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|US House 4 (Orange/Durham)||David Price (Dem)|
Steve Acuff (Rep)
|US House 2 (Wake/Chatham)||Bob Etheridge (Dem)|
Dan Mansell (Rep)
|US House 13 (Wake)||Brad Miller (Dem)|
Vernon Robinson (Rep)
US House 4 (Orange/Durham)
1. On the war in Iraq, was the decision to invade a mistake? And, that said, what should our policy in Iraq be today? Should we base substantial military forces there for the foreseeable future? Start to withdraw now, or if not now, according to a plan (i.e., on a timetable)? Which, if any, of the congressional resolutions introduced so far on Iraq do you support?
I voted against the war, and I have been a persistent critic of the way Bush has conducted it -- without reliable intelligence, appreciable support from allies, or a workable postwar plan. I have introduced legislation (H. J. Res. 70) with Rep. Brad Miller, directing the President to submit an exit strategy to Congress, including plans for a near--term initial drawdown of troops. Such a strategy would include a timetable for the transfer of complete authority to the Iraqi leadership in a way that maximizes Iraq's chances to govern and defend itself. I helped lead the successful effort to gain a congressional declaration that America plans no permanent military bases in Iraq, and I also support the recently introduced resolution renewing the call for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation.
2. Is Iran's nuclear program a serious security threat? If so, what should our policy toward Iran be? Should we consider a military response, and if so, under what circumstances?
Our national security would be profoundly threatened by a nuclear Iran. Iran's government is openly hostile to the United States, and a growing body of evidence belies Iranian assertions that its nuclear program is merely for peaceful purposes. But a military response should be the absolute last option. We need a strong, sustained diplomatic effort to bring Iran back from the brink of rogue nuclear proliferation. We must work with our European allies, China, and Russia to devise both positive and negative incentives for Iranian cooperation, and we must supplement these efforts by directly engaging the Iranians through bilateral talks. The rush to war in Iraq has made me and many Americans extremely wary of the Bush Administration's lack of patience, good faith, and skill in international diplomacy. And unfortunately, the Administration seems to be making the same mistakes all over again: making claims unsupported by intelligence, undermining its commitment to diplomacy with preparations for war and extreme rhetoric, and showing impatience with key partners. That is why I have cosponsored a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the President cannot use military force without obtaining authorization from Congress. Stopping Iran's proliferation is critical to our national security, but -- as Iraq has demonstrated -- a reckless approach by President Bush could damage our security more than any threat from Iran.
3. In recent years, the economic productivity of American workers has grown, along with corporate profits, but average real wages--after inflation--have fallen. That's added to the already widening gap between the rich in this country and everyone else, threatening the "American Dream." Do you recognize this as a major public-policy problem? If so, what should the Congress do to address it?
Yes, this is a major public policy problem. That's why I voted against the Bush tax packages which have overwhelmingly benefited the wealthiest in our society and have not been effective in stimulating the economy. I oppose repealing the estate tax because it would benefit only the wealthiest families. I have fought Bush administration efforts to shift the burden of taxation from investment income to the wages of working people. I support the enactment of a fairer, simpler tax code and tax relief that works for working families. Such steps include the extension of marriage-penalty relief, the child tax credit, and the expansion of the lowest (ten percent) individual income tax bracket. I support a substantial increase in the minimum wage, have fought to protect safety net programs, have championed closing the achievement gap and increasing educational opportunity, and have given particular emphasis to affordable housing and homeownership during my years in Congress.
4. Should the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour be increased?
Absolutely. It has been nine years since we last raised the minimum hourly wage to the current $5.15, which provides a full-time worker only $10,712 a year in income. This is nearly 50 percent lower than the current $20,000 poverty threshold for a family of four, and it is clearly not a living wage. It is high time for Congress to act on this issue. I support a bill to raise the minimum wage to $7.25, and I recently worked with fellow Democrats in the House Appropriations Committee to insert the wage increase into a spending bill. However, the Republican leadership has refused to give this bill a vote on the House floor. Instead, they attempted to combine the minimum wage with a repeal of the estate tax on inherited wealth for the richest 1% of Americans. I voted against this cynical political ploy, and it failed in the Senate. I stand ready to give working Americans the up or down vote on the minimum wage they deserve.
5. What should be done about the growing numbers of Americans without health insurance? Do you favor universal coverage? A national health-insurance system?
I support universal coverage and am open to achieving it through a government-administered system or through expansion of the present workplace-based system. Each course has some advantages and disadvantages, and it is past time that we pick up the debate where it was left in 1994. In the meantime, we must also push for extending coverage to significant groups now uninsured, such as small business employees and children not covered by SCHIP. I am a cosponsor of the Small Business Health Plans Act (HR 5288). That legislation would set up a health coverage pool for workers modeled on the successful federal employee system. It would significantly reduce costs and help to bring adequate coverage within reach for small business owners. I also support: allowing seniors over 55 to buy into Medicare at cost, premium assistance to help unemployed workers retain their health insurance between jobs, SCHIP coverage for low income youth up to age 23, and full funding for state Medicaid programs.
6. The weak jobs recovery, and falling real wages, have been linked by some to our trade policies, which keep our markets open to foreign goods despite weak or non-existent labor, health and environmental standards in the producing countries? Do you agree? What, if anything, should Congress do to strengthen our trade policies?
I voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) because this policy failed to move Central American countries forward in the areas of environmental and labor law enforcement. It is important that we seek additional markets for the goods and services that Americans provide the world. However, good trade agreements must push our trading partners to raise their labor and environmental standards so that our workers and businesses are not penalized for the higher standards we maintain.
7. Deficit spending during the Bush Administration has some concerned, since our economy's been expanding for the last five years? Are you concerned with the deficit? If so, in which of these major categories of government spending would you suggest saving money--cutting spending, that is, or reducing the projected spending growth?
a. Medicare & Medicaid
b. Social Security
c. Military spending
d. Homeland security
g. Social services
The budget deficit and our mounting debt should be of major concern to all Americans. We can do better than the Republican budgets which take us over the cliff fiscally, feathering the nests of powerful interests, and still under-funding key investments in education, health care, transportation, and research. Getting our fiscal house in order will require a comprehensive approach that examines potential revenue sources as well as potential areas of savings. We should extend only those tax cuts that target working families and provide a real economic stimulus. We should reinstate pay-as-you-go budgeting, which helped us achieve the first surpluses in a generation during the 1990s. We must also curb wasteful spending wherever we find it, but I reject the Republican attempt to slash crucial domestic investments under the false pretext that they are responsible for our fiscal meltdown.
8. Using the same list, where should the federal government be spending more, and why?
The federal government should make long-term investments that will strengthen our country and prepare future generations for years to come. First, we should fully fund the No Child Left Behind program in order to realize the initiative's original intent of turning around failing schools. We should also restore budget cuts to student loan rates. In order to maintain our competitive edge in the global economy, we have to commit to additional funding for research and innovation, a key driving force behind our economy. Particularly in the Triangle, we must also invest in transportation infrastructure to alleviate congestion that is a damper on productivity and our quality of life. We must shore up support for affordable housing, which has deteriorated badly. And as we require more of our first responders on the front lines of the war on terror, natural disaster preparedness, and community safety, we should provide them additional resources so that they can meet these challenges.
9. Do you favor or oppose making the Bush tax cuts permanent?
Oppose, with exceptions (see #3). Instead of simply extending the President's tax cuts, which have overwhelmingly benefited the wealthiest among us, we should target tax relief to working families. This would stimulate the economy and alleviate the record budget deficit that the President and Republican Congress have created.
10. Should the estate tax be reduced or eliminated? Or should we continue to tax the estates of the wealthiest Americans?
I do not believe estate taxes, which currently affect less than 1 percent of American estates, should be eliminated. I favor an alternative to the elimination of the estate tax, which would raise the exemption level to $2.5 to $3.5 million for an individual and $5 to $7 million for a couple. This would easily exempt almost all small businesses and farms from the estate tax.
11. Where do you stand on:
a. The death penalty?
I believe the death penalty should be an option under limited circumstances involving the most heinous acts. I also believe it is absolutely essential to address any flaws in the criminal justice system. That's why I voted in favor of the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act. This legislation would help ensure that death row inmates have access to post-conviction testing of DNA evidence that may exonerate them.
b. Abortion rights?
I believe that abortion should remain legal as defined by Roe v. Wade.
c. Affirmative action?
I have supported affirmative action both as an academic administrator and as a member of Congress. Every qualified American must have equal access to opportunity in education, business, and employment. Affirmative action is about fair treatment and opportunities for individuals. It is also about diversifying the academic community, making education a broadening and enriching experience for everyone, and ensuring that doctors, lawyers, and other leaders are available to serve diverse communities across America.
d. Gay rights?
I am a strong believer in privacy protection, equal workplace rights, and strong prosecution of hate crimes. I have supported the expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for domestic partners. I also oppose current efforts to restrict marriage or civil union rights through a constitutional amendment.
12. Are there any other issues on which you, as a member of Congress, will focus if elected?
I want to return to Washington to help chart new directions for our country at home and abroad. I will continue to push for the adoption of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that studied the terrorist threat to our country. I will continue to promote the development of emerging democratic parliaments through my initiative that was enacted last year, the House Democracy Assistance Commission. I will also push for passage of my Teaching Fellows bill, which would help our schools recruit and retain qualified teachers, and for passage of broad ethics reform in the House. Another priority will be to fix the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for our seniors, which is riddled with nonsensical penalties and gaps in coverage. And in addition to adequately supporting our first responders, I want to return FEMA to the status of a top-notch agency that is capable of disaster preparedness and response on which Americans can depend.