Underwood worries about debt as she considers universal healthcare
Being careful with the federal government's pocketbook as she searches for the solutions her constituents elected her to find was a repeated theme last week at a town hall hosted by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood.
Underwood, the new representative of Illinois' 14th Congressional District, joined fellow Democratic Rep. Sean Casten at McHenry County College. While many questions for Casten involved climate change, Underwood took on topics from universal health care to the growing federal debt. Several of the questions had a conservative flavor, a reminder that some constituents are already eyeing possible Republican challengers.
A man from Woodstock asked Underwood if she thought Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's wearing of blackface was better or worse than his support for "infanticide." In response, she stopped just short of calling for Northam's resignation.
"I wholeheartedly reject all forms of racism," she said. "There are elected officials in this country that are reticent to own up to these displays of racism. I am not someone that believes that my position in elected office is mine and that I own it. I represent you. I think that he has been compromised in the ability to do his job."
As far as the restrictions on late-term abortions Virginia is having, Underwood said, "I believe a woman has the unrestricted right to the full range of reproductive health care services."
Underwood answered several health care questions by an audience that seemed largely in favor of universal health care. The problem, Underwood said, is universal health care means something different to almost everyone she speaks to. Some people want Medicare for everyone 55 and older, or 40 and older, or even from birth.
"Those are very different things," Underwood said. "Some people want a Medicare buy-in, aka a public option." And, it costs money.
"I've been really transparent about a desire to understand how much each of these things costs and how we pay for it," Underwood said. "It doesn't mean having a cost is bad; it just means we should know. I look forward to learning what those answers are and supporting the best solution."
Underwood explained she's especially mindful of the costs given the growing federal debt. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the national debt passed $22 trillion for the first time on Feb. 11. The debt ballooned by $2.07 trillion since Trump's inauguration. Since 1993, the only other president to grow the debt by a larger amount in an equivalent time period was Barack Obama ($3.46 trillion).
Underwood said the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the main reason for recent debt growth.
"This tax plan put us in the hole read bad," she said. "It is unsustainable. This level of deficit spending is one that should make us pause. To be honest, part of the challenge in our ability to do our jobs is finding these pay-fors. My commitment is to put forward policies that don't make the situation worse."