- Position sought: Representative in Congress, 11th District
- Political party: Republican
- Website: www.biggert.com
- Phone: 630-325-2002
- Address: 425 East Sixth Street, Hinsdale
- Family: Husband Rody, four children, nine grandchildren.
- Relevant experience: Member, U.S. House of Representatives, 1999-Present Member; Illinois House of Representatives, 1993-1999; President Hinsdale Board of Education, Hinsdale Township High School District 86, 1983-1985; Member, Hinsdale Board of Education, Hinsdale Township High School District 86, 1978-1985; Chairman, Village of Hinsdale Plan Commission, 1989-1993.
- Qualifications: All my life, I’ve worked in the community, heading the high school board, the village plan commission, Junior League, the hospital board, the PTA, Visiting Nurse Association – even the antique show and the ballet board. Those experiences give you a pretty good sense of the people of your community–what they want for their kids, their neighborhoods, their future, and how I can help to get them there. They also gave me a surprisingly good grounding in the issues that I would one day work on as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives and now a Member of Congress. For example, as a member and then president of the Junior League of Chicago, I learned my first real lessons in leadership and public service. Besides working in the housing projects in Chicago, I served as one of the first HeadStart volunteers – down at Hull House. Little did I dream I would one day draw on those experiences as I worked as a member of the House Education Committee to reauthorize HeadStart or as the Chairman of the Financial Services Housing Subcommittee to enact public housing reforms.
But let’s face it: raising three kids in diapers at the same time, while running a home-based law practice and doing volunteer work was the best training one could ever have for the multitasking that is required in Washington.
What would your priorities be if elected to this office?
The most important priorities for my district are job creation and economic recovery, along with getting our debt and spending issues under control.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
My willingness to actually work across the aisle to accomplish things that matter to my constituents, not just talk about bipartisanship. Too many in Washington have forgotten that the voters sent them there to solve problems – not just to get re-elected or make the opposition look bad. As a former school board president and long-time community volunteer, I have a proven track record of listening to constituents and bringing people together to find solutions that work. I approach my work in Congress with the same spirit, which is why I was honored when my peers on the other side of the aisle elected me one of the "Ten Most Bipartisan" members of the House.
This past year, I put that philosophy to work as Chairman of the House Insurance and Housing Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the nation’s flood insurance program. Working with every group – from insurers to consumers to environmentalists, realtors and others – and every member of Congress, representing diverse areas across the nation, we crafted compromise legislation to finally revamp and reauthorize our nation’s outdated flood insurance program. Starting with a working draft (instead of a bill), and taking input from all sides, we addressed everyone’s concerns; no one got everything but everyone was satisfied. Passed out of committee by a vote of 54-0 and by the full House by a vote of 406-22, the bill became one of a handful of major reform packages passed by the House in 2011.
In short, Americans have had enough of "my way or the highway" governing. They want solutions. And whether it’s cutting waste, creating jobs, or reforming entitlement programs, I’ll continue to put results over politics.
How do you define a small business, and what can government do to support them that isn't being done?
Businesses cannot grow and hire more people if they are competing with a government that spends too much and borrows too much. To help job-creators put more people back to work, we should enact broad-based, permanent tax reform that will simplify the tax code, close loopholes, lower and make permanent the tax rates and create a pro-growth environment that rewards innovation and encourages job creation. At the same time, we must reduce government regulations that are placing billions of dollars of new burdens and uncertainty on job-creators.
What steps would you take to reduce the federal deficit? If it includes tax increases, what taxes? And if it involves federal service cuts, which?
Serious reduction in the national debt can only be accomplished if policy makers on both sides agree to make spending cuts the primary focus. However, revenues can and should be part of the solution. During negotiations last year, I wrote to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction encouraging them to seek revenue increases as the natural byproduct of effective broad-based tax reform and pro-growth financial policies. Tax reform holds enormous potential to boost U.S. competitiveness, create jobs, and generate revenues through economic growth. By broadening the tax base, eliminating gimmicks, and closing loopholes, we can create a system that rewards innovation instead of clever accounting.
What should the government do to create more jobs?
We must end the gridlock and political games that are standing in the way of progress. The House has passed dozens of pro-growth initiatives to reduce job-killing regulations, fix the tax code, and increase competitiveness for American manufacturers. But Senate leaders have refused to even vote on the bills. Leaders in Washington need to quit playing games and make jobs – not politics – the top priority. In addition, Congress must extend the payroll tax cut to give individuals and businesses the certainty they need to plan for their economic futures, invest, and create jobs. We also must continue the progress that was achieved last year in opening up foreign markets to U.S.-made goods. The trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama were major victories for U.S. workers, and their passage should be a model for future, bipartisan cooperation.
Should there be repercussions for legislators who don’t read bills, and how do you enforce that?
Those repercussions are elections. Voters can and should hold accountable those legislators who don’t do their jobs.
Should the “No Child Left Behind Act” set different measurements than now for economically disadvantaged students, special education students, students learning English as a second language, etc?
Congress has a lot of work to do to help improve public education, starting with the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While there are provisions in both the Administration’s blueprint and the Senate Education Committee’s drafts of education reform with which I agree, I continue to work with my colleagues on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to craft comprehensive legislation to fix what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind, and give America’s students the competitive edge they need to compete in the global economy.
First, we need to address the current federally directed nature of America’s K-12 education evaluation system. I am concerned about the many complaints I have received that NCLB forces “teaching to the test” and “high-stakes testing,” which forces teachers to abandon many creative, enriching aspects of their curriculum in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach. Our nation’s educational system must recognize that the federal government is not well suited to measure student and teacher performance. More effective student and teacher evaluation systems are already being implemented in states like Illinois, and the federal government should work to foster, rather than stymie, these efforts.
Second, in order to truly understand how to best help a student’s performance, it’s important to track each child’s progress. One of the biggest failings of NCLB is that it did nothing to track individual growth, so I support the use of growth models, which provide parents and teachers with the real-time information they need to improve each individual student’s performance in the classroom. School performance should reflect the progress schools are making to educate students, not penalize them for falling short of arbitrary federal standards.
Third, as a former school board president, I am a strong proponent of local control of our schools. I would like ESEA to give additional flexibility to states and schools to address the challenges of special education and Limited English Proficiency students. States have come up with innovative ways to address these challenges without sacrificing accountability, and they should be allowed to implement them.
Should federal immigration policy be changed, and if so how?
With between 12 and 13 million illegal immigrants living and working in the United States, there is no question that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately, the partisan divide on this issue has grown so wide that some in Washington have written off hope of advancing a solution in the current environment. That is because proposals for immigration reform cannot achieve their goals while our borders remain unsecured. To secure the border, I support more boots on the ground and better use of electronic surveillance technology along points of entry. We also need to end the primary incentive for illegal immigration by expanding the use of tools like E-Verify to ensure that American employers are hiring legal workers. And we have to promote international policies that deter illegal immigration.
What are your philosophies on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, and what should government’s role in those issues?
Laws governing marriage, including legal benefits and rights, traditionally have been left to the states, which is where I think they belong. Nothing related to marriage – not even the prohibition on bigamy or polygamy – is addressed in the Constitution. Marriage should be kept out of the Constitution and the states should continue to exercise what is best left to the states.
I am pro-choice. I support the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe versus Wade. I also believe in a woman’s right to decide what will be in her best interest. This is a deeply personal issue that should stay between a woman, her doctor, her conscience, and her God. Like most Americans, I oppose late-term abortions and I support parental notification, so long is there is a grandparental or judicial option. Since 1976, Congress has consistently approved – with my support during my tenure - annual restrictions on the expenditure of federal dollars for abortion by including language in annual government funding bills. Known as the Hyde amendment, this statutory restriction prohibits the use of federal funding for abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother. Unless otherwise restricted by a state, I believe abortion is a private decision and should be paid for with private dollars.
Are there certain things you think could be reasonably taxed (fuel, entertainment, luxuries, etc.)?
Americans aren’t taxed too little – the government still spends too much. I am opposed to any increase in the marginal tax rate. Instead, I believe we need to focus on reforming our tax code. Tax reform holds enormous potential to boost U.S. competitiveness, create jobs, and generate revenues through economic growth. By broadening the tax base, simplifying the code, eliminating gimmicks, and closing loopholes, we can create a system that rewards innovation instead of clever accounting. Tax reforms I support also would eliminate shelters used overwhelmingly by upper-income taxpayers while lowering rates on all wage earners. But to accomplish these goals, we have to enact a tax policy guided by sound economic principles, and not simply increase taxes on job creators and investors.
I also support extending the 2003 tax cuts for all individuals and small businesses. 75% of small businesses are taxed as individuals, and allowing the tax cuts to expire would subject nearly 50% of small business income to a tax increase. Failure to extend the cuts also would result in a return of the marriage penalty and death tax; individual, capital gains, and dividend rates would increase; the childcare tax credit would decline, and millions of seniors and low-income Americans who now pay no taxes would be back on the tax rolls.
American consumers already are being squeezed by high unemployment and high energy, food, tuition and other bills. The last thing that the government should do during a recession is add to their burdens.
What should minimum wage be and through what method should increases be determined?
As a federal representative, my goal is always to preserve the economic interests of both workers and employers here in Illinois.
Historically, the minimum wage established in law by the State of Illinois has been higher than the minimum wage set under federal guidelines. The same is true today, which means that businesses seeking minimum wage labor are less likely to create jobs here in Illinois. In 2007, Congress raised the national minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. I supported the increase, in part, to create a more level playing field between Illinois and our neighbors in Indiana and elsewhere.
Today, our state minimum wage is $8.25 - $1.00 greater than the federal standard. As the economy recovers in the years to come, and Congress revisits the minimum wage, my goal will continue to be safeguarding jobs here in Illinois.
How would you find a better balance between relieving the tax burden and funding services?
According to the Congressional Budget Office, fiscal year 2011 will mark the third straight year that the debt has grown more than $1 trillion. The 2011 shortfall is the third largest since World War II, exceeded only by 2010 and 2009. Taxing our way to a balanced budget would require tax rates to more than double, and raising taxes on our nation’s job creators would make it even more difficult for them to hire new workers, much less keep their doors open. Seniors and families working to make ends meet don’t deserve tax increases; they deserve tax relief.
That is why serious reduction in the national debt can only be accomplished if policy makers on both sides agree to make spending cuts the primary focus. However, revenues can and should be part of the solution. During negotiations last year, I wrote to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction encouraging them to seek revenue increases as the natural byproduct of effective broad-based tax reform and pro-growth financial policies. Tax reform holds enormous potential to boost U.S. competitiveness, create jobs, and generate revenues through economic growth. By broadening the tax base, eliminating gimmicks, and closing loopholes, we can create a system that rewards innovation instead of clever accounting. Tax reforms I support also would eliminate shelters used overwhelmingly by upper-income taxpayers while lowering rates on all wage earners. But to accomplish these goals, we have to enact a tax policy guided by sound economic principles, and not simply increase taxes on job creators and investments.
What we cannot allow is for the federal government to follow the lead of lawmakers in Springfield by adopting massive tax increases today on an empty promise of balanced budgets and reduced spending down the road. Rather than catching up on its bills, Illinois has fallen deeper into debt while more businesses and jobs leave the state. Meanwhile, taxpayers have seen their paychecks shrink. That’s not an acceptable outcome.
Bipartisanship is given a lot of lip service by congressional members. Tell us how you would work with members of the opposite party?
Too many in Washington have forgotten that the voters sent them there to solve problems – not just to get re-elected or make the opposition look bad. As a former school board president and long-time community volunteer, I have a proven track record of listening to constituents and bringing people together to find solutions that work. In short, Americans have had enough of "my way or the highway" governing. They want solutions. And whether it’s cutting waste, creating jobs, or reforming entitlement programs, I’ll continue to put results over politics.
Do you think some or all of the health care bill should be repealed? What can the government do to provide more access and affordability to health care?
We can all agree that our nation’s health care system is badly in need of reform. And while ObamaCare’s purported goals of reducing costs and improving access to health insurance are laudable, I disagree with the heavy-handed approach taken by the President and Democrats in Congress. 2,000 pages of government control is not the cure for what ails health care in America. Quite the contrary, it’s exactly what’s wrong with our system. That’s why I opposed the passage of ObamaCare and have consistently voted to repeal and defund the misguided law.
I believe it’s critical that we not only repeal the law, but replace it with commonsense, market-based reforms that will increase consumer choice and actually bring down the cost of health care. In fact, during debate on the new law, my colleagues and I offered a commonsense alternative that would lower costs, increase competition, expand portability for those between jobs, and provide better coverage for pre-existing conditions. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), our alternative plan would have lowered health insurance premiums for American families and small businesses by as much as 10 percent.
Here are just a few of the steps we included in our alternative bill that will help lower costs and increase access for all Americans:
- Enact medical malpractice reform: To curb junk lawsuits and stop forcing doctors to practice costly defensive medicine. The other side of the aisle has consistently refused to enact this measure because of the influence of trial attorneys.
- Allow Association Health Plans (AHPs): So that small businesses can band together and offer their employees the same discounted health insurance coverage enjoyed by employees of large corporations and union members.
- Expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): Expand deductions for healthcare savings. Americans are looking for ways to gain more control of their healthcare costs. HSAs allow families and individuals to save money tax-free for their health care needs and shop for the best deals.
- Purchase insurance across state lines: Americans can buy virtually every other kind of insurance nationwide. Our plan allows Americans to shop for health insurance coverage from coast to coast too. By allowing individuals to purchase from any one of the more than 1,000 insurers in the country, we can increase competition, lower health insurance premiums, and increase choices for the consumer.
- Prevent insurers from unjustly canceling a policy or imposing caps: Our plan prohibits an insurer from canceling a policy unless a person commits fraud. It also prevents insurers from imposing annual or lifetime spending caps.
What should government’s role be in private sector finance?
Limited. We need to provide certainty, educate consumers, and protect against fraud. Where the government fails is when Washington decides that it knows better how to spend your money than you do. Washington should tear down barriers to private sector growth and create a level playing field for US job creators, not just pick winners and losers in the marketplace based on political cronyism. That's why I'm fighting to end the bailouts, open new markets for US goods, and get government out of the pockets of small businesses.
Who are your political heroes and why?
I began my legal career as a clerk to the Honorable Luther Swygert, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. He always challenged me and inspired me to set my goals high.
Following the troop withdrawal from Iraq, what do you think is the future of the war on terror?
One important step the United States should take to combat terrorism is to sustain the progress being made against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists bent on destroying the U.S. But there is so much more to combating terrorism. I support tough, anti-money laundering laws to cut off terrorist funding; Patriot Act provisions that have helped foil terrorist plots; improved intelligence capabilities; and increased security of our borders and ports of entry.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony, sued successfully or had a restraining order placed against you? If so, please explain.