Bill Foster: Candidate Profile
11th Congressional District (Democrat)
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
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Family: Wife - Aesook
Daughter - Christine
Son - Billy
Occupation: Particle physicist and businessman
Education: B.A. Physics - University of Wisconsin - Madison (1976)
Ph.D. Physics - Harvard University (1983)
Civic involvement: Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence, Board Member, (~1997-2003)
American Physical Society, Elected Fellow, (1998 -)
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Science and Security Board Member (2010-2011)
Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Member, (2011 -)
Joliet Chamber of Commerce, Member, (2011 -)
American Association for the Advancement of Science, Elected Fellow, (2011 -)
DuPage County NAACP, Member, (2011-)
Elected offices held: U.S. Representative (IL-14) 2008-2011
U.S. Representative (IL-11) 2013 - Present
How will you work to make Congress more productive and effective? What actions are needed to produce a healthy federal budget? Specifically, what changes do you advocate regarding how revenue is produced or what our spending priorities are? In particular, what effect does current policy have on your district and what changes, if any, are needed?
As the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress and a successful businessman, my background in business and science allows me to take a thoughtful approach to legislation that we need in today's political environment.
I support a combination of closing deductions and loopholes that solely benefit special interests rather than average citizens and responsible spending cuts. Currently, the United States loses $100 billion a year in tax revenue when corporations shift their profits to offshore tax havens. Revenues lost through tax fraud and noncompliance are currently estimated at $458 billion per year, while the entire federal deficit was $483 billion in 2014.
I support most features of Hillary Clinton's tax plan. The plan would result in additional revenue to pay down our national debt through a cap on loopholes, would implement the Buffett rule's minimum effective tax rate for millionaires, and would impose an additional 4 percent on individuals who make over $5 million.
I am also committed to fixing Illinois' Payer State problem. States like Illinois pay far more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal spending. Illinois loses around $40 billion each year because Illinoisans pay more than the average American in income taxes and the federal government spends less in the state than the national average. This fall, I will introduce legislation to increase investment in roads and bridges in Illinois by fixing the formula to reflect how much we pay into the Highway Trust Fund.
What immigration policies do you support? Where, if at all, do you see room for compromise to produce an effective policy on immigration? How will these policies affect your district?
I support comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, improves our legal immigration system, unites families, and provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who currently live in fear of deportation.
Immigration reform remains one of the most important issues Congress needs to tackle. I am very disappointed by House Republicans' refusal to permit an up or down vote on this issue. Not only would it eliminate fear for families who may be separated, it would also have a tremendous, positive economic impact. Immigrants greatly contribute to our country's economic prosperity. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies in 2010 were founded by immigrants or their children. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that reform would reduce the deficit by $900 billion over 20 years.
I supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. I also co-sponsored the House companion bill that received bipartisan support. The pathway to citizenship included in both bills was tough but fair. It allowed undocumented immigrants who maintain jobs and play by the rules to earn citizenship over 13 years. It also made sure that immigrants who have committed serious crimes or pose a public safety risk are deported. It also provided DREAMers with an expedited pathway to citizenship, which I strongly support.
I also introduced a resolution urging the Secretary of Defense to allow DREAMers to serve in the military. I am proud that this idea is included in the 2016 Democratic Party Platform.
What should be the top priorities in Congress related to the Affordable Care Act? If you want changes, what specifically do you recommend? If you want the act entirely eliminated, please address these questions: Is that politically feasible? If it proves infeasible, where do you see the potential for compromise? If it is eliminated, what would you replace it with, if anything?
I support the Affordable Care Act and believe we should take steps to further expand coverage and reduce costs. It is important to remember the purpose of health care reform: to make sure Americans have access to quality, affordable health care - especially those individuals who were being denied by their insurance companies because they weren't profitable customers. Insurance companies routinely denied coverage to those with preexisting conditions and kicked individuals off when they got sick. As of March, 20 million Americans now have health care insurance as a result of the law.
I support proposals that would improve coverage and reduce costs in our health care system as long as we understand the proposals' costs and know how we will pay for them.
Specifically, it is important that families do not face a penalty for the good health care policies negotiated in collective bargaining agreements. That is why I have cosponsored H.R. 2050, the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2015.
What military or diplomatic roles should the United States play to promote peace and stability in the Mideast? Under what circumstances should we have military forces actively operating?
The United States will always be a global leader, and we need to actively engage the international community to make sure all citizens of the world live freely and equally under their country's rule of law. We cannot, however, afford to fight other nations' wars interminably or stabilize their regions.
There is no other nation in the world that can lead the global community like we can, and we need to build coalitions to fight violent extremism including groups like ISIS. The United States has a long tradition of aiding persecuted minorities abroad, and I support the efforts that have been taken to weaken the Islamic State through targeted airstrikes and support our Kurdish and Iraqi allies.
In Afghanistan, I support the President's decision to delay troop withdrawals in order to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists again, but we need to come up with a plan to transition control to Afghan forces and a stable Afghan government. We cannot continue our presence there indefinitely. Maintaining forces in Afghanistan provides temporary security, but our long-term security depends upon the establishment of a government committed to fighting terrorism within its borders. We need to provide military support in the interim, but we need to work with them to establish the rule of law that will allow a self-sustaining government in addition to the security forces necessary to prevent the Taliban from seizing control.
Will you uphold the international climate change treaty? If not, what alternative steps would you advocate? If so, what steps will you take to meet U.S. obligations under the accord?
As a physicist and the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress, I pay close attention to the data, which informs my policy positions. The scientific consensus is clear: climate change is real and there is evidence that human activity has made a significant contribution to it. I support the international community's tackling this challenge in a comprehensive and coordinated way. I am encouraged by the recent agreement between the United States and China to commit to the Paris climate agreement.
At home, the most important action we can take is to expand investment in research and development of low-carbon energy sources and more efficient use of existing energy sources. I have twice sponsored amendments to increase funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science which is the principal source of funding for our national laboratories which conducts innovative research on new sources of low-carbon and renewable energy. For example, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory is conducting research to discover the next generation of batteries with five times higher energy density than current batteries, which has the potential to transform ground transportation and energy delivery.
In the near term, the most important step that we can take to address climate change is to allow the EPA to implement sensible regulations that would reduce carbon emissions both by increasing energy efficiency and encouraging the transition to less carbon-intensive technologies.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
I strongly support improving medical treatment options for those suffering with opioid and heroin addiction. I have spoken with groups and community leaders in the 11th District to raise awareness of this epidemic and discuss treatments that can reverse an overdose and prevent relapses.
I led a joint letter to the Department of Health and Human Services to make sure that a new implant will remain affordable to people who struggle with addiction. This implant releases buprenorphine, a drug that reduces cravings for opioids and provides a reliable way for individuals to get medical treatment for addiction.
I have have also introduced several pieces of legislation to help us tackle this epidemic. I introduced H.R. 3676, the Expanding Opportunities for Recovery Act, which would remove barriers to addiction treatment by providing grants for residential, inpatient opioid addiction treatment. I also introduced H.R. 3677, the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which would create a program to share information about prescriptions with the state health profession board and encourage states to implement drug take-back programs to allow people to dispose of unused prescription drugs. Finally, this bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to review whether naloxone should be available over the counter.
I introduced H.R. 4982, the Examining Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Act, which required the federal government to evaluate and report on the inpatient and outpatient treatment capacity, availability, and needs in the United States. It was passed by the House of Representatives without opposition.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
President Obama has forever changed our country through significant economic and social progress despite the Great Recession and political obstructionism with thoughtfulness and grace.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
My father's work as a lawyer during the Civil Rights movement encouraged me to think about public service and dedication to the service of others.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
Knowing what I know now, I would seriously have considered transitioning from particle physics to molecular biology and genetic engineering in the mid-1990s.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Physics was and still is my favorite subject. It continues to help me view policy from a different perspective than my colleagues in Congress.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
We should to do what we can to improve the lives of other people whether through public service or everyday acts of kindness.