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Q&A with Roskam
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Published: 9/26/2008 3:00 PM

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1. Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what? What will be your main priority?

I have dedicated my life to serving my community and representing my neighbors. As a life-long resident of the 6th Congressional District, I have an intimate knowledge of what makes our community great and how we need to improve. Being re-elected to public office for nearly two decades proves that I have accurately represented the values and priorities of those who put that trust in my hands. I have made it my mission as a first-term Congressman to be available to my constituents, communicating directly every week since I was elected. Communicating with constituents and listening to their concerns is my number one priority.

2. For incumbents and non-incumbents. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of important initiatives you've led. If you are not an incumbent, tell us what contributions you would make.

a. I have voted against and fought off significant tax increases to the Illinois' hard working families and small businesses. b. I participated in a bipartisan effort to pass H.R. 6, the 2007 Energy Bill, which takes a major step towards removing our nation from the grips of unstable and unfriendly countries which have the bulk of the world's oil. This legislation will reduce our nation's dependency on foreign oil by promoting conservation and investing in clean and renewable energy resources. Additionally, this bill mandates improved energy efficiency for almost every significant product, tool, and appliance that we use. c. Protecting Chicagoland's environment by voting to override the President's veto of the Water Resource Development Act, which included protections for the Great Lakes from invasive species, environmental restoration and water infrastructure projects for the community, and by protecting American jobs by ensuring Davis-Bacon laws remains in effect. I also worked with a bipartisan coalition of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan members to rebuff an attempt by one of the world's largest oil companies to dump massive additional amounts of toxins and pollutants into Lake Michigan.

3. In which ways, if at all, would you alter U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan? How would you characterize the effect of the U.S. "surge" in Iraq? What objectives, if any, must the U.S. still meet before it begins to withdraw troops?

I believe last year what we saw in Iraq was that the U.S. arrived at a point where we've reached the limitation of American power. There was a limitation to what we could do and we essentially reached that. However, I have always believed it would be unwise for the U.S. to establish a date certain when troops leave. There should be a healthy ambiguity when it comes to our intentions. We ought not to disclose a timetable and we should give a strong deference to our generals. We must remember that the United States is not the provocateur of jihadism. When I visited Iraq last year and met with General Petreaus regarding the surge. I was encouraged with Ramadi's new security, because alliances were formed between the Sunni and Shi'ite populations. While there I was particularly critical of the Iraqi civilian government. With the world's second largest oil reserves, Iraq could be paying for its own military support, but the government had been squabbling over sharing the income. Since last year we have seen progress. We have seen the results of the surge. Since June 2007, overall attacks have decreased 82%, with civilian deaths decreasing 78%, Iraqi security forces deaths decreasing 73% and U.S. military deaths decreasing 72%. IED explosions have decreased 75%. The Iraqi government has also moved forward by passing a significantly larger number of laws by the Council of Representatives, Coalition Forces have transitioned 10 of 18 provinces to Provincial Iraqi Control, and during a six week open registration period from July 15, 2008 - August 28, 2008, 2.9 million Iraqi citizens visited voter registration centers across Iraq to register for this year's provincial elections. Back to the question of a timetable - I believe we must be very measured with the notion of withdrawal. However, we can tackle the problems in other ways. This is why I have voted for several measures that have increased accountability and oversight on the Administration as well as Iraq. I have sponsored measures that required the President to report to Congress every 30 days on the progress of the surge, I have voted for funding bills for our troops that included appropriate benchmarks that do not tie the hands of our commanders while putting pressure on the Iraqis to do their part. In May 2008, Congress moved even further bipartisanly and I voted in favor of the FY08 Defense Authorization bill which requires the Administration to submit separate budget requests to clearly lay out requirements for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and calls on the Iraqis to step up their investments in reconstruction and security efforts, which are currently being shouldered by the U.S. military. I believe these actions ensure an appropriate balance has been put in place in addressing the needs of our troops abroad fighting the War on Terror, while including accountability standards for those nations we are supporting. War is an awful endeavor. Rest assured that my commitment to securing our homeland and eliminating threats abroad is unwavering, but I have even a larger responsibility to ensuring our troops and their families receive the assistance and support they need.

4. What short-term steps, if any, would you advocate to keep gasoline prices in check?

I voted in favor of HR 6074, the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act, over the objections of President Bush. This legislation would establish a Petroleum Industry Antitrust Task Force in the Department of Justice, to bring accountability to pricing functions in the oil industry. A comprehensive energy policy will stimulate the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Financial Services Committee that a 1% increase in domestic production could yield a 10% reduction in prices for consumers. More money in American pocketbooks and more jobs in energy would stimulate the economy.

5. Please list the key elements of your preferred long-term energy policy. Rank or rate the relative importance of domestic oil exploration, conservation and alternative-energy development. What part, if any, should ethanol play in U.S. energy policy?

The U.S. needs a multi-faceted approach to eliminating our dependence on foreign oil. I authored the Energy VISION Act which aims to achieve energy independence in 15 years by increasing domestic energy production, including from our offshore resources, and using the resulting federal royalty revenues to fund the development of alternative sources of energy and the basic research that will keep the U.S. ahead of the curve in a new world energy economy. Any action Congress might take aimed at addressing global warming needs to be carefully crafted to not stifle economic growth, and must be done with an appreciation of our global environment. Any such policy should not take the form of a heavy-handed mandate, but rather harness American innovation to reduce emissions. As an example, my Energy VISION Act provides for the development of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell for trucks and buses that could save us 100,000 barrels per day in oil consumption and 17 million tons of CO2 in emissions annually. We need not burn food for fuel. Companies in our district are ahead of the curve doing research to bring to market ethanol that is derived from weeds that can be grown in deserts, and even from algae. We have many exciting opportunities other than corn-based ethanol.

6. What steps, if any, should Congress take to promote economic recovery? What steps by the federal government might make the nation's economy worse?

As rising gas and food prices continue to create a financial strain on Illinois' families, I know how important it is to provide relief. Earlier this year I voted in favor of H.R. 5140, the Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act. This stimulus package took important steps to strengthening our nation's economy by providing rebates to hardworking American families and incentives to help small businesses innovate, expand and compete on a global level. The package also directed much needed aid to seniors and disabled veterans, who have spent their lives building and protecting this country. Unfortunately, when the economic stimulus package was put in place and rebate checks were sent out Illinois families began to feel the severe pinch of rising fuel costs. Rising fuel costs essentially cancelled out the benefits of the economic stimulus package Congress approved. Rising fuel prices make it more difficult for families to pay their bills and reduce their savings for the future. Rising fuel prices also reduce the profit margin for small business owners and can force both wage cuts on employees and price increases on consumers. The implications of Congress not addressing high gas prices for our national economy are alarming. Congress must first take action to reduce the United States' dependence on foreign oil by increasing environmentally sensitive domestic exploration and production. Doing so will help to provide consumer relief, stimulate a lagging economic and alleviate our dangerous dependence on foreign energy sources. Lastly, as the federal government is working to address the economic upheaval in the financial markets, I will be working with my colleagues towards a bipartisan solution that will bring lasting relief to American families and our troubled markets. I have been thoroughly disappointed with the Bush Administration's ad hoc, piecemeal approach to these challenges that has left our economy hobbling along without clarity about when or where the next bailout will occur. Congressional oversight and participation is crucial moving forward to ensure taxpayers are protected, as we cannot afford the continued unilateral actions the Bush Administration has taken thus far. As a member of the Financial Services Committee, I will vigorously pursue a bipartisan legislative remedy with lasting effects and enhanced safeguards to protect our hardworking families from losses that resulted from the irresponsible actions of Wall Street.

7. Do you favor or oppose a larger federal role in health-care? Either way, why and what should the federal role be? What, if anything, should be done about rising health care costs and Americans who do not have health coverage?

We need to restore the patient-physician relationship. It ought not be curtailed by government bureaucrats. The best way to achieve this is by enhancing the medical marketplace. I am a strong supporter of legislation creating "Small Business Health Plans" to provide businesses the opportunity to join together and benefit from greater bargaining power and administrative efficiency. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these plans would save small businesses 13-25% on premiums. Second, I support the expansion of tax free health savings accounts (HAS's) by increasing the contribution limits for families and businesses. HSA's offer triple tax savings in the form of tax deductions when you or your employer contributes to your account, tax-free earnings through investment, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. Third, I am a strong advocate of the implementation of electronic health records and health information technology. Electronic health records have the potential to save countless lives, in addition to more than $81 billion per year. Health information technology also reduces the risk of serious medical errors by 55% and decreases the risk of potential adverse drug events by 84%. Fourth, I have fought in Congress to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system. These corrupt practices are costing taxpayers as much as $54.5 million per day. I support legislation that would reduce erroneous payments and strengthen law enforcement powers related to Medicare abuse. Lastly, while the rhetoric of fixing health care goes on in Congress I have brought federal dollars back to the district to provide those who seek health care access to it. Last year I obtained $650,000 to open up a new community health center in Addison and I have become a champion of increased federal funding for community federal health centers. Study after study has shown that the community health center program saves the health system money in the long run, and patients of health centers are healthier and use hospital emergency rooms less than even those of similar primary care providers. This is clearly a program that works

8. Would you maintain or scale back federal tax cuts made during the past eight years? Either way, why? How, as specifically as possible, would you try to reduce federal budget deficits and the national debt?

As a husband and father of four, I can appreciate the pressures all our family budgets are under today, particularly from the weight of gas and food prices. We need to pass policies that lower the tax burden on families and job-creating businesses; eliminate the waste of taxpayer money on Washington pork; and forcefully address our nation's long-term fiscal problems. Since coming to Congress I have voted time-and-again against measures that have significantly increased federal government spending - which require increase our taxes to pay for those programs. At a time when our economy is fragile, the last thing hard working families and small business owners need is for their taxes to increase. This is why I am a strong supporter of extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Additionally, we need vigorous oversight over the Federal Reserve and interest rate policy, which I have been pushing as an active member of the Financial Services Committee. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration relies on economic indicators that don't reflect our burdens. The Federal Reserve consistently uses the "core inflation" figure to be a calming influence on the market, but core inflation is certainly no helpful guidepost for the American family-it accounts for inflation in everything but food and energy costs. To address the spending problem in Washington, and I support a five-part plan to bring the federal budget under control. First, I have voted in support of a 1% across-the-board cut to discretionary spending, instantly saving taxpayers billions of dollars while preserving funding for Social Security and Medicare. Second, I have supported initiatives to sunset outdated and inefficient programs. The Office of Management and Budget notes that 28% of all federal programs are "not performing". Third, I have supported comprehensive earmark reform that brings sunshine to this budget process. In Congress, I support the requirement that legislators include their name, a statement of intent, and list the requesting entity for all earmarks. In addition, I support a searchable on-line database disclosing this information and disclose the earmark requests I make on behalf of the communities in my district to the public to provide the most transparency possible. Fourth, I believe that any President, regardless of their party, should have the line-item veto to slash wasteful spending. This is why I have cosponsored legislation to provide the President this authority. Finally, I strongly supported the restoration of the PAYGO budget rules that force Members of Congress to "make ends meet" by requiring spending increases to be offset with a reduction. What I have not supported is the circumvention of those rules by waiving them for certain pieces of legislation that have been brought to the House floor. If families must make a budget and live within their means, so should the federal government.

9. The current Congress could not agree on immigration reform. What would you do to advance reform in a divided Congress, and, briefly, what should the key policy elements be?

I oppose amnesty for those who have undermined our most basic American institution, the rule of law. We must continue to work together to secure our borders by increasing the number of border patrol agents, constructing physical and technological barriers along the border, and implementing E-verify to allow employers to determine the work eligibility of prospective employees. Only when we have stopped the influx of illegal immigrants through our porous borders can we have a rational conversation about reforming our nation's immigrations laws.

10. In what ways is the U.S. government successfully defending citizens against terrorism, and in what ways is the U.S. failing in that regard?

One of my first votes in Congress was in favor of H.R. 1, legislation to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Since then I have continued to be actively engaged in improving our nation's homeland security infrastructure and keeping our families safe. Although some improvements have been made since the terrible events of 9/11, we as a nation must keep our focus on stopping the influx of illegal immigrants through our porous borders. All but one of the 9/11 hijackers committed immigration fraud, and it remains far too easy to enter this country without proper permission and screening. Two other areas where more improvement is needed are even closer to home. With O'Hare, one of the world's busiest airports, in our back yard, residents of the Sixth District have a strong interest in promoting increased safety and security at our nation's airports. I have worked with the Department of Homeland Security to address challenges in O'Hare's baggage screening process to make sure our nation's travelers, and our local communities, are safe. Additionally, as the rail hub of the Midwest, the Chicagoland region depends on the safe passage of goods and passengers through our communities for job creation and economic growth. However, the close proximity of the area's 16,000 acres of rail lines to homes and businesses require special consideration in protecting the 500 freight and 700 commuter trains that travel the lines each day. I have been working with local emergency responders to increase cooperation and information sharing to improve local rail security. In Congress, I am committed to providing the leadership and funding we need to keep our families safe.