Foster vs. Laib: 10 questions for the candidates running for the 11th District of the U.S. House of Representatives

Chicago Tribune staff, Chicago Tribune
·12 min read

Illinois has 18 congressional districts, and each one features a contested race this year. Several include third-party candidates.

Congressional districts are determined by overall state population. Illinois, due to shrinking population, could lose a seat in the U.S. House, possibly two, following the completion of the U.S. Census.

To learn more about the candidates running for Congress, read their Tribune questionnaires here:

Why should voters elect you and not your opponent(s)? Please limit this to policy and approach, not a biography recitation.

I am a scientist and businessman - a combination we need more of in Congress to deal with the challenges we are facing today and the numerous technological and economic developments our country will face in the coming decades. The government should be leading the way forward with combating climate change and preparing for major economic shifts as automation and AI continue to take over large portions of the economy. As someone who created a small business and led it from early struggles to success, I understand what it takes for small businesses to succeed in our country. My background will allow me to continue being at the forefront of these discussions.

What are your highest priorities for Illinois and the nation?

I believe that healthcare is a human right and that we should continue moving towards universal coverage. One of my proudest votes in Congress was for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. I support and have voted for a robust public option because he believes it is vital to provide people with a high-quality, low-cost coverage option that competes with private insurance plans. I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 2085, the Consumer Health Options and Insurance Competition Enhancement (CHOICE) Act, to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces.

I remain committed to strengthening the ACA and ensuring that live-saving health care is available and affordable for everyone. Specifically, this should include continuing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion by further expanding coverage and eliminating means-testing, a gradual reduction of the age of eligibility for Medicare, and reducing out-of-pocket costs by cost-reducing measures such as H.R. 3 which would, among other things, empower the Secretary of HHS to negotiate drug prices.

Assuming your victory, choose a single issue you would prioritize in the coming term – name it and describe what you want to accomplish.

An issue I will prioritize in the coming term is to continue fighting for infrastructure funding in my district. Illinois loses $40 billion each year to other states because we pay far more in federal dollars than we get back in federal spending. Infrastructure spending is a major driver of this problem. I have introduced legislation that would change the formula for the allocation of highway funding to reflect a state’s population rather than merely carrying forward antiquated allocations, so that Illinois gets its fair share. We need to repair our roads and bridges that people use every day to get to work and school. We also need to widen I-80, a major thoroughfare for transnational shipping. This issue has become more important as Will County has developed into the largest inland port in the country.

In 150 words or fewer, make a pitch for the presidential candidate you support.

I support Joe Biden because he believes in science and is ready to listen to the experts when making decisions. He has the knowledge and experience to get this country back on track. And Joe Biden possesses a fundamental moral integrity that is obvious to everyone who knows him. My only major gripe about Joe is that in 2013 he hired away my Chief of Staff!

Are you prepared to take up real reform to Social Security and Medicare to ensure their future solvency? What specific reforms would you be willing to support?

I do not support any cuts to Social Security benefits. Like Medicare, we owe it to the individuals who worked their entire lives and paid into the system to make good on our promises. There is no easy fix for the rapidly rising cost of health care coupled with longer life expectancy and a stagnation of wages that have led to so many Americans being unprepared for retirement.

However, there are a few common sense things Congress can do to improve the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. For Social Security, we can raise or eliminate the cap on income subject to the payroll tax, so highly paid individuals will also pay into the system based on their full income. For Medicare, we can invest more into research for diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, two of the most expensive diseases to our health care system. If an inexpensive cure for either one of these can be found, it will largely solve the long term solvency problems of Medicare. We can also promote the use of technology to support elderly remaining in their homes – and out of expensive care facilities – as long as possible.

What do you view as the government’s obligation, if any, to help American workers secure health insurance? Do you support the creation or continuation of a program, such as Medicare for All or Obamacare? Do you have a different idea? If you support a government-related insurance plan, how would you pay for it?

Health care is a basic human right and universal coverage should be our goal. I continue to work in Congress to lower costs and improve the quality of health care in America. I support strengthening and enhancing the ACA, including the creation of a public option to provide people with a high-quality, low-cost alternative to for-profit insurance plans. I also support expanding Medicaid and lowering the Medicare eligibility age.

This year, I was the lead sponsor of an amendment that would allow HHS to integrate a unique patient identifier into electronic health record systems - a change that would save thousands of lives each year by preventing medical errors and save billions of dollars in health care costs. This policy would also prevent “doctor shopping” for opioids, since patients would be unable to go to multiple doctors to seek out additional opioid prescriptions. This offers a huge step forward in combating the prevalence of opioid addiction. My amendment successfully passed the House with a bipartisan vote last summer, and passed unanimously in the House last month

Identify 3 national security threats to the United States. Choose one and explain your approach to dealing with that threat.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials remains one of the greatest threats to global security. Congress must act on the extension of the New Start Treaty and continue to support the indispensable work being done at our national laboratories and international institutions. That is why I’ve offered legislation that would bring attention to the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Another crucial thing that America can do is to continue to reduce the worldwide use of highly enriched “weapons grade” Uranium for uses in which low-enriched “non weapons grade” Uranium will suffice. This was supported by a letter signed by more than 30 Nobel Prize winners. In Congress I have personally been very active in promoting legislation and research to reduce the use of High Enriched Uranium in Space-Based reactors and in naval propulsion reactors.

Finally, it is past time to address the threat to our national security caused by the systematic dismantling and devaluing of our scientific infrastructure. We cannot compete with near-peer adversaries such as China when they are out-investing us in science and engineering. We have seen with the current pandemic that decades of under-investing in our public health infrastructure has left us vulnerable to both naturally occurring pandemics like COVID-19 as well as any future biological attacks.

COVID-19 has destroyed jobs. The economy needs to be rebuilt. What policy steps should Congress take (beyond stimulus money or bailouts) in the next year to create as many jobs and as much prosperity as possible?

The only way to fully reopen the economy is to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control which means listening to public health experts. The damage will not stop if we continue to do half-measures. Once we have reliable treatments and/or vaccines, Congress will need to ensure a rapid distribution of vaccines and treatments, free from political interference. Congress will also need to provide additional money for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and should enact legislation like the RESTAURANTS Act which would provide grants to restaurants to cover things like payroll and rent.

When have you shown independence from your party on an issue of major import?

I voted against Trade Promotion Authority, the fast-track authority requested by President Obama for his signature trade agenda item, TPP. Fast-track authority is intended to express Congress’s views on what the President should be negotiating. I believe the negotiating objectives contained in the fast-track were too weak on currency manipulation.

The President and the Secretary of the Treasury argued that restrictions on currency manipulation would have prevented the Federal Reserve from using the monetary policy tools that helped stimulate the economy and begin our housing recovery. I disagree. I pressed the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, in the House Financial Services Committee and asked experts who helped write the International Monetary Fund’s definition of currency manipulation, who agreed with me.

I could not support watered down negotiating objectives and voted against President Obama’s requested authority.

If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term. If you are a newcomer, tell us how you as a rookie would keep from being a backbencher.

Throughout my time in Congress I have seen several examples of bipartisanship and cooperation both between the chambers of Congress and between the legislative and executive branches of our government - they just don’t make the nightly news. Even in this divided Congress, I was able to work with Republican Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania to pass an amendment last summer - with a bipartisan vote - that repealed a longstanding ban on unique patient identifiers. If we are successful in getting it acted on by the Senate and passed into law, it could open the door to a more efficient systems to match patients to their data, which would save tens of thousands of American lives and save billions of dollars of health care costs.

Why should voters elect you and not your opponent(s)? Please limit this to policy and approach, not a biography recitation.

The incumbent has not made the sanctity of human life a priority.

What are your highest priorities for Illinois and the nation?

Protecting human life and moving towards more self-reliance and limited government.

Assuming your victory, choose a single issue you would prioritize in the coming term – name it and describe what you want to accomplish.

I would work to end abortion and protect human life by eliminating tax-payer funded abortions, reject funding for Planned Parenthood, and make pro-life policies a priority at the federal level.

In 150 words or fewer, make a pitch for the presidential candidate you support.

President Trump has aggressively fought for the sanctity of human life, a free market, and limited government. Under the President’s administration unemployment rates have plummeted and wages have grown faster due to his regulation cuts. He has helped rebuild our military, called on Congress to lower health costs, and developed national energy options. He has appointed 180+ Constitutional judges, defended the 2nd Amendment, and supported states that have wanted to return to lawfulness and depart from lawlessness. President Trump’s policies are healthy for America--I see no reason why we would consider another option for President as none of the Democratic Presidential contenders have even promised anything close to what he has already accomplished.

Are you prepared to take up real reform to Social Security and Medicare to ensure their future solvency? What specific reforms would you be willing to support?

We cannot expand on benefits. We must restrict, or at least maintain benefits, but not expand. Social Security was designed to be an anti-poverty assistance for individuals later in life; we must return to those economical roots.

What do you view as the government’s obligation, if any, to help American workers secure health insurance? Do you support the creation or continuation of a program, such as Medicare for All or Obamacare? Do you have a different idea? If you support a government-related insurance plan, how would you pay for it?

The government should get out of the health care business. Attractive health care programs have been developed, and can continue to be developed and fostered, solely between employers and employees. The government need not involve itself in order for the public to have better and more attractive health care options.

Identify 3 national security threats to the United States. Choose one and explain your approach to dealing with that threat.

Cybersecurity, Homeland Security, and Border Security. With respect to Border Security we must continue to build and enforce border walls, support federal law enforcement that enforces illegal immigration, and discourage sanctuary policies in cities and counties.

COVID-19 has destroyed jobs. The economy needs to be rebuilt. What policy steps should Congress take (beyond stimulus money or bailouts) in the next year to create as many jobs and as much prosperity as possible?

Pre or post COVID, the formula for either rebuilding or creating a healthy economy is the same: lower taxes, reduce regulations, and seek ways in which we can incentivize businesses.

When have you shown independence from your party on an issue of major import?

Any step, that either party has made, towards enlarging government is a departure from my views on what will help us return to a thriving society.

If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term. If you are a newcomer, tell us how you as a rookie would keep from being a backbencher.

This newcomer will continue to advance what he believes to be a conservative view and conservative policy in a clear, rationale, and attractive fashion.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email letters@chicagotribune.com.

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