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Congress, District 11

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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Judy Biggert
Political party: Republican
Birthdate: 8/15/1937
Occupation: Lawyer; Member, House of Representatives
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Rody

Education:

Northwestern University School of Law, JD, 1963 (Member, Board of Editors, Law Review)
Stanford University, BA (International Relations), 1959
New Trier High School, 1955

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Chairman, Village of Hinsdale Plan Commission, 1989-1993
Chairman, Visiting Nurse Association of Chicago, 1989-1991
President, Board of Education, Hinsdale Township High School District 86, 1983-1985; Member, 1978-1985
Chairman, Hinsdale Assembly of the Hinsdale Hospital, 1987-1988
President, Junior League of Chicago, 1976-1978
Treasurer, Women's Board of Brookfield Zoo, 1970-1971
President, Chicago Junior Board of Travelers Aid Society, 1969
Board of Directors, Salt Creek Ballet, 1990-1999
Chairman, Hinsdale Antiques Show, 1980
Board of Governors, Illinois Lincoln Series, 1994-1996
President, Oak School PTA, 1974-1976
Sunday School Teacher, Grace Episcopal Church, 1974-1984
Assistant Soccer Coach, American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), 1983

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Member, U.S. House of Representatives, 1999-Present
Member, Illinois House of Representatives, 1993-1999
President, Hinsdale Board of Education, Hinsdale Township High School District 86, 1983-1985
Member, Hinsdale Board of Education, Hinsdale Township High School District 86, 1978-1985
Chairman, Village of Hinsdale Plan Commission, 1989-1993

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

Currently a federal elected official. A child previously served on the staff of a member of Congress.

Bill Foster
Political party: Democrat
Birthdate: 10/7/1955
Occupation: Particle Physicist
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Aesook Byon

Education:

B.A., Physics from University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1976, with Honors, Phi Beta Kappa; Ph.D, Physics, Harvard University, 1984; Ph.D Thesis: An Experimental Limit on Proton Decay

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

I am a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and an elected fellow of the American Physical Society. For many years I served on the board of the Batavia Foundation for Education Excellence, an organization dedicated to enhancing the public schools in Batavia, IL. I currently serve on the Governing Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, but have gone on leave from that Board during my campaign and time in office.

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

U.S. House of Representatives, March 2008- January 2011.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

I worked for 22 years at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL. My wife also worked at Fermilab and for the Department of Energy, and now works for Brookhaven National Laboratory. My daughter Christine formerly worked for an educational software company in Palo Alto, CA that receives federal research grants.

Campaign information
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Biggert

Campaign headquarters: PO Box 4198 Naperville, IL 60567
Website: biggert.com
Campaign manager: Mike Lukach
Campaign budget: I am confident that my campaign will have the resources needed to communicate my positive, issues-based message to the voters.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
I am honored and humbled by the outpouring of support for my candidacy from Americans from all walks of life.

Foster

Campaign headquarters: 25 S. Washington St Suite 208, Naperville, IL 60540
Website: www.billfoster.com
Campaign manager: Patrick Brown
Campaign budget: We continue to build a grassroots campaign to reflect the hardworking values of the folks in Illinois's new 11th district, and I am confident that we will have the resources we need to succeed and win.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
All of my campaign contributions above $200 are listed on the FEC web site. Unlike my opponent, I do not obtain the majority of my campaign funding from DC PACs and lobbyists.

What are your top three priorities for the nation?
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Biggert

My top priority is getting the economy back on track and putting people back to work, by supporting policies that encourage private sector job growth. For millions of families in Illinois and around the country, no other challenge is more urgent than addressing the day-by-day stress and wrenching uncertainty that have resulted from the loss of a paycheck, a drop in income, or uncertainty about having a job next week or next month.

But businesses cannot hire more people or expand their operations if they are competing with a government that spends too much and borrows too much, while burdening the private sector with ever-increasing regulations. According to the Congressional Budget Office, fiscal year 2012 will mark the fourth straight year of trillion dollar deficits. These shortfalls are some of the largest since World War Two, and threaten to crowd out private sector investment and job-creation at the expense of an expanded public sector. To restore our Triple-A economy, I've voted to cut more than $6 trillion in spending from the federal budget and cap future spending near 2008 levels. In addition, I've worked with my colleagues in the House to secure -- for the first time in modern history -- two years in a row of discretionary spending reductions.

In addition to record spending, the private sector has seen a startling surge in red tape. In 2011 alone, the Administration proposed over 400 new regulations that have the potential to burden job creators with more than $70 billion in new compliance costs. Businesses cannot grow and invest when they face that kind of uncertainty and red tape. That's why we need to review and defund economically significant regulations that will stifle the ability of businesses to produce more goods and put people back to work.

While reducing the size of government and easing onerous regulatory burdens is an important first step, Congress must do more to cut the debt and give American businesses the economic security they need to grow. Tax reform holds enormous potential to boost U.S. competitiveness, create jobs, and generate revenues through economic growth. By broadening the tax base, simplifying the code, and closing loopholes, we can create a system that rewards innovation, funds the government, and promotes rather than inhibits economic growth. To accomplish these goals, we have to enact a tax policy guided by sound economic principles, and not simply increase taxes on investors and those who actually create employment.

Foster

My top priority for the nation is strengthening the middle class by creating jobs and building a solid economic future for hard-working families in Illinois and throughout the country. As someone who started a manufacturing business from scratch, I know how important it is for families to believe in the sound economic footing of their own community.

One of the lessons of the last 10 years is that achieving a high rate of economic growth requires a healthy middle class. Middle-income families are not yet feeling the same relief as Wall Street or Washington. Families I talk to are worried about their job and their future. But instead of thoughtful policies to encourage job creation, Congress has been frustratingly out of touch -- bickering and refusing to compromise instead of working on policies that can help get our economy back on track.

Restoring American manufacturing is another urgent priority. For more than a decade, we've seen the decimation of American manufacturing due to many factors, including badly negotiated trade deals and policies that my opponent voted for that actually rewarded companies for shipping jobs overseas. I know that manufacturing can work in America, because the company I started still manufactures lighting equipment right here in the Midwest, and provides hundreds of good jobs. America cannot become just a service economy -- we are at our best when we build things and we have to get back to that.

There are two other priorities, which I think never change: Education, and taking care of our veterans. Education, because to compete in this new global economy we have to have well-educated children. And we must always take care of our veterans, because they sacrifice so much -- sometimes sacrificing everything -- to keep us safe here at home. In both of these areas, Congress is unfortunately full of politicians who posture in support of veterans' issues or education, but then go to Washington and vote in ways that have badly hurt the futures of our veterans and children. They must be held accountable for these votes.

What are your specific priorities for your congressional district?
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Biggert

Job creation and economic recovery, transportation, and technology and education are the most important priorities for my congressional district.

In addition to my work in Washington, I have focused my efforts here at home on helping unemployed and underemployed workers find jobs, and assisting small business owners who are struggling to make it through this recession find new business opportunities. With the help of many great employers, agencies, municipalities and other talented personnel, I have been holding jobs and business fairs to help people in these tough times. At my most recent jobs fair in August, almost 1,300 job-seekers were in attendance, and had the opportunity to meet with more than 90 local employers in a variety of industries.

Another priority must be to address the rising unemployment among young veterans that have recently been discharged from the military. Recent reports estimate our youngest veterans, aged 18 to 24, experience a 30.4% unemployment rate compared to 16.9% for non-veterans in the same age group. Minority veteran unemployment is even higher. That is why another top local priority is to work with local veteran organizations, businesses, and workforce investment boards to do all we can to give our brave men and women the assistance they need to find employment and succeed in civilian life. We cannot forget the sacrifices they've made for our country.

Nowhere is the need for infrastructure improvements as apparent as here in the new 11th CD, where population growth has been explosive. That is why I worked with colleagues from both parties to support transportation reauthorization legislation that protects mass transit and provides for projects of regional significance, including O'Hare Western Access. While I would have preferred a longer-term reauthorization, the bill we passed was an important step forward and gave local stakeholders the certainty they need to plan for the future.

Next, we must build on our local science and education assets, including Argonne and Fermi National Laboratories, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and our outstanding universities. Science research and education is the foundation for the innovative solutions that will enable us to overcome many of our greatest challenges -- from economic stagnation and dependence on foreign energy to curing diseases and addressing national security threats. Support for math and science education, ensuring local research institution funding, and helping small businesses commercialize research innovations are vital to the future of job creation and are among my top priorities for the district.

Foster

In the northern section of the district, the "Illinois High-Tech Corridor" along I-88 is under stress. With the shift of much of the high-tech manufacturing base offshore, the R&D centers that support that manufacturing have been in decline for the last decade. The great national labs in the area, Argonne and Fermilab, have not had a large construction project since the APS at Argonne and the Main Injector at Fermilab -- both in the mid-1990's. Meanwhile, the Ryan budget voted for by Congresswoman Biggert will cut federal Research & Development by 30% (as estimated by the AAAS). One of my top priorities, as a businessman, scientist, and representative in Congress, is to reverse this decline.

In the southern area, the high-speed rail link through Joliet -- the first stop on the way from Chicago to St. Louis -- has the potential to transform the Joliet area into a commuter hub and revitalize the downtown and surrounding area. This project will only succeed with strong and effective federal support.

Finally, both Will and Kendall Counties were hit very hard by the housing bust, and are only now starting to stabilize. We must do everything we can to stabilize the housing market and maintain a well-regulated primary and secondary mortgage market to prevent a future occurrence of this crisis.

Many Republican members of Congress have signed the Grover Norquist pledge to not support any tax increase of any kind at any time. Have you, or would you, sign this pledge? Why or why not?
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I signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to oppose increases in marginal income taxes during my first campaign for Congress in 1998 because I believed then, as I believe now, that Americans aren't taxed too little -- the government still spends too much. Since then, I've continued to fight for balanced budgets, and promoted polices that raise revenue through growth -- not new burdens on hardworking American families and job creators.

It should be noted that, even in 1998, this was a pledge against increasing "marginal income tax rates" -- not "any tax increase of any kind at any time." This is an important distinction. Tax reform holds enormous potential to generate economic growth. To do that, we need to broaden the tax base, simplify the code, and close loopholes. This will raise tax revenue that can be used to lower the net taxes paid by wage earners and small businesses, in place of the current tax code, which primarily benefits special interests and politically-connected industries.

Foster

I do not sign pledges. Members of Congress who do sign pledges are abdicating their responsibility to govern in a rational and bipartisan manner. I was very disappointed in recent years to see the Grover Norquist pledge signed by all Republican members of the Illinois delegation -- including Congresswoman Biggert.
I believe that pledges such as these are a large contributor the dysfunction and gridlock in the current Congress. Over the past two years, we've seen Congressional Republicans send our country to the brink of default and vote to end Medicare as we know it just to protect tax breaks for billionaires -- just to keep their pledges to Norquist and other right-wing interest groups. Outside special interests have drowned out the voices of regular people, and I am running to represent hard working middle class families here in Illinois. My commitments are to them not to Grover Norquist.

As a scientist for 22 years at Fermilab in Batavia, and a businessman before that, I learned to look at the facts and let those facts dictate the best course of action -- a posture that frequently gets me in hot water with the leadership of my own party when I repeatedly voted against them on important issues like Cap-and-Trade or the Democratic Budget. I believe that Washington would be well served to follow this example, and not blindly pledge to follow the lead of party bosses and special interest groups.

Which sitting Supreme Court justice do you admire most and why? Which current justice do you think has been the greatest disappointment and why?
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As a co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on the Judiciary, I have had the opportunity to work with all of our Supreme Court justices.

Foster

I am a scientist and businessman and not a lawyer, but I admire Justice Sonia Sotomayor's work in helping craft the 90-page dissent on the Citizens United decision, which stated: "A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold." As a result of the Citizens United and other recent Supreme Court rulings, the power and influence of Super PACs and anonymous campaign money has grown tremendously, to the point where it has largely bypassed the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law. Many politicians including my opponent now fund the majority of their campaign money from DC PACs and depend on Super PACs to spread lies about their opponents. Elections should be decided by ordinary voters, and should not be influenced by political ads funded by wealthy corporations and anonymous billionaire donors.
I also find myself disappointed by Justice Clarence Thomas, who has gone more than six years without asking a single question during oral arguments before the Court, and who was unwilling to recuse himself from important decisions before the Court in which his wife had a significant apparent conflict of interest.

Is there a problem of a growing income and wealth gap in the United States? If so, what's to be done about it?
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Biggert

As Americans, we are all born with the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For most of us, that means the opportunity to work hard, reap the rewards of our labor, and strive to leave our children better off than ourselves. And as a mother of four and grandmother of nine, I consider it a personal -- as well as governmental -- responsibility to ensure that future generations of Americans all have a chance to pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, the recent economic downturn has made it even harder for those without means to grasp the first rungs on the ladder to prosperity. That is why, as Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Homelessness, I have worked hard to ensure that every homeless child in America has access to a safe place to sleep and a quality education. It's also why I have made education and scientific competitiveness central to my work in Washington. We must do our part, every day, to ensure that the doors to success are always open for our children.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case during difficult times, some have turned away from protecting economic opportunity, and focused instead on fanning the flames of class envy for political gain. They would impose equality of outcomes -- rather than equality of opportunity -- through more taxes, more spending, and more borrowing. The result runs contrary to everything our Founders stood for, and it would paralyze the job-creating potential of the American economy. Instead, we should ensure the future competitiveness of the U.S. economy in a way that will lift the economic fortunes of all Americans. That means broad-based tax reforms to eliminate the tax shelters used primarily by upper-income taxpayers and lowering rates on all wage earners. It also means rethinking entitlements for those who need less help than others. But most of all, it means we should refuse to penalize success by placing an ever greater burden on those who create jobs, while ignoring the greatest threat to the economic security of future generations -- our debt. Only by rewarding hard work, risk-taking, and innovation will we create the jobs and economic opportunities that are so vital to the prosperity of the middle class.

Foster

Economic growth requires a strong middle class. It is a historical fact that countries with very unequal distributions of income suffer from low rates of growth. The reason for this is the low return-on-investment for investments made by the wealthy compared to investments by the middle class. Therefore Republican policies, such as the Romney-Ryan tax plan that provide tax breaks for the wealthy while increasing taxes on the middle class, are actually anti-growth since they divert productive investments by the middle class into less productive investments by the wealthy.
Here's a simple example of why a strong middle class is important to economic growth. If you give a working-class family more money for automobiles, they may buy a second car so the spouse can get a job -- providing not only primary economic activity from the manufacture of the car, but also real follow-on economic activity and a return on that investment -- and economic growth. However if you give Mitt Romney more money for automobiles, he will simply get additional Cadillacs for his wife. This generates primary economic activity from the production of the Cadillac, but near zero return on that investment as the extra car sits idle in her garage. Finally, from the point of view of a nearby restaurant owner, you would much rather provide the benefit to the working-class person since that will increase the number of customers.
An additional problem for the United States is that in recent years wealthy people tend to make an increasing fraction of their investments offshore. Republican policies that skew benefits toward the wealthy simply accelerate that process. Thus the net effect of the Bush tax cuts or the Romney-Ryan plan is to simply speed up the flight of manufacturing capital and the deindustrialization of the United States. This is why I support middle-class tax cuts, rather than the middle-class tax increases proposed by my opponent.

Is global warming real? What, if anything, should be done about it?
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Biggert

I believe the science behind global warming is sound. Global warming is, however, a problem that demands global participation in pursuit of solutions. In order to address the impacts of global warming now, we need to deploy advanced energy technologies, promote conservation, and expand our domestic energy resources.

That's why I support tax incentives for investments in new advanced technologies for alternative-fuel infrastructure. The transportation sector is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the United States. By using natural gas or electric vehicles, for example, we can significantly reduce emissions throughout the transportation sector.

Similarly, I have worked to help a local municipality, Naperville, construct an alternative fuels infrastructure. By using local biomass from lawn and farm waste to power fleet vehicles, Naperville will enjoy dramatic decreases in municipal fuel costs and utilize landfill waste as a new domestic energy resource.

Last, as a senior member of the House Science and Technology Committee, I also continue to advocate for funding and policies that advance research and development at nearby Argonne National Lab. Technologies developed there in solar energy, plug-in hybrids, geothermal and fuel cell technology are just a few ways we can ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And I have long advocated for clean, carbon-free nuclear energy with new recycling technologies as the only long-term solution for reliable and plentiful electricity generation.

Foster

I worked as a scientist for more than 20 years, so I learned to look at the facts. The facts tell us that global warming is real, and that man contributes to it. Our energy policy must strike a reasonable balance between the pressures of our energy needs and our environmental and industrial concerns. The basic tool for making policy decisions is the cost per ton of CO2-equivalent emissions averted. There is a detailed discussion of this at: www.BillFoster.com/issues/energy

I broke with my own party and voted against Cap-And-Trade legislation because it would not have reduced carbon emissions in a cost-effective manner and would have put a huge new burden on the cost of energy for families. We need to invest in new technologies and new innovation to create jobs, expand industry, and promote energy independence that protects our nation's long-term environmental assets. Here again, I was disappointed to see my opponent's vote in favor of budgets that would result in draconian cuts in research and deployment of clean energy technologies.

We also need competent advocates for existing technologies -- like efficiency improvements, safe and proliferation-resistant nuclear energy, and the replacement of coal-fired industrial processes with more efficient natural-gas-fired processes.

President Obama, working with other nations, has pushed economic sanctions to compel Iran to cease work on a nuclear bomb. Critics say the sanctions are working too slowly and a military strike by the U.S or Israel is necessary. What should be done?
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A nuclear-armed Iran would pose a direct threat to the United States, Europe and Israel. As the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran transfers advanced weapons to terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map and continues building missiles capable of reaching Israel and beyond. An Iranian nuclear weapon would set off a nuclear arms race in Middle East, further destabilizing an already volatile region of the world. For all of these reasons, Iran cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. I was proud to cosponsor and support the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, which imposed another round of crippling economic sanctions on Iran. We must do more to pressure China and Russia to join the US/European Union-led sanctions push. No options can be left off the table to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Foster

Military action should always be a last resort, but we need to take every step necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran. I believe that international economic sanctions are continuing to have an increasing effect, and we should continue and expand these to put as much pressure as possible on Iran. I believe that President Obama's multilateral engagement to get other countries in Europe and elsewhere to participate in sanctions with teeth has been more effective that President Bush's "go-it-alone" philosophy. Unilateral action carries the risk of unifying the citizenry of Iran against the U.S. and/or Israel, and giving Iran an excuse to eject international inspectors, remove or disable technical monitoring equipment, and unseal inventories of Low-Enriched Uranium that are currently under international monitoring. It should also be noted that even the complete destruction of Iran's centrifuge program does not preclude the possibility of Iran gaining clandestine access to much larger inventories of High-Enriched Uranium that are either unaccounted for or exist in lightly guarded facilities in the Soviet Union or Pakistan.
I also believe that those who are calling for a public red line are misguided. The decision as to whether to build a nuclear weapon will be made by the small number of people who wield power in Iran, and publicly defining a red line practically ensures that the leadership of Iran will have to cross it in order to avoid being seen as backing down under U.S. pressure. So any red line, such as actively starting weapons design or assembly work, should be privately but not publicly communicated to those in power in Iran. While President Obama was correct in repeatedly stressing that all options are on the table, it is essential to maintain maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran.

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for cutting military spending. Democrats have defended spending cuts as necessary to balancing the federal budget, while insisting they are committed to a strong military. What's your view?
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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described the effects of "sequestration" on our national defense as "disastrous," a view that many of my colleagues share. Together, we passed legislation requiring greater transparency from the Administration on the effects of sequestration, a report that was belatedly released earlier this month. With this report, the Administration appeared more interested in politics than deficit reduction, detailing more criticisms of Congress than actual sequester effects in the budget. I hope Congress will be able to address this, along with other aspects of the so-called "fiscal cliff," later this year.

Foster

It's important to remember that these same Republicans voted for these military cuts as part of the debt ceiling compromise. But it is correct and natural to reduce military spending as we wind down two of the longest and most costly wars in our nation's history. There are many specific military cuts that can be made that will go a long way towards reducing the deficit, while not significantly reducing our military readiness. One specific example: the lifetime cost of the next-generation manned fighter plane is $1.4T -- six times the inflation-adjusted cost of building the Interstate Highway system over 40 years -- while unmanned drones can perform the same missions at a small fraction of the cost. A recent bipartisan report commissioned by Ron Paul and Barney Frank identified nearly $1T in military spending cuts that could be achieved without compromising military readiness.

A major reason that military spending has become a partisan issue is that the first items likely to be cut are unneeded military bases and weapons systems that the Pentagon does not even want -- and a large fraction of these deliver federal dollars to southern states that form the base of the Republican Party. Illinois receives only about 75 cents back from the federal government for each dollar of federal taxes that it pays, and military expenditures are a large factor in that imbalance. A more efficient military also means a better deal for Illinois taxpayers.

How would you reform the financial time bomb of Medicare? Should there be a defined contribution (where the government decides what it will pay) or a defined benefit (where the government guarantees a level of coverage)?
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To address Medicare, we should repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which diverts $700 billion from Medicare and forces an additional 16 million individuals onto already cash-strapped state Medicaid budgets. It also creates an Independent Payment Advisory Board of 15 unelected bureaucrats, empowered to slash Medicare payments with little accountability.

Unfortunately, while Medicare suffers the effects of out-of-control health care costs, it is also driving health spending higher. Through bureaucratic delivery systems and poorly structured incentives for participants, it fuels wasteful, inefficient spending, which in turn leads to higher health care cost inflation, and higher overall costs. Seniors deserve better.

Medicare spending has been subject to another major cost driver: demographics. When Medicare was created in 1965, roughly 8 workers were employed for each Medicare recipient. Today, that ratio is closer to 3 workers per beneficiary. And with 80 million baby boomers becoming Medicare-eligible, it's no surprise that the 2012 report of the Medicare Board of Trustees estimates that the Medicare trust fund will become insolvent in 2024, five years earlier than it had predicted in the 2010 report.

The silver lining is that if we act now, we can avoid any changes to the benefits of those 55 and older. That's why I supported a plan which protects and preserves Medicare so that it's sustainable and reliable by requiring insurers to compete for Medicare customers. Current seniors would see no change in their Medicare plan. Starting in 2022, new beneficiaries would receive guaranteed coverage options and premium support through a restructured model that promotes competition among insurers. Those who are sick or cannot afford care would receive more help, and savings would be reinvested into Medicare -- not siphoned off for government-run healthcare.

Conversely, the longer we wait, and the longer we allow rhetoric to kill constructive proposals, the more painful will be the solution when the crisis finally commands everyone's attention. Seniors who paid in to the system deserve a safety net that works and provides quality care -- without breaking the bank. Ignoring the problem, as some suggest, would mean that current and future retirees could face dramatic and harmful changes in as few as ten years.

Foster

I do not support the voucherization and privatization of Medicare that my opponent voted for. The Biggert/Ryan budget plan would dismantle Medicare that seniors rely upon, increase prescription costs for current seniors starting immediately, and drive up health care costs for future seniors by more than $6000. That's just plain wrong. The budget should not be balanced on the backs of the middle class and seniors who have already sacrificed enough.

While the Affordable Care Act tripled the lifetime of the Medicare Trust Fund (from 2016 to 2024) without reducing benefits to seniors, more improvements are needed. Drug costs for Medicare should be negotiated just the way that Veterans Administration does, instead of simply accepting whatever price the drug companies demand. Transparency initiatives for price and quality of medical care providers will exert substantial downward pressure on medical costs. The bundled-payment and ACO initiatives in the Affordable Care Act that reward healthcare providers for the quality -- instead of the quantity -- of medical treatments appear to be very successful in early trials, and should be expanded. Incentives to adopt standardized electronic medical records are already showing cost savings and should continue.

Federal research is showing great recent progress in Alzheimer's and other diseases that add enormously to the medical costs of seniors. I was very disappointed to see my opponent's vote in favor of a budget that, according to a recent study by the AAAS, would cut federal non-defense R&D by 30 percent.

On the issue of abortion, the two major political parties take very different stands. The Democratic platform supports a woman's right to seek a "safe and legal" abortion, regardless of her ability to pay. The Republican platform states that the "unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed." The Republican platform does not address whether exceptions should be made to a ban on abortions, such rape or incest. Where, if anywhere, do you part company with your party's platform on abortion?
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Biggert

I've always said that I will support my party when they're right, but I will oppose them when I think they are wrong. I support the Supreme Court's decision in Roe versus Wade. I also believe in a woman's right to decide what will be in her best interest. This is a deeply personal issue that should stay between a woman, her doctor, her conscience, and her God. Like most Americans, I oppose late-term abortions and I support parental notification, so long is there is a grandparental or judicial option. Unless otherwise restricted by a state, I believe abortion is a private decision and should be paid for with private dollars, not taxpayer dollars.

Foster

I believe that abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.

I also note that my opponent and I differ significantly on the crucial issue of women's access to reproductive health. Congresswoman Biggert voted for the Stupak amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have severely restricted women's access to reproductive health, and I voted against the Stupak amendment.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, supports civil gay marriage, but adds that churches should be allowed to administer marriage as a sacrament as they see fit, "without government interference." The Republican Party platform calls for a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman." Where do you stand?
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Biggert

Consistent with my pro-LGBT record on other issues, I have taken a very open view towards civil unions and legal rights among same-sex couples, and I think each state should be free to pursue its own course with respect to marriage.

Foster

I support marriage equality and oppose legislation that defines marriage as only being between a man and a woman.

On the issue of Social Security, the Republican Party platform proposes making no changes in the system for "any current or near-retiree" but envisions allowing younger workers to choose personal investment accounts as "supplements." The Democratic platform pledges to "find a solution" and warns of subjecting a retiree's benefits to the "whims of the stock market." What should be done?
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Biggert

Millions of individuals have paid their hard-earned dollars into Social Security with the understanding that they will receive a retirement benefit in exchange, and I have no intention of allowing the federal government to break that promise. But we can't continue to expect a system created for the America of 1935 to work the same way for our world in 2012 and beyond. Americans are living longer, working longer, investing more for their own retirement, and relying less on traditional pensions provided by their former, life-long employers.

This April, the Social Security Trustees report confirmed these pressures when it announced that the Trust Fund would run dry in 2033, three years earlier than previously anticipated. It's clear that we must act now. That's why I supported the House Republican Budget, which requires the Social Security Trustees, the President, and Congress to enact bipartisan reforms that will keep the Social Security Trust Fund solvent for future generations.

The longer we wait before we get down to making the tough decisions on Social Security, and the longer we allow rhetoric to kill constructive proposals, the more painful will be the solution when the crisis finally commands everyone's attention, as it did the last time Congress acted to shore up the system in the early 1980s. The way to save Social Security is to reform it, not to fall back on the failed policies of the past.

Foster

I oppose privatization of Social Security, and my opponent has voted for privatization and continues to support it. Just imagine what would have happened to our seniors if the privatization proposals she voted for had passed: Wall Street funds managers would have scraped off tens of billions in management fees over the last decade, and then our seniors would have seen their retirement security go up in smoke during the financial meltdown.

Seniors' retirement security must be upheld. Social Security is a program that they have paid into and that promise must be protected. Social Security is actually not one of the bigger drivers of our long term debt I believe that Social Security should be made solvent primarily by small tweaks on the revenue side -- such as President Obama's proposal to include payroll taxes on incomes above $250k/year.

Do you support "right-to-work" laws, now in effect in 23 states and promoted in the Republican Party platform, that limit the extent to which labor unions can require membership and the paying of union dues as a condition of employment? Or do you agree with the Democratic Party platform that such laws are "attacks" on the right of workers to organize?
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    Biggert
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Biggert

I've always said that I will support my party when they're right, but I will oppose them when I think they are wrong. On this issue, I believe that my record speaks for itself, as my campaign has the support of several unions, both private and public sector, and their members.

Foster

I support the rights of workers to organize and believe it is a fundamental right. Our workers are the heart and soul of our companies -- and our economy -- and deserve to be able to advocate freely for the right to be treated and compensated fairly. While many companies provide fair wages and safe working conditions as a matter of moral principle and public good, some will not naturally do this, and there is no substitute for organized labor to ensure safe working conditions and a healthy middle class.

One of the most damaging recent developments is the trend for factories to be lured out of Illinois with the promise of being able to pay poverty-level wages in right-to-work states with a low minimum wage-- and then expecting the taxpayers of Illinois to pay for the increased safety-net costs (food stamps, Head Start, Medicaid, etc.) that are a direct result of the poverty-level wages paid in these states. This is a large contributor to imbalance of federal payments that sees Illinois receive back from the federal government only 75 cents of every dollar paid by Illinois taxpayers. This imbalance in federal payments siphons billions of dollars out of Illinois every year and is a major contributor to the fiscal crisis in Illinois.

What further federal legal restrictions should be imposed on guns of any kind?
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    Biggert
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Biggert

I am a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. I have a Firearm Owners Identification card, I own guns, and I believe all law-abiding citizens should be able to carry concealed guns in states and localities where it is legal to do so. The right to keep and bear arms for self defense is a right granted in the Constitution and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Foster

I am a supporter of second amendment rights, but we need sensible restrictions on the possession of firearms, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that guns stay out of the hands of the mentally ill.

The Republican Party platform calls for a mandatory requirement that employers verify the legal status of their employees and rejects any amnesty for illegal immigrants. The Democratic Party platform calls for reforming the American immigration system to bring "undocumented immigrants out of the shadows" and requires them to "get right with the law, learn English, and pay taxes in order to get on a path to earn citizenship." Which approach do you favor? Most specifically, what should be done?
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    Biggert
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Biggert

With between 12 and 13 million illegal immigrants living and working in the United States, there is no question that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately, the partisan divide on this issue has grown so wide that some in Washington have written off hope of advancing a solution in the current environment. That is because no proposal for immigration reform -- ranging from amnesty to incarceration -- can achieve this goal while our borders remain unsecured.

Washington made that mistake in the 1980's, when Congress accepted amnesty without first securing the borders. The result was even more illegal immigration, not less. We cannot repeat the same mistake by adopting amnesty by another name -- be it a "path to citizenship" or "comprehensive immigration reform" -- if that policy only serves as an additional incentive for illegal entry.

Hard-working, educated individuals with strong American ties are exactly the kinds of legal immigrants that a well-functioning and effective immigration system would attract to our workforce. But, absent stronger border security and enforcement, creating a new fast-track to legal status could send exactly the wrong signal.

Our nation already has a legal "path to citizenship," and caseworkers in my office have helped thousands of individuals who play by the rules and do not break the law. Some of these individuals have waited ten years or more to enter the United States legally through our existing immigration and naturalization structure.

Foster

I voted for the DREAM Act when I was in Congress, and Congresswoman Biggert voted against it. I support the President's implementation of portions of the DREAM act through executive action. It is a first step towards comprehensive immigration reform and it's unfortunate that the right wing of the Republican party, including my opponent, have stood in the way of moving this important legislation forward.

While improved border security and reliable employment status verification are important parts of any final solution, it is not possible to solve this problem with the "just build the fence", "mandatory e-verify" or similar enforcement-only proposals that would simply shut down large segments of our economy. The essential step forward is establishing a workable legal framework for comprehensive immigration reform. I view the McCain-Kennedy proposal that was supported by the Bush administration as a reasonable starting point for negotiations on that legislation.

The candidates
Judy Biggert

Judy Biggert

Bill Foster

Bill Foster

 

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The district
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