The Minnesota Newspaper Association distributes a survey every two years, asking for feedback from candidates for congressional and judicial offices. This year, U.S. Senate incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar is being challenged by Republican Kurt Bills and Independence Party candidate Stephen Williams.
The candidates were asked the following questions:
1. Background: Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.
2. Top priority: What is your top priority for 2013 and why are you running?
3. Foreign affairs: Do you support the current schedule for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan? Should Congress and the president pursue additional trade pacts? If so, with whom?
4. Health care: Should the federal health care reform law stand in its current form, or should it be changed?
5. Education: What role should the federal government play in ensuring that U.S. graduates can compete in the global economy?
6. Energy: Do you agree with the science of global warming? Should the United States be more or less aggressive in its pursuit of renewable energy sources?
7. Social Security/Medicare: Should Social Security/Medicare be left status quo, or should be they scrutinized for budget cuts?
8. Economy: What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?
9. Agriculture: Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies? Be specific.
10. Immigration: What should be the tenets of any immigration reform legislation?
U.S. Senator Democrat Amy Klobuchar
Background: My grandfather worked 1,500 feet underground in the iron ore mines of northern Minnesota. My dad Jim was a newspaperman, and my mother Rose was an elementary school teacher who was still teaching a classroom of thirty second-graders at age seventy. I learned the value of hard work from my parents and grandparents. Before being elected as Hennepin County Attorney, I worked as an attorney in the private sector for more than a decade. As a United States Senator, I continue to bring the values that I learned growing up in Minnesota to my work every day. Whether it’s standing up for middle-class families, fighting for highway funding for Minnesota, working to get members of the Minnesota National Guard the benefits they were promised, or cutting through red tape to help our businesses grow and thrive, I will continue to put Minnesota first and fight for the people of our state.
Top priority: My work as senator has been defined by one value—putting Minnesota first. We need an economy that is built to last and that creates economic opportunity for all Americans. I have been working to advance a competitive agenda for America that promotes long-term economic growth and private sector jobs, including revitalizing America’s innovative edge, educating the next generation of American innovators, opening up new markets abroad for U.S. producers, cutting through regulatory red tape, developing homegrown energy, and reducing our nation’s debt in a balanced way. I will continue to work with Minnesota businesses, workers, and farmers to ensure they have the support they need to succeed.
Foreign affairs: I support withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2014. That’s why I joined with 26 other senators in writing a letter to President Obama seeking a reduction of military forces in Afghanistan beginning in July 2011. Our troops have demonstrated tremendous courage to get us to this point. We can’t afford to continue with an open-ended conflict.
As chair of the Subcommittee on Competition, Innovation, and Export Promotion, I have been a leader in the Senate in promoting legislation and policies to open up new markets abroad for U.S. products. That’s why I’ve supported policies to help open up overseas markets to our agriculture exporters, including pushing China to reopen its markets to U.S. pork after the H1N1 scare and urging Japan to accept all U.S. beef products. And last year, the Senate passed trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, and I supported the agreements with South Korea and Panama. We should pursue additional trade agreements while making sure they benefit Minnesota and treat our workers and businesses fairly. I’ll also continue working on legislation to open new markets for our businesses so they can reach new customers. Bipartisan legislation I authored, the Export Promotion Act, was signed into law last year and will help small and medium-sized businesses connect with export promotion resources and I’m working to pass legislation to open Cuba’s market to our agricultural products so we can help our farmers and ranchers reach 11 million new customers.
Health care: I supported the Affordable Care Act that includes important reforms to our health-care system, such as closing the “donut hole” for seniors’ prescription drugs, allowing young people to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26, and ensuring that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance. But I have always said that this law is a beginning, not an end, and I believe that improvements still need to be made. Moving forward, we can continue to work on eliminating waste and fraud, as well as focus on more reforms to our health-care-delivery system so that we are rewarding high quality, efficient care. In addition, we should repeal the medical device tax. I opposed this tax from the beginning and during the health-reform debate fought to reduce the original proposed tax by half. I understand the impact this new tax would have on small and large medical device companies in Minnesota and that’s why I’m working to repeal it. We also need to allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices on behalf of seniors. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, as the Veterans Administration does, would save $240 billion over the next 10 years and help lower the cost of drugs for our nation’s seniors.
Education: By 2018, 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require at least some post-secondary education and we must do a better job of preparing students for the jobs that will be available to them when they graduate—positions that may not require a Ph.D. or even a four-year degree, but demand specialized training and experience. This is a crucial part of advancing a competitive agenda for America. To address this, we need to first strengthen our commitment to two-year community and technical colleges and STEM programs to ensure that our students have the education and skills they need to succeed in the 21st-century workforce. Second, I will continue to work to ensure education remains affordable for all students and families in Minnesota and across the country. America’s future economic prosperity depends on it. Third, we need to keep working to make significant changes to No Child Left Behind, including putting in place better accountability systems, more flexibility, and targeted efforts to close the achievement gaps.
Energy: There is strong scientific consensus that climate change is having an impact on our world. I believe we need to put America in control of our energy future through an “all of the above” energy strategy that creates jobs, increases domestic energy production, decreases our dependence on foreign oil, and makes energy costs more affordable for middle-class families. My focus has been on developing homegrown energy sources and new energy technologies, including advanced biofuels, wind, solar, geothermal, and safe domestic oil and natural gas drilling in places like North Dakota. We also need strong national energy-efficiency targets to make sure our energy policies encourage energy efficiency in every part of the country. That’s why I have pushed for a strong national renewable electricity standard like Minnesota has, in addition to introducing legislation to provide a tax credit to integrate renewable energy, like wind and solar, into the electric grid. I believe that through an “all of the above” strategy we have the opportunity to meet our nation’s energy demands and promote economic development in Minnesota and across America.
Social Security/Medicare: Social Security is our nation’s most successful domestic program, providing an essential safety net for our seniors and ensuring a decent retirement for Americans who have worked hard their entire lives. I have consistently fought against risky schemes to privatize Social Security. I believe we must ensure this program remains solvent for generations to come by considering reasonable steps, such as raising the cap on taxable income. Currently, all income above $106,800 is exempt from the Social Security payroll tax. Gradually raising this threshold, and other reasonable reforms, could help ensure the solvency of Social Security, but not impact current beneficiaries.
Despite periodic efforts at reform, Medicare has not rewarded the type of high quality health-care-delivery systems like we have in Minnesota that provide Medicare beneficiaries with better value. States that have historically delivered low quality, inefficient care are paid for their wasteful practices, while efficient states such as Minnesota are punished. To strengthen Medicare, we need to have Medicare rewarding high quality, cost-effective results like those we have achieved in Minnesota. We are getting a start with that with the Affordable Care Act, but we need to do more. We also need to work to eliminate fraud and waste from the system, and allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices on behalf of seniors. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, as the Veterans Administration does, would save $240 billion over the next 10 years and help lower the cost of drugs for our nation’s seniors.
Economy: We need an economy that is built to last and one that creates economic opportunity for all Americans. I have been working to advance a competitive agenda for America that promotes long-term economic growth and private sector jobs, including revitalizing America’s innovative edge, educating the next generation of American innovators, opening up new markets abroad for U.S. products, cutting through regulatory red tape, developing homegrown energy, and reducing our nation’s debt in a balanced way. I will continue to work with Minnesota businesses, workers, and farmers to ensure they have the support they need to succeed.
Agriculture: I believe the people who grow our food deserve to know their livelihoods can’t be swept away in the blink of an eye—either by market failures or natural disasters. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I was a leader in getting the bipartisan farm bill through the Senate and worked to make sure that the bill provided a strong safety net for our farmers, while still making important payment reforms. The Senate-passed farm bill makes $23 billion in cuts, with $16 billion in savings coming from farm programs, even though these programs only make up 14 percent of the total cost of the farm bill.
In the Senate-passed farm bill, we eliminated the direct payments and strengthened crop insurance —a program considered by many farmers across Minnesota to be the most important piece of the farm safety net to help mitigate risk. But we also made changes to the crop insurance program, like reducing a producer’s subsidy by 15 percent if they make over $750,000 dollars, to help focus our limited resources on family farmers. The bill also includes payment caps for farm programs other than crop insurance and ensures the payments are only going to farmers and ranchers on actively engaged in production agriculture. We also made changes to the dairy program to help provide a stronger safety net to dairy producers who have been hit hard in recent years. I supported special help to dairy farmers during the worst of the price declines in 2009 and I support the new dairy reforms in the Senate-passed Farm Bill, like the Margin Protection Program, which would allow farmers to purchase margin insurance to help manage risk.
Immigration: I supported the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reforms in 2007. I will continue to support comprehensive immigration reform that includes: order at the border, workplace enforcement of existing laws, and a pathway to citizenship for those who obey our laws and are willing to learn English, pay their taxes, and pay a substantial fine. I have also supported efforts to increase border security and enforcement of existing laws because I believe the American people need to have faith that our system works and that people won’t be rewarded for breaking the law. I believe we need to pass the DREAM Act to provide a pathway to citizenship for young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents through no fault of their own. We need to give these young people the opportunity to give back to their country, receive an education, and become model members of our society.
Other issues: While many in Washington focus on scoring political points, as senator I’ve focused on getting things done for the people of Minnesota. Nearly two-thirds of my bills have Republican cosponsors. I’ve worked across the aisle with Representative John Kline to provide our National Guard members their full benefits, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to streamline the adoption process, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to pass legislation to prevent shortages of life-saving medications. I’ll continue pushing for bipartisan solutions to get things done because I believe now more than ever we need elected officials who can set aside partisan divisions and find common ground on solutions to move our state and our nation forward.