Republican candidate for U.S. House (16th district)
Responses to our questions
The U.S. government is now $20 trillion in debt. To address that historic level of public indebtedness, the country would need to raise revenue and/or decrease spending. What is your position on the budget and debt?
The national debt is one of the most important issues facing our country today. However, Washington does not have a revenue problem — it has a spending problem. The federal government must begin by making significant reforms in order to get on a sustainable fiscal trajectory.
Spending cuts are needed to domestic discretionary programs in the form of consolidating duplicative programs and eliminating those which are not truly necessary. Congress and the executive branch must conduct stringent oversight in order to root out waste, fraud, and abuse. But these actions are not enough.
We must have a serious conversation about mandatory spending programs, which are the primary drivers of federal spending, and which account for an increasing amount of total federal spending each year. In less than 20 years, these programs will account for roughly three quarters of all federal expenditures. We must start making improvements to these programs in order to save them for future generations.
During my time in Congress, I have supported budget proposals that not only balance in ten years, but that propose real solutions to improve mandatory spending programs while keeping our promises to older Americans. Younger Americans, by and large, are not counting on these programs to exist by the time they retire. We should reform the program for these younger Americans while leaving benefits for those in retirement (or approaching retirement) completely in place. I have also proposed my own bipartisan solution to get spending under control.
The Truth in Spending Act increases accountability of mandatory spending legislation by requiring the Office of Management and Budget to annually review spending legislation passed 5 and 10 years ago and compare the actual costs to the projected costs calculated by the Congressional Budget Office at the time they were passed. If the actual costs have exceeded the projections, a fast-track process would allow legislation to move through the House and Senate to cut the costs to be in line with the original projection.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
All federal programs should be under scrutiny, regardless of our situation with the deficit and debt. Part of the federal government's job is to constantly improve and re-evaluate programs to make sure they are working as intended. And nothing can be totally sacred.
As a veteran and a current member of the Air National Guard, I am a strong supporter of our military, but even I know the Pentagon needs scrutiny as well. In the past I led an amendment to cut wasteful programs at the Department of Defense, including a successful amendment to cut $100 million from the Defense Appropriations Act that would have gone to support a new flight suit for our pilots that, frankly, the top officials at the Air Force said they did not need.
We must ensure that all our federal spending is necessary, effective, and lean.
Medicare and Medicaid costs continue to spiral. How can these programs be restructured to control costs and avoid collapse? Be specific about your willingness to change or reduce future benefits.
Please see Answer 1.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
The federal government should have as light a touch as possible when it comes to healthcare. Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it's known, Americans face a conundrum — they are forced to have coverage, but the options provided are limited and, in many cases, unaffordable.
Countless constituents of Illinois' 16th District have come to me and explained that, after being kicked off the plans they had and liked, they were forced to buy Obamacare plans that have unsustainable premiums and deductibles. Obamacare focused on getting individuals covered by insurance, but people aren't using them because they have to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars out of pocket just to meet their deductible. Many Americans cannot afford to do that, so they are saddled with coverage they do not want and cannot use due to the costs.
The federal government should, however, continue to provide help with coverage to those truly in need (Medicaid and CHIP being examples) and should protect Americans from being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
But there are other ways to make coverage more affordable. Congress should enact policies that allow Americans to have greater choice in their plans — individuals should be able to buy plans across state lines and should not have to pay for services they do not need. Congress should enact meaningful medical liability reforms, which will help drive down costs.
In short, our healthcare system should be focused on the doctor-patient relationship rather than a bureaucratically-driven, one-size-fits-all approach. The House of Representatives passed, with my support, the American Health Care Act in 2017. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act. But I remain committed to getting things done so that my constituents are able to have affordable coverage once again.
Economic growth has been steady but wage growth is slow. Are you content with the state of the economy? What is your recipe for enhancing American prosperity?
It is safe to say that I will not be content with the state of the economy until every able-bodied American has a well-paying job. That being said, I am optimistic about the current trajectory of the economy. The stock market has been shattering records for the past year, which is a great indicator, but does not tell the entire story.
Wage growth has indeed been slower than we would like, but with enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2017, the table is now set for that to change. This bill will allow the vast majority of my constituents to keep more of their hard-earned paychecks, spending it on things that are best for them and their families. Businesses across the nation are announcing that they are reinvesting in their workforces and their customers with the savings they will realize under this legislation, which, of course, helps millions of Americans.
In addition to this new and improved tax code, the federal government must reduce regulatory burdens that are choking businesses of all sizes and stifling growth. Undoubtedly, regulations are necessary to protect consumers, businesses, and the environment. But we need smart regulation — not just regulations for the sake of regulating. The Trump Administration has kept the promises made in the campaign to cut unnecessary regulations, which can be attributed to the increase in economic growth. I look forward to continuing my work in Congress to remove barriers and unleash substantial economic growth.
If you could fix longstanding problems with this country's immigration system tomorrow, what would you do? What is your position on the future of DACA and the Dreamers?
Our immigration system is not only broken, it contains perverse incentives for people to come to this country outside the appropriate channels. The federal government needs to remove these perverse incentives for illegal border crossings, chain migration, and birth tourism. I've worked the border in my other role as a pilot in the Air National Guard and have seen the drugs flow into the border towns of Texas. We must make major improvements with respect to border security, interior enforcement, and visa reform.
We should also consider the faces of the people that will be affected as we undergo these changes. I have stated time and time again that President Obama circumvented not only the will of Congress, but the rule of law itself when he instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by executive fiat. It was a smack in the face to the entire country, as well as those who had been playing by the rules and placing faith in our immigration system.
However, we should not be punishing children who followed their parents to this country and only know America to be their home. It is now incumbent upon Congress to act on behalf of DACA recipients. I have cosponsored legislation and worked in a bipartisan fashion to give certainty to the DACA receipts while securing the border and giving the tools to the border agents to allow them to do their job and prevent future illegal immigration and visa overstays.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program represents a direct threat to the security of the United States and its Pacific allies. How should the U.S. confront or contain Kim Jong Un's regime?
The United States is presently taking a well-reasoned approach to the North Korean threat. Diplomatic efforts are ongoing, but have yet to produce the outcome we desire. When confronting national security threats, diplomatic efforts must always be buttressed by the real possibility of military intervention, and the Trump Administration seems to be offering this credible threat to bolster its diplomacy.
To be clear, I believe that military action is the least desirable action and I recognize the perils and challenges that any operations in North Korea pose. But the leaders who threaten us will not take our diplomatic efforts seriously if they think there is nothing there to force a change to the situation with violence. More importantly, we need to be clear-eyed about how the Kim regime has taken advantage diplomatic engagement in the past to buy time to continue building their nuclear weapons program. We cannot have more of the same where the Kim regime does not take diplomacy seriously and will exploit our goodwill to continue their threatening activities.
The single most important job of the federal government is to protect its people, and while military action should be the option of last resort, it should be an option nonetheless.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
My priorities in terms of keeping our country safe are to provide the military with the commander-level authority to act in the battlefield and equip our warfighters with the tools necessary to keep us, and themselves, safe. Yes, ISIS is quickly being contained in terms of known geographic presence, but we cannot let our guard down, and we must not forget that we are not just fighting an army, we are fighting an ideology. We must continue to be wary of lone wolf attacks, which have devastated certain cities and towns across the world.
Further, we must remember that this is a generational fight against extremism. We must not be complacent, and we must focus our long-term strategy on improving the conditions of the lives of the next generation of ISIS' recruits. If a young boy is living in abject poverty with little food and no education, he will be much more likely to join the side that will feed him and his family. We must use our diplomacy and foreign aid more substantially to enable this long term strategy to be effective.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is ill-conceived. The Obama Administration consistently told the American people that "No deal is better than a bad deal," yet here we are dealing with an absolutely terrible deal that does almost nothing to curb Iran's nuclear program. International inspectors are not allowed to visit military facilities, and Iran is able to collect its own samples for testing. What about these two aspects of this deal sound legitimate?
I applaud the Trump Administration for putting Iran on notice by declaring there would be no more certifications if the JCPOA is not renegotiated and improved. Even worse about the JCPOA is that it did nothing to address Iran's support for terrorism or its other destabilizing activities in the region. We rewarded the Ayatollah and the mullahs with $150 billion dollars to incentivize them to honor a bad deal, and they have not even done that. They have lined their pockets with this money and have doubled-down on their support for terrorism and their quest for regional hegemony Iran is said to have control over four other state capitals, including Baghdad, Damascus, Sana'a, and Beiruit.
For my part, I have introduced a bipartisan bill, the Preventing Iranian Destabilization of Iraq Act, which will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any activities that undermine the United States with respect to the future stability of Iraq. We cannot forget that a quarter of the American soldiers killed in Iraq were killed because of Iranian-made IEDs. This bill will send a strong message to Iran that the United States will not tolerate their aggressive activities across the region and that the future of Iraq after ISIS should not be determined by a hegemonic and murderous regime that has a history of killing innocents and brave American soldiers. I am working from my post at the House Foreign Affairs Committee to get it passed.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
We have achieved great things in Afghanistan since the end of the Taliban's rule, such as helping Afghan children. Today, nearly six million Afghan children are in school and one third of them are girls. They are free to roam the streets and go to school without the threat of retribution by Islamic extremists.
I was pleased with the President's announcement about our updated Afghanistan strategy last year. He reminded the American people of the great sacrifices that have been made there over the last 15 years, emphasized the need to recapitalize, and warned that our efforts to destroy terrorism must never waiver.
Every single day, I am reminded of our sacrifices in Afghanistan. I wear a bracelet given to me by the widow of the late U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Horton, who served as a sniper in Afghanistan before being tragically killed in action on September 9, 2011. Spc. Horton, whose name is engraved on the bracelet, gave his life to protect our freedom and the freedom of the people of Afghanistan. It's important that we remember his sacrifice and the sacrifice of all who serve now or in the past.
As we saw with the decision by President Obama to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, to hastily withdraw from Afghanistan would be a disservice to the lives lost, and would leave a power vacuum for enemies and other terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda to fill. If we are to prevent a reconstitution of a terrorist safe haven in Afghanistan, we need to work closely with our Afghan partners to help them achieve a future of peace, stability, and security.
The Taliban has always said that America has the watches, but they have the time. Now, with renewed American leadership, we have the watches and the time. Additionally, I have been pleased with President Trump's clear-eyed view of Pakistan's double dealing in Afghanistan. Our relationship with our Pakistani allies continues to be tenuous, and we need some tough love with them. We cannot defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda when they continue to enjoy external support and sanctuary in the Pakistan border region. President Trump is taking a page out of the playbook of George W. Bush when calling out Pakistan when after 9/11, President Bush told Pakistani President Musharraf that you are either with us or you are with the terrorists.
We must continue to lead in our efforts in Afghanistan. We cannot give up, we cannot give in. The future of Afghanistan matters to the future of America's national security.
Do you support a unified, federal background check system for gun sales? Do you support magazine limits or a ban on certain rifles? Describe, briefly, your position on how to balance safety with the Second Amendment.
I support every American's Second Amendment rights under the Constitution and applicable laws and court decisions, and my record reflects as much. As a veteran and sportsman, I hold in high regard the right to keep and bear arms for hunting, sport, and personal defense, as do the majority of Americans.
I support the current background check system, and have voted to add funding to strengthen it. Any flaws that could be addressed with the system should be focused on reporting requirements for state governments, law enforcement, and certain federal agencies. For example, it was discovered that the person who committed the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas had been discharged from the Air Force after being tried and convicted of a criminal offense, and his conviction records were not reported to the National Instate Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is required by law.
There are additional ways to balance safety with our constitutional rights. The courts have upheld numerous times the federal laws regulating automatic weapons, but certain manufacturers have found ways to circumvent the spirit of these laws based on technicalities. In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre in October, the perpetrator was found to have used bump-stock devices which can enable normal rifles simulate automatic rates of fire. With these devices he was able to kill 58 people and injure nearly ten times as many. I subsequently led a letter to the Department of Justice and the ATF to ask them to re-evaluate these mechanisms to ensure they are, in fact, compliant with federal law as previous ATF letters had stated. The Attorney General later announced they would oblige this request and are currently in the review process. I firmly believe that, at minimum, such devices should be regulated in a manner consistent with automatic weapons.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
The U.S. government is already taking steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions by supporting new technology and cleaner forms of energy. I truly believe we must take an "all of the above approach" that allows clean forms of energy to flourish, while ensuring our existing energy sources and grid are resilient and can continue to power our homes and businesses; even in extreme weather, like the kind of winter Illinois is currently experiencing.
In my time in Congress, I have been a strong supporter of cleaner forms of fuel, like ethanol and biodiesel, energy efficiency, and carbon-free nuclear power. I have introduced legislation to make it easier for the private sector to partner with the federal government to make energy efficiency upgrades to federal buildings at no cost to the taxpayer and legislation to increase transparency in the regulatory fees collected from our nuclear power plants.
True leadership on this issue, however, has come and must continue to come from private industry. Around the globe businesses are developing new technologies designed to create cleaner energy or increase energy productivity. This will not happen overnight, but the best thing the U.S. government can do is provide our nation's innovators and entrepreneurs with the support they need.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
If I weren't a Member of Congress and not still a pilot in the military, I would want to be a police officer.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
The first half of the 115th Congress has already been very productive. At the end of the 2017, we passed comprehensive tax reform package, the first one in over thirty years, and we are already seeing the benefits in Illinois and around the country. In my district, Fiat Chrysler employees at the Belvidere Assembly Plant are receiving an estimated $2,000 bonus because of tax reform. In the coming weeks, this law will increase take-home pay for around 90% of American workers and has made our corporate rates more competitive around the globe.
Further, as we continue to deal with ongoing gun-related tragedies, I have been a leader on pushing the government to enforce our gun laws already on the books. Specifically, after the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, I led a letter, along with 78 of my colleagues, to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to ban use of bump stocks, which were used by the Las Vegas gunman in the senseless killing.
In addition, I am proud of my continued community engagement on important issues impacting my district and the rest of the country. Throughout this Congress, I have held several community forums to discuss the danger from opioids addiction, as well as the crime of human trafficking that continues to happen in communities across the state, including Rockford. Raising awareness on these important topics and working with my constituents on solutions is a critical component of my job as a Congressman.
Specifically on opioids, I plan to continue to build on the work I began during the 114th Congress, which included my Committee passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which streamlines the federal response to the opioid crisis, targets spending to the areas of greatest need, and included my legislation, the Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act of 2016, which will make it easier for veteran EMTs to transition into civilian EMT positions to put their vital skills to work in our communities.