one man and one woman?" And he doesn't believe sexual orientation should be included in nondiscrimination and hate crime laws.
9. Do you support women's reproductive rights, including the "right to choose" as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade?
I believe that abortion should remain legal as defined by Roe v. Wade, and I oppose the gag rule and the Mexico City policy.
My opponent opposes a woman's right to choose, even in the case of rape or incest.
10. What changes, if any, do you support in federal entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans programs, etc.)
As I mentioned in Question 5d, I was part of the efforts in the 1990s that finally balanced the budget, produced surpluses, and paid down more than $400 billion of the national debt. Much like in the 90s, part of returning our budget to balance now must also involve examining entitlement programs and realizing savings therein. I am a firm believer that we should be open to reforming these programs if we are to compromise in good faith.
I'm monitoring the President's Fiscal Commission very closely, hoping that they, too, take this approach to our budget. And I stand ready to work with my Republican and Democratic colleagues, as I have in the past, to find solutions to our long-term budget crisis.
One area of the budget that should also be mentioned along with entitlement programs is the Defense budget. At nearly $600 billion per year, the Pentagon's budget is the largest portion of the budget that Congress appropriates annually. I recently joined my colleague Rep. Barney Frank in writing to the President's Fiscal Commission about this issue, urging that "any final Commission report include among its recommendations substantial reductions in projected levels of future spending by the Department of Defense." During the Bush Administration, our country's defense spending rose drastically. All Defense programs, from overseas military bases to outdated weapons programs, should be subject to intense budgetary scrutiny. It would be irresponsible to only look for savings in our safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare.
11. What should Congress do to prevent banking disasters like the one that nearly plunged this country into a second Depression two years ago?
The 2008 collapse of the US financial system reverberated throughout the global economy, setting in motion the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight million Americans lost their jobs, and $17 trillion in retirement savings and net worth evaporated virtually overnight.
In addition to making clear the failure of President Bush's irresponsible fiscal policies, the crisis revealed enormous vulnerabilities in our financial system, primarily the potential for abuse. Over time, many in the industry had adopted business practices that promoted excessive risk-taking and rewarded shortsighted profiteering at the expense of long-term stability and consumer protection. In some cases, they exploited loopholes and lax regulation, and in others, they knowingly engaged in risky behavior which had the potential for big payoffs.
Putting an end to this reckless and fraudulent behavior was therefore critical to preventing such a collapse from ever occurring again. That's why I supported strong new rules to protect consumers and taxpayers from Wall Street abuses. This new law limits the size and scope of financial institutions. It establishes tough new rules on risky, unregulated financial instruments like derivatives and gives more enforcement and oversight power to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It imposes restrictions on banks' ability to gamble with the college and retirement savings of millions of Americans. It created a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), ensuring that the federal government is actively protecting consumer interests in the financial realm. And it put an end to taxpayer-funded bailouts, giving regulators a way to put failing banks through bankruptcy without threatening the entire economy.
I've also worked to enhance consumer protections against unscrupulous lending practices. I supported strict prohibitions against predatory lending, and I authored a new law to help people take control of their credit card debt, because the credit card companies are all too happy to keep running up your fees and interest rates.
My opponent, B.J. Lawson, wants to roll back these protections. He holds the extreme position that unregulated corporations and banks are best for the economy and that there's no reason to have regulators protecting the financial system and consumers. I could not disagree more.
12. What's your take on the Obama Administration so far: Too aggressive? Too cautious? Or about right? (Choose one, please.)
I'm not sure a single answer is possible given everything this Administration has had to deal with -- the financial and economic collapse, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the budget deficit, and the result of years of poor stewardship of everything from environmental to foreign policy. There are certainly some things I would like to have seen enacted into law this year that were not – climate change/clean energy legislation, comprehensive immigration reform, repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the DISCLOSE Act, just to name a few.
But I can't totally fault the Administration when Senate Republicans decided as soon as the President took office to almost uniformly oppose nearly every initiative he proposed. The unprecedented use of the filibuster by Senate Republicans has stymied progress on nearly all of these measures, requiring 60 votes to even allow debate on them. Perhaps one could fault the Administration for failing to realize early on just how determined the Republicans were to obstruct progress. An argument can be made that the President could have better highlighted the level of obstruction and rallied the American people to shame the opposition party into working constructively during such a difficult time for our nation. But he was determined to bend over backward to extend his hand in cooperation.
I am also disappointed at the slow progress in closing Guantanamo Bay and eliminating this powerful recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Though I have successfully opposed some Republican efforts to force the President to keep the facility open, too often the voices of those who would demagogue on this issue have drowned out those who support the rule of law and America's position of moral leadership in the world. I know the President wants to close the facility, but once again, I believe early on his Administration misjudged the political forces they were up against.
But at the end of the day, the Administration has made some enormous changes for the better in the face of stark odds: sweeping health care reform that is finally a reality after decades of failed attempts, an unprecedented initiative to promote alternative energy and make the United States a leader in the green economy, far-reaching consumer and taxpayer protections through Wall Street and credit card reforms, and the single largest investment in federal student aid ever.
The Administration is also vocally on the right side of a lot of issues I care about such as stem cell research, U.S. leadership in promoting the Israeli and Palestinian peace process, promoting community service, and countless others. So my take is that the Obama Administration has worked hard and accomplished much. It has fallen short on some issues I care about, but it has been an effective change agent for many other issues I support. If I am re-elected, my task will be to work with the Administration to continue to advance an agenda that promotes opportunity and justice in America and throughout the world.