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United States

U.S. House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 11

Photo of Bill Foster

Bill Foster

Democratic
Ph.D. Particle Physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and co-founder and former president of ETC, Inc.
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • I am committed to improving access to medically-assisted treatment options for those suffering from opioid and heroin addiction, and I have introduced legislation to make sure these treatments are accessible and affordable.
  • I will work to extend the policies responsible for the economic recovery for working families, including raising the minimum wage. Every American family should have the opportunity to earn a livable wage and not live in poverty.
  • I am committed to fixing Illinois’ “Payer State” problem by which large-population states like Illinois pay far more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal spending.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Ph.D. Particle Physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and co-founder and former president of ETC, Inc.
U.S. Representative (IL-11), United States House of Representatives — Elected position (2013–current)
U.S. Representative (IL-14), United States House of Representatives — Elected position (2008–2011)
Board Member, Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc (1975–2007)
High Energy Particle Physicist and Accelerator Designer, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (1984–2006)
Co-Founder, President, Design Engineer and Programmer, Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc (1975–1984)

Education

Harvard University Ph.D., Physics (1983)
University of Wisconsin-Madison B.A., Physics (1976)

Community Activities

Member, Aurora and Joliet Chambers of Commerce (2011–current)
Elected Fellow, American Physical Society (1998–current)
Member, DuPage County NAACP (2011–current)
Science and Security Board Member, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2010–2011)
Board Member, Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence (1997–2003)

Biography

Bill Foster is a scientist, businessman and U.S. Congressman.

His business career began at age 19 when he and his younger brother Fred started a business from scratch in their basement. Starting with $500 from their parents, they built a company that now manufactures over half of the theater lighting equipment in the United States. Their company's equipment is used on Broadway shows, Rolling Stones tours, the great Opera houses, halftime shows at the SuperBowl, and at churches, schools, and community theaters throughout the world. In the early 1980s Bill designed and programmed the computerized control system for the Disneyland Nighttime Electrical Parade. Their company sells millions of dollars of equipment all over the world and provides hundreds of good jobs - with good pay and benefits - here in the Midwest. When he decided to run for a public office in 2007, Bill sold his interest in his company to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Congressman Foster’s  scientific career was as a high-energy physicist and particle accelerator designer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). He was a member of the team that discovered the top quark, the heaviest known form of matter. He also led the teams that designed and built several scientific facilities and detectors still in use today, including the Antiproton Recycler Ring, the latest of Fermilab's giant particle accelerators. When he first ran for Congress, his campaign was endorsed by 31 Nobel Prize Winners.

Congressman Foster’s congressional career began in March 2008 when he won the special election to replace former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. Foster serves on the House Financial Services Committee as it responded to the greatest financial crisis of our lifetimes. He also serves on the Science Committee, fighting back against Republican efforts to cut research funding, muzzle climate change research, and politically intrude politically on the peer-review process.

 

He lives in Naperville with his wife Aesook, who is also a physicist. He also has two grown children, Billy and Christine. His father was a civil rights lawyer who wrote much of the enforcement language behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Questions & Answers

Questions from Chicago Sun-Times (18)

What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
Answer from Bill Foster:

As a businessman and the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress, I look at the facts to inform my policy views. The economic lessons of the last three decades are clear.  Our economy is strongest when the middle class is strong, which is why I support investments in infrastructure and education as well as sensible financial and environmental regulation and tax policies that help working families. 

My opponent’s economic talking points and policies are indistinguishable from the Republican policies that drove us into debt, wrecked our economy, and produced zero net job growth during the George W. Bush administration. My opponent would support Republican leadership that has deliberately obstructed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that would have accelerated economic growth and is supported by a majority of Americans. Finally, denying women access to health care puts their lives and well-being at serious risk and ultimately drives up medical spending in our country.

The economic lessons of the last 25 years are clear.  President Bill Clinton took over an anemic U.S economy with low job growth and a large structural deficit, and created 22 million jobs, ran  a surplus of $200 billion a year, and was on track to pay our national debt down to zero by 2007. When President George W. Bush and the Republicans took full control in 2001, they reversed the successful Clinton economic policies and replaced them with economic policies identical to those of my opponent. These policies led to economic and financial collapse, the worst recession of our lifetimes, a middle class whose life savings had been wiped out by the housing bust, a deficit of over $1.5 trillion per year, and zero net job creation during the entire Bush presidency. When President Obama and the Democrats took control after the 2008 election, we began to reverse these failed Republican policies and restored policies that benefitted the middle class. As a result, the economic recovery during President Obama’s administration created more than 15 million jobs and the stock market set record highs. Business profitability, economic growth, and the net worth of American families show similar, positive results. This resumption of growth is not an accident. It is the result of Democratic policies that support the middle class rather than just the wealthy. This is why I support investments in infrastructure and education as well as tax policies that benefit working families. These have proven more effective at stimulating economic growth than the Republican agenda supported by my opponent, which supports increased spending on foreign wars and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Congress has declined to formally authorize America’s undeclared war against ISIS. Should Congress take a vote to authorize the use of military force against ISIS?
Answer from Bill Foster:

It is important that Congress pass an explicit Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to define and support the powers that the President can use to combat ISIS. There is a broad bipartisan consensus that ISIS should be attacked by a U.S.-led coalition using U.S. and foreign air power and coalition ground forces with very limited special-forces intervention. We can achieve this plan without significant numbers of U.S. ground combat troops, who have already been asked to sacrifice too much. However the current leadership of Congress refuses to even debate such an authorization, because they prefer to stand back and criticize President Obama for pursuing policies that do not differ greatly from their own positions.  

This lack of a clearly articulated national position through an AUMF makes it much more difficult to assemble the coalition that will be necessary both to defeat ISIS and to govern the former ISIS-held territory once it has been defeated. It is crucial that we combat terrorism without becoming the world’s police.

More generally, what should Congress do to reduce the threat of ISIS abroad and at home? 
Answer from Bill Foster:

Keeping Americans safe is always the first priority, but Congress needs to look at the system for admitting refugees from war-torn regions. America has always been a place of refuge for those who seek a better life for themselves and their families. We should not let fear and ignorance stand in the way of American values. These values will ultimately defeat ISIS. Failing to protect families fleeing ISIS’s horrific violence can alienate potential allies and serve as a recruiting tool for our enemies.

Currently, refugees coming into the United States are already screened more closely than any other group with a multi-step process that takes 18 to 24 months and includes numerous background investigations, in-person interviews, and biometrics. Most applicants for refugee status are fleeing persecution and violence. For these applicants, the process is painfully long. 

We cannot compromise on the thoroughness of the review, but we should continue to work with the intelligence community to ensure we have a workable refugee intake system while taking every precaution to ensure our safety. For example, we should look for ways to use technology to process reviews and background checks more quickly. 

Finally, the anti-immigrant rhetoric from some of our less-informed political leaders makes the threat of homegrown ISIS-inspired attacks worse. We should make it clear that the United States is an inclusive democracy that does not discriminate on the basis of religion and accepts peaceful members of all religions.

Donald Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration. Do you support such action? What restrictions, if any, do you support on the admission of Muslims into the United States? 
Answer from Bill Foster:

I do not support any categorical bans predicated on a person’s religion and believe it is contrary to our country’s values. I did support changes to the Visa Waiver Program that would require people seeking to come to the United States from places like Syria and Iraq to obtain a visa instead of getting a waiver. This proposal had bipartisan support and was enacted in the omnibus spending bill. 

The United States’ nuclear deal with Iran turned one year old on July 14, 2016. Should the deal be maintained as it is, revised or scrapped completely? What is right or wrong with the Iran deal? And should the next president feel bound by it?
Answer from Bill Foster:

We must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran has a long record of bad conduct and an Iran with nuclear weapons is dangerous to the whole world.

As the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress, I thoroughly reviewed the technical representations in the Iran Nuclear Deal. This review included over a dozen classified briefings, many of them individual briefings by the experts from the DOE weapons labs and reactor labs like Argonne. I concluded that the technical representations were accurate and spent a great deal of time explaining my assessments of the technical aspects of the agreement to colleagues on both sides of the aisle. With tough enforcement, the Iran Nuclear Deal makes it very difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. It also gives us sufficient time to respond with military action or through reimposition of sanctions. The Iran Nuclear Deal only established the framework, though, and now we have to rigorously enforce the obligations it imposed on Iran.

I have called upon my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by providing the resources it needs to inspect Iranian facilities. The IAEA is our boots on the ground in Iran, and we must ensure it has enough inspectors to detect any evidence that Iran is reneging on its obligations and commitments. I also believe that we should use the next 10 years to strengthen significantly the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), so the temporary nuclear restrictions in the Iran Deal remain permanently binding both on Iran and other NPT signatories around the world.

Although the Iran Nuclear Deal did not prohibit the testing or development of conventional ballistic missiles, we must not tolerate Iran’s support for terrorism or development of ballistic missile technology in violation of international law. I supported the sanctions imposed by the Department of Treasury earlier this year in response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to reauthorize the Iran Sanctions Act, which is set to expire in December 2016.

We must continue to impose and enforce sanctions against Iran for other bad conduct, like its state sponsorship of terrorism. While the Iran nuclear deal was a momentous achievement, it has not changed Iran’s identity in the global community.

Should the United States build a physical wall along our nation’s entire border with Mexico? Should a “path to citizenship” be created for the millions of people already living here without proper documentation? Would you support legislation to prevent the deportations of so-called “Dreamers” — youth who came to the U.S. illegally as small children with their parents?
Answer from Bill Foster:

No, the proposal to build a wall is a bad idea and is antithetical to American values and progress. The rhetoric from supporters of the wall is dangerous and divisive, and it will not make our border more secure. It mischaracterizes millions of honest, hard-working individuals who want to give their families better lives and contribute to our society. 

Anti-immigrant rhetoric also makes little economic sense. In a 2010 list of Fortune 500 companies, 40 percent were founded by immigrants or their children. These companies employ 10 million Americans. 

We need immigration reform that will create a process for people to come to the United States legally. Comprehensive immigration reform that includes pro-growth immigration policies and effective workplace enforcement will remove incentives to cross the border illegally. Securing our border requires diligence and commitment. However, we also need to create policies that incentivize legal crossings by people who want to join our labor force and contribute to our society.

I supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. I also co-sponsored the House companion bill that received bipartisan support but was not allowed to have a vote in the House. The pathway to citizenship included in both bills was tough but fair. It allowed undocumented immigrants who maintain jobs and play by the rules to earn citizenship over 13 years. It also made sure that immigrants who have committed serious crimes or pose a public safety risk are deported. In addition, it provided DREAMers with an expedited pathway to citizenship, which I strongly support. 

I introduced a resolution urging the Secretary of Defense to allow DREAMers to serve in the military, and I am proud that this idea will be included in the 2016 Democratic Party Platform. Many DREAMers are eager to serve this country, and they should have a path to citizenship.

Federal judges in July ruled against voter identification laws in Wisconsin and Texas, concluding that they disproportionately impact minority voters and violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act. Should voters be required to show a photo ID when voting? And should the federal government have a say in this, or is it strictly a matter for the individual states to decide? 
Answer from Bill Foster:

Voter fraud is something that should be taken seriously, but there is no evidence showing problematic voter fraud that would be mitigated by a photo ID requirement. Photo ID requirements usually amount to little more than an attempt to disenfranchise some segment of the population, including low-income and minority voters. We have a duty to protect and maintain everyone’s right to vote regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic background. The federal government should intervene to ensure that discrimination is not occurring at the polls. Our nation has a tragic history of subversive tactics to preclude people’s exercise of the franchise. It is Congress’s responsibility to enforce the Constitution’s 15th Amendment, which prohibits infringement of voting based on race. The federal government must, when necessary, ensure equality and protection of the rights of minorities to be fully involved in our democracy.

I firmly believe that the right to vote is the most fundamental right in our democracy, and I will not waiver in my commitment to secure that right for all Americans.

Should all or certain federal public lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges and forests, be given to states to control? Do you support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration for oil and other fossil fuels, even if those resources are not immediately developed? 
Answer from Bill Foster:

The United States is home to some of the most beautiful ecosystems and treasured natural resources in the world. The growth and development of our modern economy during the last century has raised our standard of living, but has also generated new challenges and environmental threats. Our national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests are some of the most beautiful and well-preserved natural ecosystems in the world. We must protect them diligently. I support the National Parks System, which preserves and protects these resources and makes them available to visitors from all over the world. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 2430, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, which would designate nine specific areas in Utah as being parts of the National Wilderness Preservation System because we have a responsibility to ensure these natural wonders are there to inspire and amaze future generations.

I have voted to curtail exploration for oil and other fossil fuels in the outer continental shelf. As a scientist, I believe that climate change is one of the most serious challenges we face, and we should be investing in research into reliable, sustainable clean energy. When the Obama Administration first announced they would open up more of the Outer Continental Shelf for leasing, both the environmental and military communities expressed concern about new leases, particularly in the Atlantic. It is clear that there are concerns that have not been adequately addressed yet. They should take priority.

 

 

What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?
Answer from Bill Foster:

As someone who started a manufacturing company that now provides hundreds of good-paying jobs and kept those jobs in the Midwest, I understand the need to simplify the tax code. Our tax code is overly complex and filled with deductions and loopholes that solely benefit special interests rather than average citizens. I am disappointed that Republican leadership has gone yet another Congress without even debating comprehensive tax reform. 

We all need to pay our fair share, and that includes the special interests who take advantage of loopholes in the tax code. Claims that we have the highest corporate taxes in the world are simply not true because there are so many loopholes to reduce tax liability. These loopholes can drive corporate investment behavior in ways that do not make sense, like tax breaks for moving jobs overseas. I believe that by closing loopholes, we could lower marginal rates without costing the government revenue. This would simplify the tax code and make filing much easier.

I support most elements of Hillary Clinton’s tax plan. The plan would result in additional revenue through a cap on loopholes, would implement the Buffett rule’s minimum effective tax rate for millionaires, and would an additional 4 percent for individuals who make over $5 million. 

The Clinton tax plan would also have additional tax incentives to make investments longer than one year by gradually lowering the long-term capital gains rate each year out to six years. I agree that we should incentivize long-term investing that leads to new jobs in the United States.

As a successful businessman, I know that we all need to pay our fair share and that a simplified tax code would allow businesses to make the investments that make sense for their business, not just to reduce their tax liability. I support proposals that provide incentives to make investments in people and facilities in the United States and will continue to work to take away incentives to move jobs overseas.

 

What are the most important actions Congress can take to ensure the solvency of Social Security?
Answer from Bill Foster:

I fully support the Social Security program. It is critical to the financial security of millions of retirees and persons with disabilities. We must ensure it is available for current and future beneficiaries. Many retirees worked hard during their lifetime, paying into the system.  We should live up to the promises we made to them. Retirees in America deserve to live full and vibrant lives, and our economy benefits when they do. I oppose proposals that would cut benefits or privatize Social Security under the guise of fiscal conservatism, and I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure the financial soundness of the program so we can live up to our promises.

We should consider bipartisan common sense fixes to protect the program, including a raise or elimination of the cap on wages subject to Social Security tax. Comprehensive immigration reform would also expand the tax rolls and continue our steady economic growth. 

While I am open to appropriate bipartisan proposals, we need to carefully consider any reforms to ensure that seniors still have access to the benefits they deserve and that we are making thoughtful reforms that are based on facts, not partisan rhetoric.

The Republican Party platform defines marriage as between a man and a woman. What is your view? The Obama Administration has issued guidelines to schools, saying they must allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. What is your view? And do you believe parents of LGBT children should be allowed to force their children into conversion therapy?
Answer from Bill Foster:

I support the right of any two consenting adults to express their love through marriage. That is why I cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, H.R. 197 at the beginning of this Congress. This legislation would have repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, which made discrimination federal law. 

I am proud to stand up for the rights of the LGBTQ community and to serve in Congress at a time of great progress for equal rights. One of my proudest moments was when our company’s lighting was used to illuminate the White House in rainbow colors in celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that made marriage equality the law of the land. We must now ensure state and local governments comply and make sure they do not pass legislation to make discrimination legal at the state level. Even though we achieved marriage equality, it is still legal in 32 states to fire someone or deny them housing based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We must also work to ensure that the transgender community is protected from violence and discrimination. I applaud the Department of Education for standing up for civil rights. Schools in our country have an obligation to provide an environment free from discrimination and harassment. Discrimination has no place in America’s schools, and the individual dignity of every student must be protected and nurtured. Violence against transgender individuals has increased in the last year, and we must work together to protect students so they feel safe and welcome in their schools.

As a scientist, I look to the evidence. The scientific and medical research into “conversion therapy” shows it to be ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Children who face significant rejection are eight times more likely to have attempted suicide than those who are not rejected or slightly rejected. They are more than six times as likely to have high levels of depression and more than three times as likely to use illegal drugs. Activities that have shown to causes severe trauma to children’s mental health should be banned. As a parent, the wellbeing of my children was always at the front of my mind. Children should be subjected to a harmful environment masquerading as medical treatment. 

What is the single most important action Congress can take to reduce U.S. gun violence?
Answer from Bill Foster:

Congress should close the gun show loophole immediately. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 1217, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015. This bill would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including sales at gun shows, over the internet, or in classified ads while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers.

This bill has bipartisan support and is something we should pass now. It would improve our system for background checks, incentivize states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill, and direct future grant funds toward better record-sharing systems.

This bill reflects compromise by both sides to help make our communities safer while protecting the Second Amendment rights recognized by the Supreme Court.

The “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act” would give the Department of Justice authority to keep suspected terrorists on the federal “no fly” list from buying firearms. The bill was voted down in Congress late last year but pushed again in June after the Orlando massacre of 49 people. Do you support or oppose this bill, and why?
Answer from Bill Foster:

I am a cosponsor of the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act and have signed the discharge petition to call the bill to the floor of the House of Representatives. Individuals who have been determined by the Attorney General to be a terrorism risk should not be able to buy firearms or explosives. The bill provides due process so it would not prevent citizens from exercising their rights under the Second Amendment. It would create a process to prevent terrorists from buying guns in the United States. 

Should Obamacare be repealed, left intact, or changed — and if so, how? 
Answer from Bill Foster:

I support the Affordable Care Act and believe we should take steps to further expand coverage and reduce costs. It is important to remember the purpose of health care reform: to make sure Americans have access to quality, affordable health care – especially those people who were being denied by their insurance companies because they weren’t profitable customers.  Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies denied coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions and kicked people off when they got sick. As of March, 20 million more Americans now have health care insurance.

Political pundits, think tanks, and politicians who want to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act have not yet explained how they would cover the millions of people who had preexisting conditions or who could not afford insurance before the law passed. We cannot deny people access to health insurance simply because they are not profitable customers for insurance companies. The proposal recently put forward by House Republicans represents a series of talking points rather than a workable legislative proposal that deals with these problems and for which insurance costs and taxpayer costs can be calculated. 

Moving forward, it is important that families do not face a penalty for the good policies negotiated in collective bargaining agreements. That is why I have cosponsored H.R. 2050, the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2015.

The Republican proposal contains some measures I support, including an increase in price transparency on the provider side of health care markets, but the package would ultimately be a step backwards. The proposal would block grant Medicaid and create a voucher system for Medicare. I oppose both of these proposals because they would weaken the coverage provided to our nation’s most vulnerable populations. This package also does not address the consumer protections contained in the Affordable Care Act, including a prohibition on lifetime payment caps and denying coverage for preexisting conditions. Finally, the plan is silent on its costs.

I will support proposals that would improve coverage and reduce costs in our health care system as long as we understand the proposals’ costs and know how we will pay for them. The Republican plan does not do that.

A plan to replace Obamacare, presented by House Speaker Paul Ryan in June, would gradually increase the eligibility age for Medicare, which is now 65. Starting in 2020, the Medicare age would rise along with the eligibility age for full Social Security benefits, eventually reaching 67. Do you support this change in the eligibility age for Medicare? 
Answer from Bill Foster:

Medicare is critical for the health and welfare of one of our nation’s most vulnerable populations. We should live up to the commitment we made to people who have worked hard all their lives and paid into the system. But we also need to make health care more affordable for everyone to reduce the strain on these programs. 

As a scientist, I look to the data, and the data show that the Medicare trust funds are projected to be solvent through 2028. According to the 2016 report of the Medicare trustees’ report, receipts will be sufficient to fund 87 percent of claims after that, which is not “going bankrupt” as some claim. However, it is imperative that we come up with a solution to eliminate the shortfall and fully fund claims.

Before we cut benefits that people depend upon, we need to explore ways to make our health care system more efficient and affordable. The Affordable Care Act has reduced the projected 75-year shortfall from 3.88 percent of payroll taxes to 0.73 percent through mechanisms that curb the cost of our health care system, including more flexibility for physicians to treat their patients and rewarding physicians for positive outcomes. 

We must do more to make health care more affordable for everyone to take stress off of the Medicare program. Preventative care is a major component of reducing systemic costs associated with treating disease. Early detection and behavioral changes that result from regular, preventative doctors’ appointments result in better and less costly health outcomes.

Many of the cost-reduction pilot programs authorized under the Affordable Care Act have been very successful at reducing costs and increasing quality and should be immediately implemented nationwide.  I have been disappointed that Republicans in Congress have blocked consideration of these proven, cost-saving improvements. 

More than 20 million Americans who were previously uninsured are now insured because of the Affordable Care Act, and the rate of uninsured Illinoisans has dropped from 15.5 percent to 8.7 percent since the Illinois marketplace has been up and running. Never in our nation’s history has a greater percentage of our population had access to health care, and these insurance policies are now required to cover preventative care.

We also need to invest in research and development that will treat chronic diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s that consume a large fraction of our health care spending.  Inexpensive treatments or cures for these diseases  could completely solve the long term funding shortfall problem in Medicare. Developments in genetic engineering technology hold incredible promise to cure diseases resulting from genetic disorders, including sickle cell disease. Instead of merely treating the symptoms of this disease for a patient’s entire life, we could cure that patient and potentially reduce the future cost of his or her health care. 

In reducing the costs of health care for everyone, we will strengthen Medicare to ensure that it is available for people who need it. 

The GOP platform opposes the use of public funds for Planned Parenthood and other groups that “perform or advocate” abortion. It also opposes funding health care that includes abortion coverage. In contrast, the Democratic Party’s platform called for continued funding of Planned Parenthood and repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bars the direct use of federal funds to pay for abortion. Where do you stand?  
Answer from Bill Foster:

I am a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood and the health care the organization provides to women who otherwise may not have access to it. Planned Parenthood provides reproductive and health care services to women everywhere, and it helps families make informed decisions about contraception. The organization also provides safe and legal options for women who make the difficult choice to terminate a pregnancy. 

Under the guise of preventing abortions, Republicans have sought to defund a critical provider of health care to women throughout our communities. These efforts, if successful, would disproportionately impact low-income populations and would only lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies. I strongly oppose the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

I am a cosponsor of H.R. 2972, the EACH Woman Act, which would repeal the Hyde amendment, ensuring that women on Medicaid have the right to make their own health care choices with their doctors.

President Obama has proposed making two years of community college free nationally. Do you support or oppose this proposal? If you support it, how would you have the nation pay for it? 
Answer from Bill Foster:

 

I am a cosponsor of H.R. 2962, the America’s College Promise Act of 2015. This bill would enable the Department of Education to provide grants to states that would fund 70 to 80 percent of total costs associated with providing tuition-free community college education while states would cover the remaining costs. I believe that we need a combination of responsible spending cuts and revenue growth to fix the national debt. Spending on a program like this one should find a place in a more responsible budget. Providing tuition-free community college will help train a workforce that is prepared for the next century. It will have a long-run positive impact on our economy and make sure that everyone is included in our economic growth.

College costs have risen at twice the rate of inflation for about 30 years. What is driving this increase and what should be done about it?
Answer from Bill Foster:

The cost of college is a significant burden on many families and an insurmountable obstacle for too many individuals trying to better their lives. When I was in college, you could often pay tuition with savings from a job. Since then, universities have lost funding from state legislatures. They have also begun competing with each other on expensive, non-academic facilities. Costs associated with these facilities, such as nicer dorm rooms and eating facilities, as well as administrative costs, including more highly paid positions for administrative jobs, have grown significantly in the last 30 years. These factors contribute to the rapid increase in the cost of college education. 

On top of these cost drivers, the ”Payer State” effect that costs Illinois over $40B per year has left Illinois state colleges and universities without the funding needed to provide the great educational opportunities to all students that our state has to offer.  Reforming the formula-driven spending programs that steer education and research money out of Illinois, including federal research programs like EPSCoR, should remain a high priority.

Federal student aid programs are essential for students who want to get a high quality education regardless of how much money their parents make or what zip code they grew up in. It also presents an opportunity for the federal government to underwrite more carefully and require spending go to instruction and academic facilities that enhance the educational experience. It’s also important that every student is educated about the institution they choose to attend. President Obama’s College Scorecard provides students with reliable data on college graduation rates and costs so that students and their families can make informed decisions about their educational institution. 

In the meantime, we should make lending programs more affordable, which is why I have cosponsored H.R. 1434, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. This bill would allow borrowers to refinance at the lower rates offered through the student loan programs now. We can also reduce textbook costs, which average about $1300/year, by providing high-quality open source textbooks that can be downloaded for free from the Internet. I have sponsored legislation to provide federal support for free downloadable textbooks in the In the 111th, 113th, and 114th Congresses.

Who gave money to this candidate?

Contributions

Total money raised: $2,986,346

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

1
Employees of United States Department of Energy
$83,921
2
Employees of University of Chicago
$36,848
3
Employees of Stanford University
$29,085
4
Employees of Northwestern University
$27,550
5
Employees of Harvard University
$27,135

More information about contributions

By State:

Illinois 38.04%
District of Columbia 16.80%
California 10.66%
New York 7.07%
Other 27.43%
38.04%16.80%10.66%27.43%

By Size:

Large contributions (90.85%)
Small contributions (9.15%)
90.85%9.15%

By Type:

From organizations (28.52%)
From individuals (71.48%)
28.52%71.48%
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

As the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress and a successful businessman, I bring a unique perspective to Congress. My background in business and science allows me to take a thoughtful approach to legislation that we need in today’s political environment. This perspective is especially important now that technology is rapidly advancing. As technology advances, policy will have more and more technical aspects that Members of Congress need to understand to make informed decisions. I am proud of my record of supporting good policy no matter who puts forward the idea.

 

As a scientist, I understand that no one has a monopoly on good ideas. Too often, partisanship prevents us from coming to solutions. Democrats and Republicans need to put their differences aside and come together and find common ground to address the current and future challenges that face our country. We will never agree on everything, but scientific and historical facts and logical arguments must form the  foundation  for the conversation, rather than partisan slogans. I understand that many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have strongly held convictions and policy concerns that their constituents care about that I do not always agree with – but I respect them.

 

When I first ran for Congress, I decided that I would not take pledges to vote for or against any issue. I believe the practice of taking pledges contributes to the worst of the partisan gridlock in Washington, preventing many members of Congress from even considering a reasonable compromise offered by the other side. Those members pledging not to compromise on a particular issue are undermining the very legislative process their constituents sent them to Washington to undertake.


As a member of the moderate, pro-growth New Democrat coalition, I work actively with like-minded Republicans who want to find compromise that both sides can support. Extremism is divisive and damaging to our democracy. This year, we have seen what happens when someone well versed in extreme rhetoric with no understanding of policy gains political power. It has real potential to undo the economic progress we have made after the Great Recession. It also threatens the progress we have made on important social issues, including a woman’s right to choose and ending discrimination against minorities. I will always defend a woman’s right to choose, marriage equality, and everyone’s right to live free of discrimination.

As a representative in the United States Congress, my most important job is to serve the constituents of the 11th Congressional District. I regularly attend events throughout the district to listen to members of the community and hear their opinions. These meetings are a vital component of my job for learning about what is most important to them. Last year alone, I attended over 150 events in the community and had over 70 individual meetings with constituents.

 

Constituent services are an important part of my job.  Over the last year and a half, our dedicated staff has solved hundreds of problems for constituents and helped return over $1.8 million owed to constituents by various federal agencies.  I will continue to work hard for the people of the Eleventh Congressional District and push for policies that benefit working families in our communities.

 

Position Papers

Opioid Abuse

Summary

I am committed to improving access to medically-assisted treatment options for those suffering from opioid and heroin addiction, and I have introduced legislation to make sure these treatments are accessible and affordable.

As the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress, I am committed to a rational approach to the problems our country faces. For example, I am committed to improving access to medically-assisted treatment options for those suffering from opioid and heroin addiction. This area is undergoing rapid scientific progress, and it is important that we rapidly deploy these advances to those suffering from addiction in our community and around the county. I am encouraged that we have begun to recognize addiction as a treatable medical condition rather than a moral failing. I have spoken with groups and community leaders all over the 11th District to raise awareness of this epidemic and the treatments that can reverse an overdose and help prevent relapses. 

Specifically, in the current Congress, I have introduced H.R. 3676, the Expanding Opportunities for Recovery Act, which would remove barriers to addiction treatment by providing grants for residential, inpatient opioid addiction treatment for qualified individuals. I also introduced H.R. 3677, the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which would create a program to analyze prescribing behavior and share information about improper prescribing with the state health profession board. Second, it would encourage states to implement drug take-back programs to allow people to dispose of unused prescription drugs. Next, this bill would equip doctors with more resources to help identify potential drug abuse patients by providing funds to train more personnel in interventions and patient screening and would also provide grants to study the possibility of allowing advanced nurses and physician’s assistants to prescribe drugs that assist in addiction recovery. Finally, this bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a review to determine whether naloxone, should have over-the-counter drug status. Naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of a life threatening opioid overdose.

Lastly, I introduced H.R. 4982, the Examining Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Act, which would require a GAO study to evaluate and report on the inpatient and outpatient treatment capacity, availability, and needs in the United States. H.R. 4982 was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives.

I will continue the fight to make sure the treatment options our children and other loved ones need are available. 

Economic Recovery

Summary

I will work to extend the policies responsible for the economic recovery for working families, including raising the minimum wage. Every American family should have the opportunity to earn a livable wage and not live in poverty.

I will work to extend the policies responsible for the economic recovery. Every American family should have the opportunity to earn a livable wage. Working families in America should not live in poverty. A combination of pro-growth and pro-worker policies will grow our economy and ensure that everyone gets a fair share. 

This policy includes making capital available to businesses to expand and hire more employees or for startups to revolutionize aspects of our everyday lives. It also means ensuring that financial regulators faithfully implement the provisions of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act so that we never see a repeat of the abuses that led to the 2008 financial collapse from which our economy is still recovering.  

Payer State

Summary

I am committed to fixing Illinois’ “Payer State” problem by which large-population states like Illinois pay far more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal spending.

I am committed to fixing Illinois’ “Payer State” problem by which large-population states like Illinois pay far more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal spending. Illinois’ economy loses more than $40 billion each year because Illinoisans pay more than the average American in income taxes, and the federal government spends far less here than the national average. This shortfall in federal spending is the primary driver of the ongoing fiscal difficulties in Illinois. 

Much of this shortfall is due to federal spending formulas that systematically disadvantage citizens of states with large populations, for example by allocating money on a per-state basis rather than a per-capita basis.  The net result of this is hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth transferred each year from “Payer States” like Illinois to “Taker States.” These formulas are buried in hundreds of pieces of legislation and federal regulations.

To address this problem, I introduced the Payer State Transparency Act, which would require an annual report from the federal government on the the ways that spending programs are transferring money from states like Illinois to other states. This would help us understand the whole problem. The good news is that many areas are already clear, and we have begun efforts to fix them.

For example, I offered an amendment that would eliminate a program that funnels research dollars preferentially to low-population states, regardless  of need. The EPSCoR program was intended to help underserved areas build their research infrastructure.  However, it's poorly designed spending formula sends research funding to low-populated but well-off states, like Rhode Island and Hawaii, rather than states or regions that do not get their fair share. It considers only the per state funding level rather than the per capita funding level. As a result, researchers from underserved institutions in Illinois do not have access to merit-based funding opportunities that are reserved for researchers in other well-off states. 

I also offered an amendment to the transportation reauthorization bill, known as the FAST Act, to require the Department of Transportation to publish a report on the impact the Highway Trust Fund has on the Payer State problem. Many states get up to six times as much federal transportation spending per person as large-population states like Illinois, which is why Illinois transportation infrastructure is not up to standards. I will soon introduce a bill to change the formula so that Illinois gets its fair share.

I also introduced a bill to eliminate a provision in the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund formula that systematically discriminates against needy families in Illinois, simply because of the state where they  live.  The current formula results in $3 million going to states with smaller populations and less need, while forcing the 13 million people of Illinois to share only $4.3 million.

I formed the bipartisan Payer States Caucus consisting of members from Payer States like Illinois, and we will continue work to address the Payer State problem one federal program at a time until states like Illinois get their fair share of federal spending. 

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Bill Foster on why he should remain the congressman from the 11th district.

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