Sean Casten: 2024 candidate for U.S. House 6th District Representative


Party: Democrat

Office Sought: Illinois 6th Congressional District

City: Downers Grove

Age: 52

Occupation: US Representative for Illinois 6th Congressional District

Previous offices held: US Representative for Illinois 6th Congressional District (2019-Present)

What must be done to achieve a consistent national policy on immigration, not just in terms of what such a policy should be but also in terms of getting a policy through the Senate?

I support providing a path to citizenship for Dreamers and our Farmworkers, and was proud to cosponsor and pass the Dream and Promise Act and the Farmworker Modernization Act in the 116th and 117th Congresses that would have done exactly that.

We must increase the funding we provide for immigration processing. For border security to make sure we keep the “bad guys'' out, but also for asylum courts and humanitarian assistance to make sure the “good guys” can come in. Virtually all of the growth in workforce since COVID has been from the foreign-born population. This is the necessary result of our aging population, but also means the remarkable economic recovery we have seen under President Biden is, to a significant degree thanks to the fact that we are a country people want to emigrate to.

I have pressed the White House to make sure that as immigrant processing facilities are shifted from border states to Illinois, we ensure that the federal resources also flow to our municipalities.

Do you believe the nation's election system and those of the individual states are secure and fair? If not, what must be done to improve them?

Recent elections have been the freest, fairest elections we have ever known. COVID protocols led many states to introduce long-overdue incentives to make it easier for every American to vote. Expanded mail-in voting, more drop boxes, longer early vote hours. All these contributed to record turnout.

In Congress, I’m proud to have led the fight to pass bills to expand voter access like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. I believe we need to pass legislation to:

- Permit federal courts to halt questionable voting practices while they are reviewed.

- Provide the Attorney General with the authority to request federal observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.

- Require reasonable public notice for voting changes.

- Provide all citizens with the right to obtain a free federal ID to - among other things - prevent states from using ID laws to target minority populations.

What responsibilities does the United States have toward protecting the security of our allies or other countries where democracy may be threatened? In particular, what are our responsibilities toward Israel and Ukraine?

The United States is the only country that can effectively advocate for the post-WWII order. As it was put to me once by a European parliamentarian: “bad things happen when the United States doesn’t lead.”

We must provide aid to Ukraine. The aid already provided has saved Ukrainian lives, substantially weakened the Russian military, and sent a strong signal to Russia, China, Iran and other expansionary powers that the western world will not tolerate violations of any nation’s territorial sovereignty.

Israel has an absolute right to defend their borders from attacks, including but not limited to those perpetuated by Hamas on October 7. It’s important for the United States to stand with our ally in their time of need, but no less important that we make sure that their response is consistent with international law, that US aid flows to the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the green line, and that our diplomatic efforts always work to ensure an ultimate two state solution.

Is the world in a climate crisis? If so, what role should the federal government play in addressing it?

Climate change remains the existential threat to our species, and I am proud to have served on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis where we wrote substantially all of what became the Inflation Reduction Act. This term I introduced the Clean Electricity & Transmission Acceleration Act to debottleneck our electric grid & ensure all the new investments have a path to market.

In those bills and our continued work, the most important thing the US Government can do is take our finger off the scale. The IMF has calculated that the US subsidizes the fossil fuel sector by $757 billion per year. That is more than 20x the clean energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act & substantially explains why the US only generates $200 of GDP per MMBtu of primary energy use - less than half of many of our trading partners. That is a tremendous amount of needless, economically-wasteful pollution. It is also a tremendous opportunity for reform and has informed much of my legislative agenda.

How would you describe the working relationships in the U.S. House today? What can be done to promote more effective government in Congress, and what will you do personally to work toward this goal?

The U.S. House today now has three political parties - a culturally progressive, pro-governance party, a culturally conservative pro-governance party and a culturally conservative anti-governance party. Those latter two groups are caucusing together as Republicans.

In the 117th and 118th Congresses, we have seen bills pass with robust bipartisan support.

On the one hand, that’s positive - there is ample evidence for a 300 - 320-person governing majority in the House that has a history of working together to get things done. But it’s not lost on us that the two wings of the Republican party don’t like each other. So, while there are plenty of votes that can pass on the floor it is nearly impossible to get them to the floor under the current majority.

On a longer-term basis, we need to find a way to eliminate those parts of our government that make it possible to wield great power even if your agenda is at odds with the majority will of the American people.

What role should the United States play in NATO?

NATO has ensured peace in Europe for 75 years and preserved the post-WWII international order. The United States not only should lead NATO, but we should be proud of the fact that we can.

There always have been, and always will be isolationist voices in the United States government. But history teaches us that when the United States turns inward, other countries expand to fill that void. The “America First” movement in the 1930s emboldened Germany’s expansion just as surely as Donald Trump’s pull back from NATO emboldened Russian, Chinese and Iranian expansion. Subsequent US re-engagement has not only helped protect Ukraine but also led to an expansion of NATO and substantially enhanced US hard and soft power.

We may not want to be the world’s peacekeeper. And we don’t always do it perfectly. But I’d always rather we play that role than anyone else.

How do you perceive the financial health of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid? To the degree you may see problems with these programs, what should be done about them?

Both programs suffer from the fact that they are progressive policies funded by regressive taxes. FICA contributions are currently capped at $168,600 of W-2 income. That means that the wealthier you are, the less you contribute as a percent of income. Taking off that cap would substantially solve near-term challenges, and I was proud to co-sponsor H.R. 860 which would start that process.

On the cost side, we have huge opportunities to lower the price of health care in this country which would in turn drastically cut the cost of Medicare. We spend approximately $10,000 per person per year on health care yet have vastly worse health outcomes than countries like Switzerland and Germany under $7,000. Getting to those levels would free up ~$1 trillion/year in healthcare expenses. That means lowering the cost of prescription drugs, building on the work we did to impose insulin price caps and limited Medicare price negotiation for pharmaceutical purchases in the IRA.

How do you assess the state of the national economy? What should be done to make it stronger or more stable?

The national economy is in very good shape. US GDP is not only growing but is growing faster than all our OECD peers. Inflation, while still high, is coming down faster than our OECD peers – after we all experienced the same COVID-driven price shocks. Unemployment is at historic lows, and job creation is at record highs, with over 14 million new jobs created since Biden took office. Perhaps most significantly wage inflation is outpacing core inflation for the first time in my lifetime, leaving more money in more people’s pockets.

As against those successes, wealth inequality is stubbornly and unacceptably high and US debt levels are unsustainable. Our tax system needs to be reformed so that everyone pays their fair share, and our tax officials need to be sufficiently funded to pursue tax cheats and make sure all pay the taxes they owe - not just the people whose wealth depends on W-2 income.

What personal qualifications do you bring that would make you an effective congressional representative in dealing with the issues the country will face in the next two years?

I ran for Congress in 2018 having spent 20 years in the private sector running companies that were dedicated to profitably reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was the conceit of those companies - and my Congressional career since - that there is no conflict between our wallets and our morals; there is only a conflict between the interests of energy producers and the interests of energy consumers.

Since coming to Congress, I’ve been able to bring that perspective to the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, where I served for two terms and where we wrote the report that became the Inflation Reduction Act - the biggest climate bill ever passed by any government anywhere.

But that conceit - that there is a win/win provided we craft regulation to align profit incentives with the public interest - has informed all of our other legislative efforts as well, such as pushing for expansions in the Affordable Care Act as a way to lower healthcare costs.

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