Q&A with Erika Harold, Republican, Urbana, candidate for 13th District, U.S. House.
1. Do you favor repeal of the Affordable Care Act? If so, should Congress move quickly to approve an alternate health care program that would cover all or most Americans? What kind of provisions, coverage do you think it should include?
Instead of addressing American's very real health care concerns, the Affordable Care Act (the "ACA") has: led to the termination of many people's existing insurance plans; increased insurance premiums; reduced consumer choice with respect to levels of insurance coverage and plans; and created incentives for employers to both reduce the number of people they employ and the number of hours such employees work. Moreover, as there are no mechanisms in place to ensure that the necessary revenue exists to fund the ACA in the long-run, the ACA very likely will increase budget deficits. Given these quantifiable consequences and the fact that reforms of the ACA are unlikely to address these systemic issues, I would vote to repeal the ACA.
Repealing the ACA, however, must be followed by consumer-driven reform of the health care system, as very real problems exist with respect to affordability and accessibility. Enhancing portability of insurance policies should be a priority, as this would provide consumers with greater leverage with which to influence the health insurance system. Accordingly, the disparity between the tax treatment of policies provided by employers and policies purchased by individuals should be eliminated so that people are not discouraged from purchasing policies and can transport those policies with them regardless of their employment status. People also should be permitted to purchase insurance policies across state lines.
2. Would you support a "single payer" health care program?
I would not support a "single payer" health care program and instead favor retaining the private health insurance market and implementing the consumer-driven reforms specified in response to Question 1.
3. In view of the mounting federal debt, do you believe it is practical to call only for spending cuts? What share of federal deficit reduction should come from spending cuts and revenue increases? Please be specific about those shares, and about where you think cuts must be made and where revenue increases should be made?
I would oppose raising individual marginal tax rates or capital gains tax rates and instead would favor returning to the sequester levels of spending (but providing agency directors with greater levels of discretion). Moreover, I would favor the reform of programs that comprise the federal budget's mandatory spending components, including Social Security and Medicaid.
The goal of any reform to Social Security and Medicaid should be to ensure the fundamental solvency and sustainability of these programs. With respect to Social Security, I would consider supporting a combination of the following: due to increased life expectancies, raising the full eligibility age limit for individuals who are not yet close to retirement, provided that a hardship exemption was created for those who were unable to continue working; creating financial incentives for individuals to continue working past the full eligibility age; and means testing the benefits earned by individuals in higher income brackets (although individuals at all income levels should be entitled to continue receiving a minimum level of benefits). I would not, however, support any of the aforementioned reforms in isolation because no one reform is likely to foster both the efficiencies and political will necessary to preserve Social Security. Moreover, it will be important to ensure that the net effect of any reform package does not disproportionately impact senior citizens in the lowest income brackets.
Given the Supreme Court's ruling permitting states to opt-out of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion and the fact that it remains unclear at this point which states indeed will opt-out, it is too early to ascertain what types of federal reforms would be most effective in containing costs going forward.
4. Do you support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through the United States?
The United States should have market-driven energy policies that encompass a diverse menu of options — including renewable fuel sources, coal and oil — collectively aimed at moving the United States toward energy independence. Furthermore, the federal government should not erect unnecessary barriers to the development of energy sources and should approve proposals such as the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
5. Would you support increasing the use of nuclear power for electricity generation?
As the research relating to nuclear power's safety, cost-effectiveness and environmental impact still remains unsettled, I would neither advocate for an increase nor a decrease in the use of nuclear power at this time. Instead, I would wait until a greater consensus developed regarding these issues before advocating for any increase or decrease.
6. Would you support repealing the federal death penalty?
As an attorney, I have seen how human error can undermine the justice system and serve to deny a defendant Constitutional due process and a fair trial. In an effort to eliminate this risk that an innocent person could be executed, I would support repealing the federal death penalty.
7. Do you think there is a need to further regulate federal campaign finance laws? If so, what kind of legislation would you propose? Would you favor a constitutional amendment to regulate campaign financing?
The current framework of federal campaign finance laws favors special interest political action committees and political parties at the expense of citizens, as the amount of money citizens can contribute to their preferred candidates is capped at a lower level than the amount of money political action committees and political parties are permitted to contribute. Moreover, this disparity in contribution limits serves to protect incumbents and disadvantage challengers, as political action committees simply are far more likely to contribute to incumbents in order to gain an audience with these individuals. Accordingly, I would support legislation that eliminates these contribution limit differentials. I would not favor a constitutional amendment to regulate campaign financing, however, because such an amendment likely would conflict with First Amendment protections.
8. Would you support a federal flat tax?
I would not support the implementation of a pure federal flat tax because it would necessitate the elimination of the deductions and exemptions upon which many people currently rely and therefore might result in some individuals paying more in taxes than they currently pay.
9. Should Congress do anything to regulate the use of drones, either by the government or by private citizens?
Congress should regulate the use of drones by both private citizens and the government in order to protect American's privacy interests, guard the United States' national security interests, and ensure that the general airspace remains safe and fully conducive to air travel.
10. Under what circumstances would you be willing to commit U.S. troops to foreign wars?
Voting to commit U.S. troops to a foreign war is the most serious vote a Representative takes, and I only would be willing to do so if the answers to the following questions (derived in part from the Powell Doctrine) were in the affirmative: (1) Are any critical national security interests at stake?; (2) Has an achievable military objective been articulated?; (3) Have all other non-military alternatives (i.e., diplomacy, sanctions, etc.) been exhausted; and (4) Does a clear exit strategy exist?
11. Do you support eliminating the estate tax?
I support eliminating the estate tax because this tax disproportionately impacts small business owners and those whose assets are tied to land, such as farmers.
12. Is there a need to restrict the National Security Agency? How?
The National Security Agency's surveillance activities have run afoul of the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections. Accordingly, I would have voted for Rep. Justin Amash's Amendment (H.R. 2397) to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill, as the Amash Amendment sought to rein in the NSA's telephone surveillance program. I also strongly support the USA FREEDOM Act's goals of both limiting the NSA's expansive collection of citizens' communications records and reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
13. Do you believe that federal sentencing rules for non-violent drug offenders are too harsh and that judges should have more leeway in setting sentences?
Based upon my experiences as a lawyer and a member of Prison Fellowship's board of directors, I support policies that affirm human dignity and promote reform within the criminal justice system. Whether it is reevaluating mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent offenses (including non-violent drug offenses) or emphasizing reentry programs as part of a proper parole system, I support criminal justice reform measures that seek to reduce our nation's recidivism rate and rehabilitate individuals who show potential for such reform. These measures not only are reflective of the conservative principle of ensuring good governmental stewardship of tax dollars but also promote a sense of restorative justice.
14. What should the United States do to revise its immigration system? Do you favor granting amnesty to illegal immigrants already here?
The U.S. government should prioritize securing the border, create an enhanced and modernized guest-worker and high-tech visa program, prevent abuse in detention facilities, and improve the employment eligibility verification system. I would not support a general path to citizenship that displaces previously pending citizenship applications.
15. As the 13th Congressional District representative, what would you do to block disposal of PCBs and other hazardous chemicals at the Clinton landfill?
I oppose efforts to dispose of PCBs and other hazardous chemicals at the Clinton landfill because it is imperative that the Mahomet aquifer and thereby central Illinois' drinking water do not become contaminated. As this issue is not a purely federal one and implicates numerous governmental entities and community interests, I would seek to work constructively with the various stakeholders who already are working together to protect the Mahomet aquifer. Additionally, I would seek to ensure that the community's voice and concerns are represented to the fullest extent possible during the sole-source designation application process and the permit review process.
16. Do you believe in climate change/global warming, and if so would you vote for legislation that would mandate reductions in levels of global warming pollution by 2020 or 2025?
Changes in climate can be caused by numerous factors, and I would take several issues into consideration when evaluating any proposed environmental regulation, including: what is the specific environmental risk being addressed?; what is the economic cost of adopting the proposed regulation?; what are the costs (health, economic, etc.) of not adopting the proposed regulation?; and how close is the nexus between the environmental risk and the proposed regulation?
17. Is a constitutional amendment needed to define marriage as only between one man and one woman?
Given the Supreme Court's invalidation of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, I would support an amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.
18. Should the federal government continue to provide production tax credits for clean energy projects, such as wind energy?
I generally favor market-driven energy policies and therefore would not advocate for additional production tax credits for wind energy projects.
19. Do you think the federal government has gone too far in trying to protect the United States in the aftermath of 9/11? If so, what should be done?
The federal government's most important function is to protect the United States. In carrying out this function, however, Americans' constitutional rights still must be protected and respected. As previously discussed in response to Question 11, some of the National Security Agency's surveillance activities have run afoul of the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections. Accordingly, I would have voted for Rep. Justin Amash's Amendment (H.R. 2397) to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill, as the Amash Amendment sought to rein in the NSA's telephone surveillance program. I also strongly support the USA FREEDOM Act's goals of both limiting the NSA's expansive collection of citizens' communications records and reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. These bills appropriately seek to accomplish the goals of both protecting the United States and protecting Americans' civil liberties — goals that are not mutually exclusive.
20. Are you willing to vote for an increase in the federal gasoline tax to fund more infrastructure improvements? If not, how else can we afford to pay for needed highway, mass transit, railroad and airport improvements?
I would not support an increase in the federal gasoline tax to fund infrastructure improvements and instead would support having states play a greater role in funding such improvements.
21. What do you think your Number One priority, as the representative of the broad and varied central Illinois district, is in Congress?
My number one priority would be to pursue fiscal policies that create a climate conducive to the expansion of businesses and job opportunities within the 13th District. These policies include: a regulatory framework that does not inhibit innovation or create excessive layers of bureaucracy; a modernized and streamlined tax code that does not increase the tax burden upon individuals and businesses; and a strategic plan containing quantifiable benchmarks to reduce the national debt and indebtedness to foreign entities.