Weather Updates

U.S. House, Dist. 8: Melissa L. Bean

Political affiliation: Democrat

City: Barrington, IL

Marital status: Married, two children

Occupation/Firm name: U.S. Representative

Campaign HQ address: PO Box 3068, Barrington, IL 60011

Campaign website:

What is your campaign budget- No response

Information on my campaign finances are publicly available through the Federal Election Commission.

What are your top priorities for the nation-

In my conversations with families and businesses across the district, and with the more than 178,000 people who have joined me on teletownhall calls this Congress, 8th District residents have expressed continuing concern about the economy and the health of our community businesses.

Recognizing that it is the private sector, not government that creates jobs, a top priority of mine is to support policies that create an environment for innovation, investment, competitiveness and sustainable growth for our community businesses.

While our nation's economic recovery has slowed, we have sustained four consecutive quarters of continued growth. However, access to capital remains a critical challenge for small businesses. In terms of economic impact, the Small Business Lending Fund Act, which I co-authored, is one of the most important measures passed this year in the House and pending in the Senate. During Small Business Federal Resource Seminars that I have held, community business owners have told me that lack of access to affordable credit remains the biggest obstacle to business recovery, expansion and diversification. This bill would give community banks access to $30 billion in capital--which can leverage $300 billion worth of small business lending. This deficit-reducing legislation (repaid with interest) would help bridge the critical capital access gap our small business owners still face by providing discounted rates to community banks who measurably increase lending to community businesses, our job creators. The bill pending in the Senate also contains my Small Business Asset Investment and Modernization (AIM) Act (H.R. 5412), which I wrote to expand the existing SBA 504 loan programs for capital purchases and commercial real estate, and my Express Loans Improvements Act (H.R. 4598) which would increase utility of the SBA Express Loans, an important source of working capital for small businesses. The Small Business Lending Fund Act--and the $12 billion worth of tax cuts to small businesses also contained in the bill--is critical and timely to sustain our economic recovery and job creation; I am working with Senator Landrieu and others in the Senate to urge passage.

I will also continue my work to address the challenges our community businesses face in terms of competitiveness, as they strive to succeed against emerging nations (i.e. China, India) in the global market. I supported reauthorization of the COMPETES Act, which invests in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, towards graduating students with the necessary skill sets to compete globally. I continue my advocacy for strategic partnerships between community businesses and our community colleges to develop skills-training curricula that meets employers' needs. My College Savings Flexibility Act , like the college tuition tax credit I advocated that is now law, would help more Americans access higher education. Through my Building Star Energy Retrofit Act and other initiatives, I will continue my efforts to invest in a next-generation green economy that will increase our energy efficiency, protect our planet, and spawn a new generation of American-made products and services to export abroad. I will work to ensure that our implementation of health insurance reforms continues to improve access to care and reduce costs for small businesses through tax credits and better efficiency in our system, with greater use of health IT. I will also continue my advocacy for tax policy that supports innovation and growth, such as extension of the R&D tax credit and eliminating capital gains taxes on small business investment.

Equally important are the concerns that I, as a long-time fiscal conservative, share with families and businesses of the Eighth District about our nation's increasing national debt.

As one of Congress' strongest supporters of fiscal discipline, I have voted against more than $900 billion in spending over the last two years alone and was one of the lead advocates for the restoration of strong pay-as-you go budget rules since I came to Congress. Signed into law this year as part of H.J. Res. 45, this legislation requires Congress to constrain mandatory spending to budgetary limits, so additional spending is not borrowed from future generations.

I also support the President's freeze on discretionary spending, although more is needed. While we must look at every facet of government spending to find inefficiencies within the system and work to rid programs of unnecessary waste, cutting discretionary spending alone is not enough. If Congress voted against all discretionary spending--literally shutting down the military, the FAA, the FDA, and all other federal services--we would still have a deficit. We cannot solve our nation's fiscal problems without reforms to mandatory spending programs.

I co-introduced the bipartisan SAFE Commission Act (H.R. 1557), which establishes an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate and propose reforms to our nation's entitlement programs and federal budgeting process. Congress would be required to introduce and vote on legislation to implement the commission's recommendations, or an alternate plan, within 90 days or lose budgeting authority. Such bipartisan commissions have proven an effective method in the past for achieving bipartisan buy-in to make the tough choices necessary. As Congress has failed to move my bill, I support the President's similar bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. I am encouraged by the commitments of leaders in both the House and Senate to allow a vote on the Commission's recommendations upon completion and I will hold them accountable to that pledge.

My efforts on deficit reduction have been broad based. I cosponsored and helped House colleagues pass the statutory pay-as-you-go law. It requires Congress to constrain mandatory spending to within budget, so it is not borrowed from future generations.

To prevent representatives from protecting their individual spending requests, I cosponsored and introduced the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act, which would authorize the President to rescind wasteful congressional spending with specific cuts, which Congress would be forced to vote on without amendment.

To identify ineffective and wasteful spending in government, I co-sponsored and passed an amendment to House rules that now strengthens audits on every federal agency, requiring regular oversight hearings.

And to hold Congress accountable, I wrote and introduced H. Res. 965, to require an up-or-down vote on raising the federal government's maximum level of debt, or "debt ceiling," and introduced my Voting Record Transparency Resolution (H.Res. 287), which changes House rules to require all representatives to post their full voting records on their publicly-funded official websites.

What are your top priorities for your congressional district-

Since coming to Congress I have made it a priority to stay connected to the families and businesses of the Eighth District and provide responsive constituent service.

Over the past two years, over 178,000 people have joined to listen and ask questions during my Eighth District teletownhalls. I've sent over 1 million e-newsletters, updating people on legislation in Washington and my activity across the District, and soliciting their feedback.

I've met personally with thousands of Eighth District seniors, veterans, students, police, firefighters, small businesses, health care professionals, and family members with hundreds of meetings this session alone. Regular "Congress at Your Corner" stops at local grocery stores help me stay connected across the three counties and over 80 municipalities I serve. In each county, I also host bipartisan leadership summits with state, county and municipal leaders, police, and firefighters. I also regularly visit employers to understand their businesses and thank them for the jobs they create across the district. I meet regularly with are Chambers of Commerce and business associations to share legislative updates and solicit their ideas and concerns. During the House's health insurance reform efforts, I hosted roundtables with Eighth District hospitals, patient advocates, small business owners, and doctors and nurses.

My office has responded to 133,357 constituent inquiries about legislation in Washington this Congress, via emails and written letters, bringing the office's total number of legislative responses to 292,596 since I took office.

Although my office routinely helps families and businesses work with federal agencies, I created new outreach seminars to address the increased demand for information on federal programs during these difficult economic times. My Small Business Federal Resource seminars, attended by hundreds of business owners, have helped small business owners learn about federal loan programs and tax breaks in the new health insurance reform law, as well as connect with officials from the Small Business Administration, the Commerce Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and others. Through a series of Federal Government Open House events, families were also able to get details about health insurance reform, federal foreclosure programs, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and student loan programs directly from the state and federal agencies participating.

My constituent services staff helps Eighth District residents one-on-one, completing 3,496 cases just this term, bringing the total cased completed to 10,456 since I took office. Casework ranges from help solving problems with the Social Security Administration to stalled passports to general requests for assistance during economic hardship.

Following passage of the Recovery Act, which included $288 billion in tax cuts and credits, my office helped local governments and businesses apply for federal stimulus funds by quickly distributing and posting customized guides to local officials. My office hosted a number of briefings, including state and federal officials for school finance officers, SBA officials for small businesses, and Department of Energy programs for small businesses working in the green economy.

One of my top local priorities is supporting transportation for area businesses and families. That is why I successfully secured funding for key projects like the Rt. 120 corridor, the East McHenry Bypass, Meacham Road access ramps from I-90, new and improved vehicles for Pace Suburban Bus, and expansion of Metra's suburban network.

In particular for communities along the EJ&E line, mitigating the impacts of increased freight rail traffic remains a top priority. Ever since Canadian National proposed its acquisition of the EJ&E, I have worked tirelessly to advocate for my community's safety needs, mobility needs, and quality of life. I have led numerous efforts with other members of Congress in Illinois and Indiana to hold CN accountable for their safety record and for false statements in oversight reports, for the traffic delays their trains cause in our communities, and for their unwillingness to lend appropriate support to mitigation projects along the EJ&E. I have also introduced legislation so that the Surface Transportation Board, which oversees the freight rail industry, will take into account the community impacts of freight rail when assessing proposed mergers. I will continue fighting for federal funding assistance for mitigation projects, so that our communities can move forward with expensive grade separations to reduce traffic bottlenecks and keep drivers, citizens, and pedestrians safe.

I have consistently advocated for each of these priorities through requests for federal appropriations, federal authorizations, and coordination with local officials and stakeholders. Earlier this year, I convened a roundtable with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, so that local officials from across the Eighth District could weigh in with him on area needs. I will continue to push for a comprehensive transportation reauthorization bill in Congress, which is the most important step we can take toward addressing long-term infrastructure financing challenges. Although I have joined my colleagues in making federal funding requests for the STAR Line, the project cannot move forward until Metra and the state find adequate matching funds. I supported Metra's request to extend federal funding authority on the project by an additional year, which does not increase the level of funding, but gives Metra more time to secure matching funds.

As an advocate for my community and as their representative voice, I'll continue to passionately carry the concerns and ideas of Eighth District families and businesses to Washington.

The recession continues. What are its causes and how do we end it- Do you favor more federal "stimulus" spending to create more jobs-

While our nation's economic recovery has slowed since economic expansion restarted in the fall of 2009, we have sustained four consecutive quarters of continued growth. Eight months of private sector job growth have created more than 760,000 private sector jobs this year alone, with the fastest growth in manufacturing since 2006. However, millions of Americans remain unemployed in this slow growth economy, and even with retraining efforts are struggling to secure long-term employment.

GDP growth, temporary hiring and an increase in hours always precede job growth, and we're seeing those hopeful signs now. In the meantime, I've continued to support unemployment benefits and wrote the provision in the Recovery Act to cover 65 percent of premium costs for health insurance for unemployed families, to support those who are still seeking work in this slow recovery.

Recognizing that it is the private sector, not government, that creates jobs, I have strongly supported policies that create an environment for innovation, investment, and sustainable growth. I introduced and got included in the Recovery Act small business tax cuts, including the Section 179 expensing provision and Net Operating Loss (NOL) Carryback extension, which has rebated over $3 billion to community businesses.

In terms of economic impact, the Small Business Lending Fund Act, which I co-authored, is one of the most important measures passed this year in the House and pending in the Senate. During Small Business Federal Resource Seminars that I have held, community business owners have told me that lack of access to affordable credit remains the biggest obstacle to business recovery, expansion and diversification. This bill would give community banks access to $30 billion in capital--which can leverage $300 billion worth of small business lending. This deficit-reducing legislation (repaid with interest) would help bridge the critical capital access gap our small business owners still face by providing discounted rates to community banks who measurably increase lending to community businesses, our job creators. The Small Business Lending Fund Act--and the $12 billion worth of tax cuts to small businesses also contained in the bill--is critical and timely to sustain our economic recovery and job creation; I am working with Senator Landrieu and others in the Senate to urge passage.

I support continued infrastructure investment through an extension of Build America Bonds and a multi-year federal surface transportation reauthorization. Build America Bonds, which provide federal assistance to local public works projects, have financed over $120 billion nationally in infrastructure programs in the past year, including over a dozen projects here in the Eighth District, totaling more than $700 million. Build America Bonds helped Warren Township High School in Gurnee expand and improve its two campuses, employing more than 400 construction workers, and saving local taxpayers $2.5 million in property taxes. Passage of a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization would create millions of direct construction jobs (every $1 billion in road construction equals 40,000 jobs), improve logistics for area businesses, promote our competiveness, and improve quality of life. As a critical transportation hub, the Chicagoland area economy relies on an updated and effective transportation network.

I have introduced a number of bills supporting energy efficiency investments for families and businesses to stimulate private sector job growth, such as the RISE Act (which became law in 2008) the Next Generation Homes Act, and the Highly Efficient Buildings Act. A recent initiative I co-authored, the Building Star Energy Retrofit Act, would provide similar incentives, stimulating demand for U.S.-manufactured products to be delivered and installed by skilled American tradesmen hardest hit by the recession. In addition to creating American jobs, Building Star would incentivize energy-saving investments in commercial and industrial buildings, which will save building owners and tenants money, increase property values, and reduce emissions.

Is global warming real- Is it man-made- What, if anything, should be done about it- And do you favor a national cap-and-trade program to put a price on carbon emissions-

My approach to all legislation has been fact-based and idea-based, not ideological. On the issue of global warming, scientific consensus has firmly concluded that global warming is real and that human activity is a contributing factor. Under the Bush Administration in 2007, NASA scientists concluded, "there can no longer be substantial doubt that human-made gases are the cause" of global warming. The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, according to NASA, and our own common-sense observations about the increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes and other natural disasters provide ample motivation to address climate change challenges.

While Eighth District residents express deep concern about the economy, they also share their ongoing worries about the security of our nation and our environment, issues that first prompted my run for Congress. Our overreliance on fossil fuels fosters an unstable, inefficient energy market and endangers our health, our planet and our national security.

Promoting innovation and incentives for the adoption of hybrid and electric vehicle technology and the production of electricity with low-carbon and no-carbon emissions technologies will reduce our foreign oil dependence. I helped secure energy development grants and smart grid technology funding in the Recovery Act, which will yield near-term reductions of emissions while strengthening economy, by bringing American companies into the market in emerging industries.

We need a forward-thinking, comprehensive strategy of diversified energy sources, which is why, after determining that no 8th District businesses, including manufacturers, exceed the emissions caps, I supported The American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009. To curb the growth of carbon emissions without stifling economic growth, this legislation would incentivize investments in clean, alternative forms of energy. Cap and trade is a proven model, which helped us address the acid rain challenge in the 1990s without raising household energy costs. Our strategy should include nuclear power from cost-effective new technology plants that reuse spent fuels. I support ethanol development when its production and distribution yields a net positive in terms of environmental impacts and energy supply. To promote increased energy conservation and efficiency, I have introduced green building technology initiatives and passed several provisions on energy efficient retrofits, and recycling.

While I continue to support offshore drilling, to address the lapses in oversight that led to the blow-out on the Deepwater Horizon well and the spill that proved so hard to contain, I supported the House-passed Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act. This legislation would eliminate the $75 million federal liability cap for damages related to offshore drilling spills, increase safety standards and penalties for violations, and establish a Gulf Coast Restoration Program funded by drilling revenues. I strongly support action by Congress and the Administration to separate the Minerals Management Service's revenue collection activities from its safety and environmental protection functions--eliminating an institutional conflict of interest.

I'm proud of my work with my colleagues in the Illinois delegation to pass a permanent ban on domestic drilling in the Great Lakes, the largest source of drinking water in the country. I recently joined my colleagues in the region in an effort to encourage Canada to re-assess its drilling policies and ultimately cease all Great Lakes drilling.

As a representative, would you favor changes in the health care reforms pushed through Congress by President Obama- What exactly would you change-

In the years since I came to Congress, I've heard from thousands of families and small businesses across the 8th District, whose stories illustrated their concerns with rising health care costs and the need for reform. The Affordable Care Act, which I supported, will provide them with the health care security, affordability and choice they seek, while yielding an historic federal deficit reduction of $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years.

The top priorities I have heard from families in the Eighth District are affordability, portability, and security of healthcare coverage. Preexisting medical conditions have put families in the category of uninsurable and limited career options to keep coverage. American families with insurance have seen their premiums increase while benefits shrink, and too many have been driven into health care related bankruptcies because of benefit caps or being dropped from coverage when they needed it most. The new law changes that.

Illinois currently has the highest number of rescissions, or "drops" by insurance companies, in the country. Beginning in September, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop coverage of an individual or family when they make a claim, and will not be able to impose lifetime caps on care. Starting in 2014, those limited to the individual market will be able to choose from a variety of benefit plans in a state-wide exchange. By pooling together, they will have more benefit options, volume pricing, and reduced risk. An estimated 31,500 uninsured Eighth District families will get access to affordable coverage.

Small businesses have had limited access to affordable coverage and have paid roughly 18 percent more than large employers for the same benefits. American employers are competitively disadvantaged in the global marketplace, as foreign competitors are not burdened by double-digit increases in health care costs. Too many employers have seen their premiums double or their plans dropped by their insurance company after making an expensive health care claim. Even without an increase in claims, small businesses have been forced to reduce or eliminate benefits because of excessive premium increases.

With this law, insurance companies will be banned from dropping coverage or increasing rates arbitrarily after a claim from an employee. Premium increases will be more predictable as they will need to be justified based on paid claims. Small businesses can purchase coverage through the Exchange, which will provide choices of benefit plans and spread cost and risk over a larger group. There will be no requirement to provide coverage for employers with less than 50 employees. For those over 50, there is no mandate if they are already providing affordable coverage. Most significantly, 17,000 Eighth District small businesses (with 25 employees or less) will be eligible for tax credits of up to 50 percent of employer-paid premium costs.

America keeps its commitment to its seniors. Contrary to some reports, the bill does not reduce Medicare benefits. In fact, senior benefits will increase with savings on prevention and wellness services, which will be provided without a co-pay starting in September. It closes the Part D donut hole, allowing the 6,800 Eighth District beneficiaries who enter the donut hole each year to receive a $250 rebate in 2010 and 50 percent discounts on brand name drugs beginning in 2011, fully closing the donut hole over the next decade. This bill also ensures that Medicare stays solvent for an additional 12 years, by removing over $400 billion in overpayments and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse from the system.

Taxpayers expect accountability. Health insurance reform is as important to America's fiscal health as it is to our physical health. Currently the U.S. spends twice as much, as a percentage of GDP, than other industrialized nations on health care, while an estimated 45 million people are uncovered. At a time when our nation's debt exceeds $12 trillion, H.R. 3950 provides the most significant deficit reduction in more than a decade. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this bill cuts our federal deficit by $1.3 trillion over 20 years. Importantly, the additional anticipated savings from electronic medical records (reducing errors, redundant prescriptions and procedures, and readmissions) are not included in the CBO's savings projections. While other countries have improved health care outcomes and savings with electronic patient records, America's patients and health care professionals have been too afraid of the insurance industry's pre-existing condition exclusions to move forward. This reform unleashes our ability to transform our system to better incorporate technology and best practices. Providing patient- and practice-specific data to doctors drives better health care outcomes. Not surprisingly, better health lowers costs. As our health care costs represent the largest and fastest-growing portion of our government's non-military spending, this legislation puts our nation on a better fiscal track.

When we or a loved one becomes a patient, our top priority is quality of care. The U.S. has the best medical schools, doctors and technology, and yet the World Health Organization has ranked us 37th in the world for quality. We can do better, and this legislation demonstrates America's commitment to improving our nation's standing in health care quality and coverage. To promote best-in-class health care, this legislation increases access, prevention, patient-centered care, and chronic disease management, and implements payment reforms for measureable improvements in quality outcomes. The law ensures that no insurance company or government bureaucrat interferes with doctor and patient decisions.

This law did not start off by accomplishing all of these goals. These reforms went through a long, open legislative process. From the moment the first draft of health insurance reform was introduced in May 2009, I worked to improve the bill before supporting the final product. During the legislative process, I advocated and authored provisions that would provide:

Better Care--To improve quality of care, I advocated for the creation of coordinated comparative effectiveness research data. Such data will provide medical professionals with data on which therapies and best practices provide the best health care outcomes across various diseases and ailments.

Affordable Access--For small business owners and employees, who currently pay more than those at large firms for the same benefits, this bill included provisions I co-authored and have supported in the past to allow them to pool together to access lower rates and a wider choice of insurance plans like their larger competitors.

Choice and Portability ᅢツ¬タï¾"I advocated for and got included a provision that enables states to join together and provide an insurance marketplace where an Illinois resident can purchase insurance from a qualified out-of-state insurer.

Personal responsibility--Our policies should promote healthy lifestyles and choices by all Americans. That is why I worked to include provisions in the bill that support prevention and wellness programs to incentivize exercise, nutrition and other prevention and wellness programs. The bill provides grants to employers who establish wellness programs and allows employers to offer premium discounts of up to 30 percent for participation. Recognizing the additional health risks associated with tobacco use, the bill allows insurance companies to charge up to 50 percent more in health insurance premiums to smokers who don't participate in prevention efforts.

Cost Containment--Our current healthcare spending is growing 2 percent faster than the rate of inflation, which is unsustainable. Our nation spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care (16 percent of GDP), while ranking 37th in quality healthcare outcomes according to the World Health Organization. I advocated for the inclusion of delivery system reform, payment reform, electronic medical records, and chronic disease management provisions, all of which will improve the quality of patient care; reward doctors and medical professionals for outcomes, not operations; promote best practices; and ultimately reduce costs through more efficient use of our nation's healthcare expenditures.

Like all major pieces of legislation, the Affordable Care Act will most likely need adjustments as we continue implementation. For example, after talking with many small businesses in the Eighth District, I support amending the 1099 reporting requirement of the Affordable Care Act for business expenditures over $600. I will remain involved with doctors, patient advocates, hospitals and other health care professionals, to ensure that in executing well intended policy we don't create unintended consequences.

What should the American military and political strategy be in Afghanistan- How would you define "success" for the United States in the war, and at what point could we withdraw our troops-

I support the President's strategy and mission in Afghanistan and the increase in U.S. troop strength, recognizing that security and stability in the region -- particularly destroying, dismantling and degrading Taliban and insurgent capacity -- is essential to America's security. Our mission is not nation building. I oppose an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It is critical, however, that we ensure Afghan security forces are trained to ultimately assume the lead security role. Equally important is holding the Afghan government accountable for its actions and efforts toward peace and prosperity in the region.

What should be the American military and political strategy in Iraq-

Like all Americans, I was relieved to see that family members were able to welcome home the men and women in uniform who've honorably served in Iraq, many on repeated tours of duty. I know it's a blessing for those families that the President was able to end combat operations.

I was also glad to see the Iraqi people and government step up to provide the conditions that allowed us to leave behind a more secure Iraq. During my trips to Iraq, I witnessed first-hand the progress our military, diplomats, and the Iraqi people made since the start of the war in 2003.

Now that major combat operations have concluded, our mission is to complete the transition of security responsibility to the Iraqi government and support Iraq's development as a new democracy. The U.S. Military will continue to train Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), support the ISF on counter terrorism missions and protect U.S. diplomats and civilians in country. The U.S. invested American life and treasure to allow the Iraqi people to live free from fear and democratically elect its government for the first time in modern Iraqi history. Iraq is a sovereign nation and responsible for its own fate, but after seven years of American military engagement, the U.S. continues to have a vested interest in Iraq's future. Going forward, the U.S. should continue to support and ally with Iraq when it is in our shared interest.

What should be done to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons-

In defiance of the international community, Iran continues to develop a nuclear program, including the enrichment of uraniumᅢツ¬タï¾"a key step in producing an atomic weapon. An Iran ruled by Ahmadinejad and armed with nuclear weapons would be a grave and unacceptable risk to the United States, Iran's neighbors in the Middle East, and the entire world.

I have continued to support strong economic sanctions against Iran and was proud to cosponsor The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which gives the President the authority to impose crippling sanctions on Iran if it continues to pursue nuclear weapons ambitions.

I urged the President to work with our international allies and the United Nations to impose global sanctions on Iran, which are more effective than U.S. sanctions alone, and I was pleased that he was successful in securing Russia's and China's commitment.

Will the United States ever have a comprehensive policy on immigration- What should it be- And what is your view of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 and the recent federal appellate court ruling striking down its key provisions-

I can understand the frustration of the people of Arizona, given recent acts of violence on their border and the high number of illegal immigrants crossing the border into their state. Their recently enacted state law underscores the need for recommitment to federal border control and immigration enforcement, which are the responsibility of the federal government.

My approach to immigration reform has always placed border security first. I oppose a Reagan-style amnesty and have voted consistently to build border fences, add border guards, and make illegal immigration a felony. Legislation I've supported has built over 600 miles of border fence and has doubled our border patrol agents since 2001, to more than 19,000 today.

These efforts are making a measurable difference, according to a study released last month by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center. As of March 2009, the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border had dropped more than 60 percent, from 850,000 to 300,000 per year, as compared to the first half of the decade. An estimated 11.1 million illegal immigrants were living in the U.S. in 2009, an 8 percent decline from the peak of 12 million in 2007. However, border security remains a problem.

Remember that in 1986, President Reagan granted a blanket amnesty to undocumented immigrants living here. To answer concerns that his policy would encourage more foreigners to enter the U.S. illegally, Reagan and Congress promised to secure our borders. There were about three million illegal immigrants living here then and there are about 11 million now. Clearly, Congress and the Administration didn't get the job done. Any changes to immigration policy should only be tackled once we've secured our borders.

One of the best ways to deter illegal immigration is to make sure employers know that if they hire illegal workers, they will pay a severe price. We should provide employers with the resources to determine whether they are hiring illegal workers, then prosecute those who knowingly do so. I continue to support federal efforts to improve and expand employee verification systems so that employers have no excuse for hiring illegal workers.

I continue to urge colleagues to pass the SAVE Act, which I helped introduce in Congress last year. This bill would strengthen requirements and penalties on employers, so they verify immigration status before making new hires. It would also hire more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, increase border patrols, implement new aerial and satellite surveillance programs, and expand detention capacities to more effectively deal with those who are here illegally and end the flawed policy of "catch and release."

Legal immigration has always been an important part of our economy and culture. One in four new companies are founded by immigrants, and their contributions to our nation are profound. In today's global economy and dynamic labor markets, it is to our competitive advantage to continue to welcome skilled, legal immigrants to our workplaces and universities, provided our visa caps are set at levels appropriate in the context of the U.S. job market.

Please comment on the president's education agenda, specifically on the Race to the Top competition that emphasizes core national standards and tests and the use of student test data to evaluate and reward teachers

Many families move to the suburbs to secure a quality public education for their children. I support the administration's commitment to strengthening our public schools by holding both students and teachers accountable for measurable outcomes. However, in discussions with local educators on my Education Advisory Committee, along with fellow parents, I have come to understand that the current No Child Left Behind law is flawed in its assessment of our schools and we need to change how we measure student and teacher performance. As roughly 90 percent of American students attend public schools, I oppose diverting federal resources to vouchers.

Although Illinois did not win funding for Phase II of the administration's Race to the Top competition, I support the legislative changes it prompted at the state level. In particular, I support creating a teacher and principal evaluation system and have long supported tracking student progress year over year.

Teacher compensation and tenure should be tied to measurements of student learning in their classrooms, based on year-over-year individual student progress, as well as state and national test scores. Studies have shown having a highly effective teacher is the greatest predictor of student academic success. In order to raise student achievement, a merit-based, results-oriented approach is necessary.

To advance American competitiveness by graduating students with the necessary skill sets to compete globally, I strongly supported reauthorization of the COMPETES Act, increasing our investment in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. I also support programs that engage and excite even our youngest students to consider careers in emerging global industries, and establish private sector site visits demonstrating the application of classroom learning to the real world. All Americans, including Congress, should work to recognize and support academic achievement programs, such as academic Olympics, as we do the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Many families are frustrated about the rising costs of college and question their ability to give their children the best options available. Following the financial crisis, I introduced the College Savings Flexibility Act to expand allowable uses of 529 college savings accounts to include student loan repayment, providing families more flexibility while the market recovers. I co-authored the The American Opportunity Tax Credit, signed into law in the Recovery Act, which provides a tax credit of up to $2,500 for each of four years, and will benefit up to 156,000 college students in Illinois. I also supported H.R. 4872, the largest investment in student lending in U.S. history, now law. This law lowers college loan costs and reduces the deficit by $10 billion by ending subsidies to banks and making the government the originator of all federal student loans. The law also invests $36 billion to expand and strengthen the Pell Grant program, provides $2 billion in competitive grants to community colleges, and creates a new loan repayment program.

What is your position on gay marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act-

I support the law in Illinois, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Because I believe marriage should continue to be legislated at the state level, I oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage because I believe marriage should continue to be handled at the state level.

As an advocate of equal treatment under the law and a cosponsor of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, I support domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

What should be our nation's policy toward the manufacture, sale and use of marijuana-

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under The Controlled Substances Act, making all uses of marijuana illegal under federal law. Although some states have permitted the use of marijuana for exclusively medicinal purposes, the federal government maintains the right to prosecute anyone possessing the drug regardless of purpose. The Supreme Court's decision in the case Gonzales v. Raich reinforced the federal government's power to prosecute anyone found possessing marijuana, recognizing the effect that marijuana can have on interstate commerce. In 2005 and 2006, I supported the court's decision and have opposed legislative proposals that would have prohibited the Justice Department from enforcing federal marijuana laws.

The United States continues to hold "enemy combatants," uncharged, at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Is indefinite detention without charges acceptable- If so, for how long- And are military commissions an acceptable alternative to civilian courts-

We must be unrelenting and aggressive in our pursuit and prosecution of terrorists. It is important to establish a thorough and just process to prosecute these foreign nationals designated as enemy combatants and suspected of being involved in terrorist operations or attacks against U.S. troops.

With approximately 200 detainees--including high-valued al-Qaeda members--still being held at Guantanamo Bay, military commissions should be used when appropriate and effective. Further, I remain opposed to transferring Guantanamo detainees to Illinois, or anywhere in the United States, without further information from the Administration regarding potential security threats and detainees' final legal status. I have supported legislative provisions to that effect that have since become law.

List your educational background

Roosevelt University, B.A., Political Science; Maine East High School

Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong

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

U.S. Congress: 2005--present

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Congresswoman Melissa Bean is serving her third term as U.S. Representative to Illinois' Eighth Congressional District, which includes portions of Lake, McHenry and Cook Counties. The Congresswoman was sworn into office on January 4, 2005.

Rep. Bean serves on the House Financial Services Committee, including the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises and the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. She also serves on the House Committee on Small Business, and serves on the Subcommittee on Tax, Finance and Tax and the Subcommittee on Regulations and Healthcare.

Rep. Bean brings her 20-year business and entrepreneurial background combined with a deep commitment to her community as a wife and mother, to her role in Congress, where she is working to increase access to affordable health insurance, provide meaningful tax relief, improve the climate for small businesses, and demand greater fiscal responsibility and accountability from Congress and the federal government.

Before entering Congress, Rep. Bean helped build revenues in sales management positions at leading technology companies before founding her own consulting firm in 1995, which for nine years served high-tech Fortune 1000 clients. She has also been an active community leader and involved parent.

She credits her work ethic to her mother and father, who was a WWII Marine Raider and small business owner. Rep. Bean, the oldest of four, was born in Chicago in 1962 and raised in Park Ridge, where she graduated from Maine East High School. Bean earned her BA in Political Science from Roosevelt University.

Rep. Bean and her husband Alan have been married for 25 years, and have lived in Barrington for 19 years, where her daughters, Victoria, 18, and Michelle, 16, have attended District 220 schools.

Because of her background and connection to her community, Congresswoman Melissa Bean is a vocal advocate for seniors, small business owners, and all families who call Illinois' Eighth Congressional District home. #Comments_Container, #Comments_Container1,#commentsonly,.StoryInteract{display:none;}