Q: If securing the U.S.-Mexico border is a precondition for moving on to comprehensive immigration reform, how will you know when it's "secure?"
A: The question is do folks in our communities feel they are safe enough? Right now, the answer is clearly no. There is operational control along some parts of the border, but the Tucson Sector in particular is not nearly as secure as it needs to be. We need to listen to local residents and to the agencies in charge of securing the border - they are best positioned to let policymakers know what still needs to be done. Once we finish securing these areas, we can move forward with the conversation about a broader national immigration strategy.
Q: How would you deal, specifically, with the estimated 12 million people who are already in this country illegally?
A: We need a national immigration strategy that secures our borders and fixes America's broken immigration system.
I am opposed to amnesty, and illegal immigrants who commit any sort of crime in this country must be deported. Once our borders are secure, others must earn the privilege of staying here. They need to pay a penalty, register with the government, pay their fair share of taxes, work, pass a criminal background check, and learn English and be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Q: You have called for fiscal discipline and a balanced federal budget. The current deficit is $1.4 trillion. How would you close that gap?
A: Washington needs to fundamentally change the way it operates.
The federal government must be forced to find a way to live within its means and do more with less. That's why I supported $72 billion in cuts to appropriations bills last year, co-sponsored the new "pay-as-you-go" law and am pushing for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
It also means Congress has to show some leadership, which is why I introduced my congressional pay cut bill. Members need to start by making sacrifices of their own before asking the rest of the federal government to do the same.
Q: You call for a balanced budget, but are willing to forego $700 billion in tax revenues over the next 10 years to keep a tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers. Why?
A: The number you're citing is for a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans and I don't support that. I support a compromise solution: a temporary extension of the tax cuts for every American, across the board. We will not be able to sustain these tax cuts permanently, but our economic recovery is still unsteady right now, and preventing this tax increase will ensure we do not put it at risk.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that our federal debt is a critical issue, and while our economy is our first priority, we must commit ourselves to addressing it -- a temporary across-the-board extension serves both those goals.
Q: What, in your view, caused the recession? Please comment specifically on the role of major financial institutions, and what, if anything, is needed to change that role in the future?
A: Wall Street greed and insufficient enforcement of the rules already on the books played a major role. In addition, the last decade of expanding home ownership was built upon a shady mortgage system that was often abused by lenders, borrowers, and investors. We must empower regulatory bodies and law enforcement to have bite, not just bark. Next time, they have to actually be able to catch and prosecute those who raise red flags like Bernie Madoff and AIG did.
Lastly, we need to remind Americans that there is no substitute for basic, personal accountability and common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Q: You voted against the banking and financial regulation bill passed by Congress. Why, and what do you support instead?
A: Unfortunately, this legislation was a reaction to what happened, not a preemptive effort to prevent the next crisis. As an Arizonan, I'm always skeptical about the unintended consequences of new levels of bureaucracy. We can keep things simple by making sure regulators enforce the laws already on the books.
I did vote to stop credit card industry abuses, to empower law enforcement to prosecute lenders who commit fraud, and to help homeowners who played by the rules. These measures helped consumers immediately and did not require the creation of new regulatory agencies to get up and running.
It is unacceptable for banks and other financial institutions to game the system again. I will be looking for tough penalties on those that break the rules.
Q: You have called on banks to do more lending and working with homeowners to change the terms on distressed mortgages. How would you accomplish that?
A: I am tired of hearing excuses from these banks. My office frequently intervenes on behalf of constituents to resolve these matters. It's amazing and appalling that banks run folks through hoops, discouraging them from pursuing the fix they deserve, only to straighten it out in days or weeks once my office calls directly. That is wrong - I hope more folks will contact my office so we can keep up this fight.
I've also supported setting up new loans community banks can use to offer lines of credit to local businesses. This would help spur small business growth, and it is paid for by closing job-killing tax loopholes.
Q: You didn't vote for cap and trade, stating an extra $170 per year per household was too expensive. Is there a lower cost that you would support or any federal program to address controls on greenhouse gases?
A: My position, then and now, is that the legislation would cost Arizona jobs and mean higher utility bills for families already struggling to make ends meet. Additionally, the impact would have been harder on our district than elsewhere, and that was not something I could accept during a severe economic downturn.
I strongly support and have led efforts to invest in renewable energy development, and I have worked hard to secure investments in energy sources like solar, wind and biomass. Growing these industries will create good paying jobs and smooth the transition from old energy to new energy.
Q: The health insurance legislation you voted for this year will likely mean higher Medicaid costs for states, for one. What areas should they consider making cuts in to cover these expenses?
A: While it will be up to the state government to make state budget decisions, I fought hard to make sure that the reimbursements to Arizona's Medicaid system under the new health law were fair and went as far as possible to meet our needs. Since the state had done the right thing and expanded eligibility to serve more families long before the new law, it stood to lose out on the bump in reimbursements other states were going to receive. I successfully fought to fix this problem, and helped secure a higher reimbursement rate for Arizona in the final bill.
Q: Social Security faces insolvency. What options, if any, would you support to keep it solvent?
A: Washington cannot keep avoiding the question of how to preserve Social Security for generations to come. Every option worthy of serious consideration must be on the table, and we should have an honest debate involving both parties about each of them.
I am staunchly opposed to privatization. We need to improve Social Security, but we can do it without sending our money to Wall Street. I will fight tirelessly against any plan to risk the retirement security of seniors and Americans by putting it in the hands of the corporate CEOs who played a major role in causing this economic downturn.
Q: Should Arizona Snowbowl receive federal funding to cover the costs of making snow with fresh water?
A: The cost of this project will depend on what water source is chosen, and there may end up being no call for federal resources. If it is necessary, I would support that investment. This project would create 300 new jobs in Flagstaff and bring $54 million annually into its local economy with little cost to the taxpayer. It is a great example of the kind of low-cost job creation projects I have fought for in Congress. It could be paid for by re-allocating funds from within the Department of Agriculture's budget.
Q: Should openly gay people be permitted to serve in the U.S. military? Get married? Why or why not?
A: I have voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. A young man or woman's willingness to defend this great Nation is what's important in determining if they should serve, not their sexual orientation. However, we need to respect the service members who put their lives on the line for this country every day and be sure to give them an opportunity to make their voices heard.
I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I do support civil unions.
Q: During your campaign in 2008, you pledged to "make sure that every community in Arizona" has electricity, running water and modern transportation and telecommunications infrastructure to compete in the global economy. Is that still a goal? If so, what are you doing in that regard, and what are you cutting to fund it?
A: I am still fully committed to bringing these infrastructure improvements to tribal lands. Just two weeks ago, I released the discussion draft of a bill to finally bring development to the former Bennett Freeze area and repair the damage of 40 years of failed federal policies there. The legislation will create a new trust fund to rehabilitate those communities, including bringing electricity, running water, modern transportation and telecommunications to more families. This bill is paid for by setting aside funding from programs already in place and will require no new spending.
Q: Should uranium mining be prohibited in northern Arizona, including on public lands some miles from the Grand Canyon?
A: I strongly support prohibiting new uranium mining in Northern Arizona, including in areas around the Grand Canyon. We know too well the risks of allowing those projects so near our communities and our water supply, and enough is enough.
I have co-sponsored a bill specifically banning uranium mining on the Grand Canyon, along with legislation to make sure those individuals harmed as a result of uranium mining in the past can receive appropriate compensation.
Q: What should be our nation's role, if any, in Afghanistan? Do you support the troop surge there through 2011?
A: I have voted to fund our troops and the surge that the commanders on the ground have requested for 2011. Afghanistan is a critical front in the battle against global terrorism, and we have to finish the job we started.
However, we must continue to push for increased clarity on what our goal and mission is in Afghanistan as we move forward. These cannot be casual decisions, and we have to be willing to reassess as the situation on the ground changes. Right now, what we need most is an honest conversation about the cost of the war, both in service members' lives and in taxpayer dollars.
Q: Northern Arizona faces potential water shortfalls in decades to come. Unlike Tucson and Phoenix, there is no pipeline to bring water to Flagstaff from somewhere else. Should there be a pipeline, at a cost of hundreds of millions? If not, what other options would you support?
A: Washington must listen to the folks on the ground about how to meet the long-term water needs of this region. The conversation about the best approach is ongoing among the stakeholders, including Coconino County, the city and the Navajo Nation. They should be afforded the time necessary to develop a comprehensive list of options to address this important question for our future.
If they ultimately make the assessment that a pipeline would serve us most effectively, I would be willing to support such a project. We would determine the funding method once details were settled, but any federal support should be fully paid for.