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Robin Kelly

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (2nd district)

Robin Kelly

Robin Kelly

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (2nd district)

B.A. (Psychology) Bradley University, M.A. (Counseling) Bradley University, PhD Northern Illinois (Political Science)
U.S. Congresswoman (IL-02)
Past Political/Civic Experience
Illinois State Representative, 2003-2007

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?

I am exceptionally concerned about the exorbitantly large national debt. I believe real reform is achieved by doing what Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill did in 1986. That means paying for tax cuts by eliminating spending elsewhere in the budget, and getting rid of some credits and deductions used to reduce business and personal tax bills. What the GOP has been lauding as tax reform and a victory for middle-class families is a sham. They have not proposed any spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere to pay for their tax cut. Consequently, the U.S. debt stands to increase by $1.5 trillion or more over the next decade because of this bad tax bill.

Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?

See above response

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.

I do not agree that Medicaid and Medicare are unsustainable, "budget-busting" programs. There are many studies that show that on a per-enrollee basis, Medicaid costs have grown slower than any other part of the health care system.

Generally speaking, preventative care and universal coverage have consistently been shown to reduce costs over the long term. The early detection of disease preempts more expensive treatment of diseases that have advanced needlessly. And universal coverage has been a welcome relief to hospitals that, prior to the passage oft the ACA, were inundated with uninsured patients using their hospitals.

While Medicaid does use up a greater share of state budget, data suggests that the increased share has everything to do with enrollment numbers, which, predictably, have shot up during the economic downturn. While I believe that we must ensure that these programs operate as efficiently as possible, I do not support reducing benefits to people in need.

What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?

The social and structural bases of health such as poverty, unequal access to health care, lack of education, structural racism and environmental conditions, are underlying root causes of health inequities. The strong connections between social, economic and environmental factors and health are especially apparent in Chicago and suburban Cook County, with health inequities being even more pronounced than most of the national trends.

Sadly, many other developed countries had some form of social insurance that eventually evolved into national insurance for nearly as long as the United States has wrestled with the concept. Even the passage of Medicare, the national federal health insurance program for people 65 years or older, faced considerable resistance immediately prior to its passage. It has now become a staple upon which millions of Americans rely.

Lack of access to health care, health insurance and quality health providers have contributed to gaps in outcomes for many economically-disadvantaged communities and communities of color. Though flawed, the Affordable Care Act finally addressed this great inequity, the most substantial health legislation since the passage of Medicaid 50 years earlier. This landmark legislation ensured that for the first time, scores of hardworking yet uninsured Americans could finally have access to quality, affordable health care. As such, I believe that the Administration's unrelenting efforts to undermine the ACA are an affront and a detriment to all Americans.

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?

I have grave concerns about the future of our economy. After a prolonged period of recovery under former President Obama, the current Administration has inherited a strong economy, with significant improvements across several indices made during President Obama's tenure. However, it is impossible to repeal the ACA without taking health insurance away from millions of Americans and placing new burdens on those with preexisting conditions. If the Administration follows through on proposed increases in tariffs, the result will be lower real wages and incomes as prices rise faster than wages. And with the recent passage of the GOP tax plan that most economists concur will actually add to the deficit, my fear is that once again, we will find ourselves at the edge of an economic precipice.

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?

From my days as a state representative until now, I have seen too many bright, promising youth living on the fringes of society, as a consequence of the way in which they arrived to this country. That is why I believe that that we need to create a pathway to citizenship for these youth, who, but for the place of their birth, are full-fledged Americans, whose contributions are as significant, if not more, than anyone else. I also believe that there is a positive economic impact of passing the DREAM Act. Passing the Act and placing all of the potentially immediately eligible workers on a path to legal status would add billions annually to the U.S. gross domestic product.

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 North Korea nuclear weapons threat must not be taken lightly. Since the advent of the nuclear age, we've taken seriously the fact that the power to spark a nuclear will annihilate millions of people and must be prevented at all costs. As a foreign policy doctrine, the U.S. should not be provoking nuclear war via Tweet. Our President, and this Congress have a national security duty to the American families and service members we are bound to protect to hold Kim Jong Un's regime accountable and a non-threat to the U.S. and our allies through an appropriate use of diplomacy, sanctions, and, if necessary, force presence.

ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Emerging Threats Subcommittee, I am working to advance our national security interests, and keep Americans safe from the threat of ISIS and terrorist groups around the world. Protecting the hard-working men and women who serve on the front lines of America's foreign policy and defense efforts is a responsibility I take seriously. America's global image and national security directly affect every one of us.

I'm committed to ensuring that our military and diplomatic servants have the best resources available to enhance America's relationships with our international partners in order to successfully defend our nation's core values, and promote the rights of people across the world. We have an obligation to hold Iran accountable for their actions and how they impact the global community. I supported President Obama's Iran deal because I believe the only way to diminish the threat posed by Iran is via peaceful diplomacy. We must remain hypervigilant about not allowing a nuclear Iran to threaten the U.S. or our allies. But I do believe the Obama Administration's diplomatic efforts toward Iran serve as an important catalyst to improving decades-long, moribund U.S.-Iranian relations.

Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?

I support the Obama Administration's approach to the nuclear agreement. That said, we must hold Iran accountable for its actions with respect to nuclear engagement and its impact on the global community. The Obama Administration approach, while not perfect, was a step in the right direction in terms of reversing decades-long diminished relationship with Iran.

What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?

We should do everything possible to bring our soldiers home. We have put tremendous resources into stabilizing Afghanistan reducing the threat of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS. As we move forward, we have an obligation to ensure a stable and diplomatic recovery.

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 am not an opponent of the Second Amendment; to the contrary, I grew up in a family of police officers and hunters. However, I do believe fervently in responsible gun ownership, usage and transfer. I wholeheartedly support passage of the bipartisan King-Thompson background check bill. The King-Thompson legislation would require background checks on all commercial gun sales, such as those made at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads. It also would permit the government to create a federal gun registry.

I support banning the sale and use of bump stocks and have supported legislation to do so. I also support banning the sale of guns to those who have been convicted of domestic abuse or stalking. Every day, three women are killed by their abusers, primarily with use of guns. Currently, convicted stalkers can still legally purchase firearms in 29 states.

Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?

Yes. There is copious environmental evidence that we must do much more to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This is not just an environmental security threat; it is national security imperative. There is a role for Congress and this Administration to put in place policies that will reduce global emissions.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I hate to fly. So needless to say, flying back and forth every single week is not the most pleasant!

If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.

As a legislator, I like to be solutions-oriented first and seek common sense strategies to remedy the issues that confront us. In this highly partisan, gridlocked Congress, I have been successful in advancing a number of common-sense legislative initiatives within one year:

  • My Modernizing Government Technology Act was signed into law as part of the NDAA;
  • My Connected Government Act passed the House;
  • My bipartisan Protecting Girls' Access to Education Act passed the House; and
  • And my Action for Dental Health Act was referred out of the Energy & Commerce Committee.

Candidates for U.S. House (2nd district)