Congresswoman Judy Biggert and challenger Bill Foster are neck and neck in a race for the 11th District. The newly redrawn district includes areas of Aurora and Joliet likely to vote Democrat. It contains only half of Biggert’s old district, who resides in Hinsdale and has served in Congress since 1999. Challenger Bill Foster of Naperville served one term in Congress representing the 14th District. He’s worked as a physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for over 20 years. We break down some of the key issues at the forefront of tonight's 11th District forum.
Attack ads are nothing new in political races, but a recent one released by the National Republican Congressional Committee on behalf of congresswoman Biggert has garnered a lot of media attention. The ad alleges that Foster attended a closed-door meeting with congressional leaders where he received insider trading information and was able to cash-in before the 2008 housing crash. Foster’s spokeswoman, Aviva Bowen, called the ad “an egregious attempt to flat-out lie to the public without any credible facts whatsoever.” Most Chicago stations have refused to run the original ad. Some are airing a revised version by the NRCC, though WGN-TV refuses to run it at all. Foster also criticizes Biggert’s claim that the theater lighting company which he co-founded fired workers, and that Foster in turn voted to send jobs overseas. These were two separate events that happened 10 years apart. Foster’s company did have 10 percent layoffs after the economic downturn following 9/11. The accusation that he voted to send jobs overseas refers to Foster’s support of the Federal Stimulus Plan, where part of the money was used to create green jobs, including wind turbines in China.
Foster has launched an ad against Biggert saying that she was the only one in the race sending jobs to China because of her vote in 2000 to give China permanent “most favored nation” status. While helping U.S. companies create jobs in China, it also opened Chinese markets to U.S. companies, giving consumers access to competitive pricing on goods.
Both agree that current election funding rules put too much power in the hands of the wealthy. Foster said he supports requiring corporations to disclose their political contributions, and Biggert said she believes corporations, non-profit organizations and unions should all be subject to the same regulations.
It’s estimated Medicare could be insolvent in just 12 years unless reforms are made. Foster has called for an end to government subsidies to private health coverage in the Medicare Advantage program. He also pushes for a statistical analysis of all medical procedures to show doctors if a treatment isn’t effective for various ailments to cut back on unnecessary spending. He voted to create the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which allows the board to make changes to Medicare with Congress being able to overrule the decision through a supermajority vote. Biggert’s Communication Director, Gill Stevens, has attacked IPAB as “a board of unelectable bureaucrats with the power to effectively ration Medicare.”
In Chicago Tonight’s candidate questionnaire, Foster responded: “What we must do is to bend the cost curve or we will be drowned in an avalanche of health care-related spending. Many provisions in the health care reform bill – such as electronic medical records and bundled care payments – are already starting to bend the cost curve in ways that will benefit both the Medicare program and health care costs for younger Americans, and must be allowed to continue.”
Foster argues Medicare should remain a guaranteed benefit while Biggert believes in implementing future subsidies for seniors to buy health care coverage. Biggert says she believes in making some adjustments to coverage for people 55 and under. She voted against the Affordable Care Act, but does agree with provisions to allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26, and to provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
To address Medicare and Medicaid spending, she’s in favor of repealing the ACA and supports the House Republican Budget which would create competition among insurers for Medicare customers, and gives states the flexibility to tailor their Medicaid program.
In Chicago Tonight’s candidate questionnaire, Biggert responded: “I support replacing these policies that are raising costs with consensus-driven, bi-partisan solutions that Democrat leaders have ignored in the past, including Association Health Plans and medical malpractice reform.”
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) was first introduced in the Senate in August of 2001. The bill provides a path to citizenship for young, undocumented immigrants. Its provisions stipulate the undocumented resident must have graduated from a U.S. high school, arrived in the U.S. as a minor and lived in the country for at least five consecutive years prior to the bill’s enactment. If they complete two years of service in the military or complete two years at a four-year higher learning institution, they would obtain temporary residency for six years, during which they could apply for permanent residency. In June 2012, President Obama announced a change that would allow these immigrants to apply for work permits.
Biggert says she feels sorry for children who came to the U.S. illegally, but that stricter border control must happen before implementing comprehensive immigration reform. She says it’s adopting amnesty by another name and would give incentive for illegal entry. Foster, on the other hand, voted for the DREAM Act, and proudly defends it.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Named after the female who fought for equal pay, this was the first bill signed into law by President Obama. It opens up the avenues women can take to sue their employer for equal pay, changing how the statute of limitations is calculated. Foster voted for the bill and Biggert voted against it.
Sequestration is the term used to describe mandatory cuts to federal programs. It’s the process of confining money or sequestering it to the Treasury, prohibiting it from being spent by the agencies to which it was appropriated by Congress. The process has been used over the years by the federal government, but now they face an enormous sequestration of $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts. Because certain programs are exempt like Social Security and some parts of the Defense budget, this enormous sequestration would cripple the remaining programs.