Making government accountable to people, not corporations

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Washington only really works for big banks, corporations and their lobbyists, who have a direct line to our elected leaders. But Washington doesn’t work for most people – and the only way to change that is to get money out of politics.

I believe in a government that is accountable to everyday Americans — not just CEOs and billionaires. That’s why I support the proposed Government by the People Act, which would create a system where public matching of small-dollar donations can offset the negative influence of corporate money in our elections.

The bill would allow federal candidates to voluntarily opt to only accept donations of $150 or less — and have those donations matched six-to-one. With this plan, a high school teacher who donates $100 would have the same voice as a lobbyist who contributes $700. This bill would get us one step closer to leveling the playing field and ensure that we truly are a government of, for, and by the people.

To further accomplish this goal, I also support a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United decision. 

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College Affordability

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For years, college tuition has been rising faster than inflation at a rate of two-to-one. Hundreds of thousands of college graduates start their working lives already owing the equivalent of a mortgage before even getting their first paycheck.

Kate and I are still paying student debt, so we get it.

In Congress, I will introduce legislation capping the amount colleges can increase their tuition each year. Education should be a path to economic security, not decades of debt.

photo credit: Ars Electronica via photopin cc

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Protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

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Social Security is a sacred contract between every American worker. Privatizing Social Security would endanger America’s seniors by exposing them to risks that were not part of the deal. Privatizing Social Security would be just plain wrong, and I would forcefully oppose any efforts to do so.

I would also fight any attempt to reduce the funding and effectiveness of Medicare or Medicaid. I led the Medicaid expansion effort in Arizona because I believe firmly in the program’s effectiveness. These programs are critical for millions of Americans and there is no way it will be weakened on my watch.

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Environment

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My generation of leaders, both in the United States and throughout the world, will be judged by what we do to curb climate change. It is the single biggest long-term issue our world faces, and we are very quickly losing our opportunity to prevent the disastrous results that will come from inaction.

For a time, Democrats were doing a great job of advancing climate change legislation. But too many Democrats have backed off of these proposals out of the fear that their campaigns will be attacked with millions of dollars by the oil and coal lobbies, along with the Koch brothers.

If we as Democrats really believe in our progressive values, we have to be willing to put our individual careers on the line for something bigger than ourselves. Climate change requires that level commitment if we’re going to preserve our planet for future generations.

In the House, I will support cap and trade legislation as well as a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I will also support expanded investments in clean and renewable technology, such as solar and wind power.

I know some in the business community will criticize this approach. But until we make it cheaper for businesses to reduce their carbon emissions than continue to pollute the environment, we won’t be able to make the dramatic changes needed. For this reason, I am against building the Keystone XL pipeline.

Expanding our use of renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions are critical, but we also have to commit to conserving our natural environments. I have fought hard for conservation efforts in Arizona, and that’s why I have an A rating from both the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. My wife Kate is a former State President for the League of Conservation Voters, and we are both deeply dedicated to preserving the natural beauty we are all lucky enough to have in Arizona.

In Arizona, one of the biggest tests of our commitment to conservation is the proposed Rosemont Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson. I understand the importance of mining in Arizona, and – where it makes sense – will be supportive of mining projects that bring jobs and sustainable economic development. But I have not yet seen a strong enough justification to build this mine, and the estimated environmental impact will be devastating.

photo credit: Eric Nyquist via photopin cc

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Guns

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The toll that gun violence has taken on my family and my community has been far too high. Growing up, I knew friends and cousins who were shot in gang violence and from accidents stemming from unsafe gun storage.

Americans can agree on fundamentals; support for background checks and clamping down on gun purchases from those who are mentally ill or on a terrorism watch-list.

Today, there is someone who is killed from a gun almost every single day in Arizona. Arizona is the 11th-worst state for gun deaths and Phoenix’s level of homicides is equivalent to Mexico’s. As a State Representative, I met with the bereaved families of those who had lost their lives from senseless gun violence. As a Congressman, I will work to ensure that the awful toll of gun violence can be stemmed back in our communities.

I often hear from NRA members that the solution is more individuals with guns. In the Arizona State House, I stood up against proposals to allow guns in our parks and public buildings. I know as a U.S. Marine who is trained in close quarters combat that having untrained individuals carrying guns can make the work of law enforcement officers more difficult.

In my first term in Congress, I’ll work across the aisle to help end gun violence. I’ll continue my work on closing the “terror gap” to ensure that suspected terrorists can’t buy guns. I will work to protect gun buyback programs, such as those in Phoenix, that remove unwanted and dangerous guns from the street. I will stand up to the NRA and be a voice for gun owners who want to see universal background checks.

I will not back down in fighting to protect our community. I don’t want anyone to grow up with family and friends senselessly gunned down.

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Equality

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After returning from Iraq, I moved to Arizona and quickly became politically active on LGBTQ issues. In 2006, I worked on the campaign against an Arizona ballot initiative that would have amended the Arizona constitution to prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions. Our campaign was successful and Arizona became the first state in the nation to defeat a same-sex marriage ban.

I have a long history of working with the Human Rights Campaign, joining HRC and Voices of Honor in 2009 to push the Obama administration to overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since being elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010, I have co-sponsored bills granting Marriage Equality in Arizona and creating a state version of the Employer Nondiscrimination Act. I have a 100% rating from Equality Arizona.

I played a central role in forcing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the discriminatory SB 1062, a bill allowing businesses to deny service based on sexual orientation. I was a harsh critic of the bill and drew significant national media attention to the effort by announcing on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives that the bill would create “open season” on the LGBTQ community. I held up a large sign reading “No Gays Allowed” during his speech and said supporters of the bill might as well post it in businesses throughout the state.

As a United States Congressman, I will:

  • Fight for same-sex marriage in all 50 states
  • Co-sponsor and work to advance the Employment Nondiscrimination Act
  • Oppose any efforts to discriminate against any American on the basis of sexual orientation
  • Fight to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to fully benefit from the rights and protections guaranteed by our Constitution and our laws
  • Speak out against ignorance, hatred and intolerance; and encourage all Americans, especially young people, to practice compassion and understanding
  • Work to reform discriminatory bias in federal policies and regulations against LGBTQ families
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    Paycheck Fairness

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    I’ve been surrounded by strong women my entire life. My three sisters and I were raised by a single mom on the South Side of Chicago. She was an immigrant, and I saw firsthand how hard she worked to make sure her kids would get the kind of opportunities she envisioned for her children. She’s an inspiring woman, and I’m lucky to have another strong woman in my life who inspires me everyday — my wife Kate.

    I met Kate at Harvard and knew right away that she was destined to accomplish amazing things. After earning an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, Kate worked on economic development in Phoenix before getting elected to the Phoenix City Council.

    With all these amazing women in my life, I just can’t fathom what motivates some of the crazy policies that come out of both Washington and the Arizona legislature would keep women from earning equal work for equal pay.

    Our entire culture should be ashamed that a wage gap exists between men and women. But rather than working to reverse an obvious injustice, Republicans seem committed to the antiquated ideas that are the basis of paycheck disparity. In Congress, I will fight not only for Paycheck Fairness, but also to bring an end to the offensive ideology that allowed wage disparity to become an issue in the first place.

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    Immigration

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    I’m the child of Hispanic immigrants. I was raised by a single mother on the South Side of Chicago and had to work to help the family, including my time at a meatpacking plant where I received an extra dollar an hour because I spoke English and Spanish. Like many children of immigrants I got my shot at the American Dream through education and military service. I studied hard and was the first in my family to go to college, getting into Harvard. But like many kids from working-class families, I struggled to fit in at Harvard. I felt more at home when I joined the Marine Corps.

    After graduating, I served in Iraq with Lima 3/25, a unit that saw one of the highest casualty rates of the war. My unit was so hard hit because Congress had failed to allocate resources for the armored vehicles we needed. We were rolling around Iraq in amphibious assault vehicles that offered no protection to roadside bombs. We knew it and the insurgents knew it, but Congress wasn’t doing anything about it.

    Today, we know that many of the men and women I served with in Iraq are facing deportation, even after they served their adopted country in combat. We know that children of immigrants who study hard, get great grades and want the same opportunity I got to go to college can’t go because of a decision made by their parents years ago. We know that the federal government is breaking up families rather than going after actual criminals. And we know that workers playing a vital role in our economy don’t get the protections all working Americans should.

    Our immigration issues are so multifaceted that the only solution that will work is comprehensive immigration reform. Everyone seems to recognize this, but yet again Congress isn’t doing anything.

    In Arizona, I’ve been a passionate advocate for comprehensive reform. In Washington, I’ll take it to the next level. We don’t just need people who will vote the right way. We need people who will put pressure on opponents of comprehensive reform and call out the Obama Administration for its wrongheaded and hurtful deportation policies.

    I will do that without losing sight of the ultimate goal: comprehensive reform. To me, we can’t call any immigration bill comprehensive reform unless we:

  • Enact the DREAM Act
  • Stop deporting non-criminals and breaking up families
  • Provide temporary protected status for those already living here who do follow the law
  • Develop a pathway to citizenship
  • Secure the border
  • I know there are special interests that would prefer to keep the broken system. But the stakes are too high for too many Americans for Congress to fail to act. Comprehensive immigration reform is achievable and I’m going to do everything I can to make it happen.

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    Choice

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    In recent years, we’ve also seen a disturbing trend of politicians trying to dictate how health care should be administered to women. In Congress, I will be a fierce advocate for choice, just as I have been in Arizona.

    When the Arizona legislature tried to block women from getting birth control through their insurer, I stood up to fight it. I did the same when the legislature moved to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides critical health services to millions of women throughout the country.

    What is so upsetting about these recent attempts to block access to comprehensive women’s health care — including contraception and abortion — is that these decisions aren’t motivated by science.

    The only reason these bills exist is cynical politicians who think they gain an advantage by pushing these ideas. Those of us who stand against Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and block access to health care have the facts on our side, and voters see that. But with so many attempts to block access to women’s health care all over the country, we need to remain vigilant in fighting this destructive idea wherever it pops up.

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