By: Motif Magazine
We asked the following questions of candidates for US Congress. These are the people we’d be sending to Washington, so we went easy on the RI-related policy questions and tried to open up some of the bigger pictures. Respondents in the race for District #1 were David Cicilline (Dem, incumbent) and Russell Taub (Rep). Respondents in the race for District #2 were Jeff Johnson (Ind), James Langevin (Dem, incumbent), Rhue Reis (Rep). Independent candidate Sal Caiozzo could not be reached for comment. Any editing was strictly for clarity or spelling.
What is the single most important issue facing RI right now and how would you address it in Congress? Is the biggest issue facing the country different?
Jim Langevin (D): The most important issue facing Rhode Island and our nation is the economy, and fostering an environment that supports job growth. This is one of my top priorities in Congress, because as I visit businesses around our state, I hear often that companies are hiring but are struggling to find qualified candidates. This gulf, known as the skills gap, is a national issue because our education system has become disconnected from the workplace. As co-chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus in Congress, I am focused on closing that skills gap and ensuring that young people have access to the training, education and certification programs that will prepare them for the jobs that are available today and will grow in the future.
Would you advocate changing any gun laws, if elected? In what ways?
Langevin: I support the Second Amendment, but I also support commonsense reforms that will keep guns out of the wrong hands. I believe that every person who purchases a gun should have to undergo a background check. That means we must close the gun show loophole, and prohibit individuals on the No-Fly List who are suspected of terrorism from purchasing weapons. I also introduced the Crackdown on Deadbeat Gun Dealers Act to ensure that gun dealers are complying with federal regulations. Finally, we should reinstate and strengthen the federal ban on assault weapons, some of which have been used in recent shootings.
If you had to choose, would you allocate more financial support to 1. arts education 2. health education / fitness or 3. traditional academics?
Langevin: Arts education, health education and traditional subjects like math and science are all critical to a well-rounded education, and none should be overlooked. Last year, I supported passage of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, which empowers schools to incorporate art, music and many other subjects beyond the standard curriculum, and includes grant programs for extracurricular activities, with a special focus on using them to further student achievement. All of these investments are critical to student success.
What’s your position on the idea of free college tuition?
Langevin: I believe that higher education should be accessible to all students – not just those who can afford it. I have advocated strongly for the expansion of Pell grants that help young people pay for college, and we must do more to get the overall cost of college under control. That must include reining in interest rates on student loans. I believe that the interest rate should cover only the essential costs of administering the loan. The federal government should not be making a profit on the backs of hardworking students.
According to a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, US maternal mortality rates are currently some of the highest among developed nations. What do you view as the biggest contributing factor to this statistic and what can be done to address it?
Langevin: While the Affordable Care Act has reduced the percentage of uninsured Americans to a record low of just over 9%, access to quality, affordable healthcare remains a challenge, particularly in rural communities and for low-income women. We must work to improve on the ACA and continue breaking down barriers to care, for women and for all Americans. We must also do much more to support mothers in general, and that includes enacting paid family medical leave so that women don’t have to fear losing their jobs for taking care of themselves and their children.
Are you concerned about the economic effects of climate change, particularly on RI? And if so, what should be done to slow or reverse the effects of climate change?
Langevin: Climate change presents serious economic, environmental and national security challenges. In Rhode Island, we feel the effects more acutely because our economy is closely tied in to our coastal resources. Sea level rise, coastal erosion and the increasing frequency and severity of severe weather events threaten our homes, our businesses and the lives of our citizens. There are many steps we can and must take to address climate change, including reducing global emissions and decreasing our consumption of oil. As Energy Task Force Chair and a founding member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, I believe that renewable energy is the future. We must invest in innovation and development of clean technologies like solar, wind and geothermal. I have supported legislation that would require 20% of our nation’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020, and that is just the beginning of what we must do to slow the damaging effects of climate change.
In a recent Washington Post survey, only 3% who responded considered congresspeople highly productive. Why do you think people look at congress so unfavorably?
Langevin: Partisanship has reached an all-time high, which is incredibly frustrating because I have seen what good can come from working across the aisle. In fact, I have made bipartisanship a hallmark of my tenure in Congress, and I work with as many Republican partners as possible: on workforce development, it’s Republican Congressman GT Thompson of Pennsylvania; on cybersecurity, it’s Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas; on disability policy, it’s Republican Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi. And that’s just to name a few. We don’t agree on everything, but we work together to find common ground and get results. That’s what our constituents deserve and expect from the people they elect.