Bill Foster: Candidate profile
Office sought: U.S. Representative, IL-11th District
Family: Wife -- Aesook, Son -- Billy, Daughter -- Christine
Occupation: Congressman, Former Particle Physicist and Businessman
Education: BA -- University of Wisconsin-Madison; PhD -- Harvard University
Civic involvement: Served on Board of the Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence, approx. 1996-2001; Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2011-2012.
Elected offices held: U.S. Congress -- IL-14 -- 2008-2011; U.S. Congress -- IL-11 -- 2013 -- Present
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: Yes, 2012
Questions and Answers
1. What have the past three years of Donald Trump's unconventional leadership taught us about politics in the United States? What is the best thing his presidency has done? What is the most significant criticism you have of it?
I believe President Trump has performed poorly and is an embarrassment to our country's reputation. I strongly disagree with his attacks on health care, his racist and harmful immigration policies, and his poorly planned and incompetently executed trade wars.
Led by President Trump, the Republicans have tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. When they failed, they began to sabotage health care for millions of Americans, taking away protections for preexisting conditions and driving up premium costs for middle class Americans.
President Trump's views on immigration are cruel and racist. He has put in place policies designed to block Muslim migration and separated families at the border. These are moral failures that violate our principles.
Lastly, his trade wars with our allies, including Canada, have been motivated by xenophobia and will likely only hurt American consumers. These thoughtless provocations have been executed in violation of international agreements.
I agree with some of his policy goals, including bringing the supply chain for electronics back to reliable allies that respect democracy, intellectual property, and individual freedom. We, however, have not seen the Administration deliver on this issue.
2. What needs to be done to get Congress to work constructively, whether that be senators and representatives of both parties working with each other or Congress itself working with the president?
I have seen several examples of bipartisanship and cooperation -- they just don't make the nightly news. Even in this divided Congress, I was able to work with Republican Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania to pass an amendment last summer -- with a bipartisan vote -- that repealed a longstanding ban on unique patient identifiers. It could open the door to a more efficient systems to match patients to their data which would save lives and reduce health care costs.
On a broader, structural level, I have been working for several years to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) because more fact-based and rational policy discussions are the key to true bipartisan, bicameral cooperation. From 1972 to 1995 the OTA served as an independent legislative support agency, staffed by technical experts from various disciplines. It's mission was to provide expertise on a range of issues and for more than two decades the OTA provided relevant, unbiased technical and scientific assessments for members of Congress and staff.
Today, the OTA would offer policy makers the tools to tackle and understand new technological developments and their impact on society. It could also help Congress use taxpayer money more efficiently. That's why I would like to re-establish the OTA so it can provide Congress with real-time advice on technical issues, including data privacy, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity.
3. What do you see as the most important issues to address regarding immigration reform? If you oppose funding for a wall, what steps do you support to try to control illegal immigration?
I strongly support comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, improves our legal immigration system, unites families, and provides an earned path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who currently live in fear of deportation. It as a tragedy of history that the House was not allowed to vote on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill the Senate passed in 2013. I was among those Democrats who were collecting private commitments from Republicans to vote for the CIR bill, and it would have passed by more than 30 votes if we had simply been allowed to vote on it.
Meanwhile, we need to do everything we can to protect these members of our society who are American in every way but on paper.
I support DACA and will continue to work to create a path to citizenship for the DREAMers, who came to this country through no fault of their own. The United States is the only home many of them have ever known. In my district, they are community leaders and college students who contribute greatly to our country. One of my proudest votes was in favor of the DREAM act when it first passed the House in 2010.
President Trump's decision to rescind protections to these young people is cruel and will have a devastating impact on the lives of the nearly 800,000 young people, over 42,000 in Illinois. This decision will also greatly harm our economy. Studies have found that DREAMers add $460 billion of economic impact to our national GDP.
4. Please define your position on health care reform, especially as it relates to the Affordable Care Act.
I believe that healthcare is a human right and that we should continue moving towards universal coverage. One of my proudest votes in Congress was for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. I support and have voted for a robust public option because he believes it is vital to provide people with a high-quality, low-cost coverage option that competes with private insurance plans. I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 2085, the Consumer Health Options and Insurance Competition Enhancement (CHOICE) Act, to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act's individual marketplaces.
I remain committed to strengthening the ACA and ensuring that live-saving health care is available and affordable for everyone. Specifically, this should include continuing the ACA's Medicaid expansion by further expanding coverage and eliminating means-testing, a gradual reduction of the age of eligibility for Medicare, and reducing out-of-pocket costs by cost-reducing measures such as H.R. 3 which would, among other things, empower the Secretary of HHS to negotiate drug prices.
Medicare and Medicaid are major contributors to our long-term budget deficits, and chronic diseases like Diabetes and Alzheimer's will constitute more than half of that spending. Through decades of federally-funded research, we may now be at the threshold of cures for these diseases. If a low-cost cure can be found for either of these, it will be transformative to the fiscal future of these essential programs.
5. What is your position on federal funding for contraception, the Violence Against Women Act and reproductive rights?
I have cosponsored multiple bills on this topic including H.R. 1692, the the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act, would ensure public health insurance programs provide abortion coverage and H.R. 2975, the Women's Health Protection Act would protect the ability of health care providers to provide reproductive health care, including abortions.
I strongly oppose the Trump Administration's attempts to limit access to reproductive health care including the gag rule that would block access to affordable contraception, preventative care and important health information. The gag rule is designed to push organizations like Planned Parenthood out of the Title Ten program and is a direct attack on people who rely on them for birth control and essential reproductive health care.
I have been a strong supporter of the Violence Against Women Act. I am also a proud cosponsor of bills to expand protections such as H.R. 511, the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, which would close fatal loopholes in federal law that allow dangerous dating abusers, stalkers and those subject to ex parte protective orders to have firearms as well as H.R. H. R. 569, the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act of 2019, which would clarify current law to increase protections for victims of domestic abuse, violence and stalking by: 1) barring convicted stalkers from buying or owning firearms and 2) ensuring people who have abused dating partners are prohibited from buying or owning firearms.
6. What do you consider America's role in world affairs? What are we doing correctly to fill that role? What else should we be doing?
Today, the United States remains a beacon of freedom and democracy around the world. As a nation that prides itself on democratic values and the rule of law, we must continue to utilize multilateralism and the international institutions created in the aftermath of the Second World War to promote human rights, peace, and security around the globe.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials remains one of the greatest threats to global security. Congress must act on the extension of the New Start Treaty and continue to support the indispensable work being done at our national laboratories and international institutions. That is why I've offered legislation that would bring attention to the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Another crucial thing that America can do is to continue to reduce the worldwide use of highly enriched "weapons grade" Uranium for uses in which low-enriched "non weapons grade" Uranium will suffice. This was supported by a letter signed by more than 30 Nobel Prize winners. In Congress I have personally been very active in promoting legislation and research to reduce the use of High Enriched Uranium in Space-Based reactors and in naval propulsion reactors.
It is also crucial that the United States rejoin the rest of the world in returning to and supporting the Iran Nuclear Deal.
7. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
As a scientist, I know that climate change is real and largely man-made. It is a real threat to our children's future and our world's natural beauty and resources.
As a businessman, I believe that the most important thing we can do is to invest more into research dedicated to lowering the costs of reliable and sustainable clean energy -- including nuclear -- and to lower the carbon footprint of existing industrial and agricultural processes. It is only by lowering their costs that we will be able to get the developing world to adopt low-carbon technologies.
As an example, decades of federally funded research at Argonne National Lab and elsewhere has resulted in batteries with lower cost and far higher performance. As a result, in the next few years the total cost of ownership of electric cars will become lower than gasoline-powered cars. When this price crossover takes place, we will no longer need to be arguing about CAFE standards since nobody will want to buy a fossil fuel powered car.
There is a useful role for the government to play by providing well-chosen subsidies to low-carbon technologies when the research has reached the threshold of commercial viability. An example of this was the federally backed start-up loan to TESLA to demonstrate that battery-powered cars were now economical at scale. Similarly, in Congress I introduced the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act to fund demonstration projects for grid-scale energy storage. This will be crucial to enable intermittent renewable power sources like wind and solar to play a larger role in our electricity supply.