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United States
November 8, 2016 —Illinois General Election

United States Senate — ” Tammy Duckworth, Candidate for Senator

Photo of Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth

Democratic
Government Administrator & Elected Official
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Investing in and strengthening our economy through manufacturing and workforce development. If our workforce isn’t strong, our nation isn’t strong. I will advocate for policies that create jobs and create new economic opportunities for all Americans
  • Serving our members of the Military. It’s imperative that members of our military and their families have access to the care and support they earned during and after their service.
  • Strengthening Social Security and Medicare. Not only do millions of Americans currently rely on these crucial programs, millions more have paid into the system and are counting on these programs to provide them with dignity in their retirement.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Government Administrator & Elected Official
Member, U.S. House of Representatives — Elected position (2013–current)
Member, U.S. Army Reserve, (1992–2014)
Member, Illinois Army National Guard (1996–2014)
Assistant secretary, United States Department of Veterans Affairs — Appointed position (2009–2011)
Director, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs — Appointed position (2006–2009)

Education

Capella University PhD, human services (2015)
The George Washington University M.A., international affairs (1992)
University of Hawaii B.A., political science (1989)

Questions & Answers

Questions from Chicago Sun-Times (18)

What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
Answer from Tammy Duckworth:

Bottom line, I am always going to put the needs of hardworking families first. Republican Mark Kirk, by comparison, has made it clear over his 16 years in Washington that he will always go to bat for Wall Street and big donors at the expense of the middle class.

 

I see things differently. I am running because we need to do better by working families in this state and across the country. For far too many people who are working harder than ever before, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. The cost of a college education seems out of reach, and a secure and dignified retirement seems unobtainable.

 

It’s personal for me: my dad lost his job in his 50s and my family went from solidly middle-class to relying on food stamps and reduced lunches at school. I was able to go to college and become an Army helicopter pilot because of a quality public school education, teachers who cared about me and a lot of hard work. I relied on Pell Grants, student loans and a lot of waitressing to pay for college, and I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

 

My goal is to look out and work for Illinois families like mine, who may have been knocked down, but haven’t given up. I want to make sure every child has access to a quality education, regardless of where he or she lives. I’ll work to ensure we’re investing in education with an emphasis on STEM areas, so we can fill the jobs of the future. In the Senate, I’ll continue my work to link graduates up with local employers.

 

I will also fight for fairer trade policies that will help Illinois workers compete globally, rather than keep us at the mercy of foreign currency manipulation and steel dumping.

 

By supporting initiatives that bolster the middle class, we can reduce income inequality and ensure that hardworking Americans have the resources they need to live a fulfilling life. I’m also running to support seniors who rely on Social Security and Medicare. Not only do millions of Americans currently rely on these crucial programs, but millions more who have paid into the system are counting on Social Security and Medicare to one day provide them with dignity in their retirement. I’m committed to working to ensure Social Security and Medicare are secure for generations to come.


Finally, I have always been a strong supporter of Veterans and will bring that commitment to the Senate. Our nation must give Veterans and their families the care and support they deserve. As director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and later Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, I worked hard to address Veteran homelessness and suicide, and increase Veteran access to mental health care. During my time in Congress, I’ve led legislation to reduce Veteran suicide, and I’ve worked to protect Veterans’ benefits from fraud.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

The Islamic State poses an immediate threat to U.S. interests abroad and a serious threat here in the United States. Because of this, I support targeted military action in the region, but I do have reservations about the deployment of our military without a long-term plan or exit strategy. A new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is critical for ensuring that our nation’s service members are not put in harm’s way without specific and measurable goals. It’s critical that Congress lives up to its responsibility of passing an updated AUMF. The situation with ISIS is fluid and any action the U.S. takes must be well thought-out, include our allies, and take into account all the costs of military action, including the costs borne by our troops and military families.

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

The reality is ISIS cannot beat us on the battlefield. The way they gain strength is to grow the pool of recruits who think Americans hate Muslims. To defeat ISIS, we must methodically and relentlessly attack every facet of its base of power. We’re going to use proactive diplomacy, financial pressure, and an information operations campaign coordinated with the most powerful military in the world to assist our allies in Syria and Iraq as they clear and hold territory now in ISIS’ hands.

 

Over the last 15 years, America has developed unique capabilities to track networks and capture or kill key terrorist leaders. Using those tools, we have killed thousands of ISIS fighters and removed several key figures from the battlefield—like “Jihadi John.” We will continue these efforts until ISIS no longer controls territory.

 

Beyond combat, we must continue using our diplomatic and economic tools to push Syria and Iraq to develop legitimate governments that respect their peoples’ rights, operate transparently, and fight the corruption that breeds distrust and fosters extremism. As part of any political solution, we must insist on the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

 

Ultimately, we must understand that no amount of U.S. bombing or boots on the ground will defeat ISIS without local allies taking the lead. It’s their fight. We can and must continue to support them with resources, training, and assistance.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

I have risked my life to defend the principles of our Constitution. I feel it would be an attempt to subvert the intent of Article VI of that document to establish a religious test for those who would immigrate here in search of a better life.  I do not support any ban on the immigration of Muslims into the United States. Protecting our homeland from ISIS must be accomplished without slamming the doors on innocent victims of terrorism. Congress should be working to address real vulnerabilities, combat homegrown terrorism and improve security here at home, not hurting those who are escaping the brutality of those we must eliminate.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

After countless hours reading and reviewing the agreement, briefings from the Administration as well as national security, intelligence and non-proliferation experts, and many discussions with my constituents and stakeholders who hold views on both sides of this issue, I came to support the Iran nuclear agreement.

 

Let’s be clear: Iran is not our friend. But when making the decision of whether to support the agreement I had to weigh Iran’s destabilizing role in the region. I concluded that, as it is already a nuclear threshold state,  Iran’s ability to disrupt relations and security in the region would be much greater if it could obtain nuclear weapons. That is why preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is in U.S. interests.

 

While not perfect, the agreement is the most realistic and effective course of action to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. If fully implemented, the reduction of Iran’s nuclear stockpile and their enrichment capabilities will effectively shut down their nuclear program for 10 to 15 years. This will lengthen Iran’s breakout time, or the amount of time it would take them to develop a nuclear bomb, from several months to a full year, removing its status as a nuclear threshold state.

 

There are risks associated with this deal that must be addressed. I have concerns that as sanctions are eased, the release of oil revenue to Tehran will lead to greater threats to our regional allies, particularly Israel. In addition, Iran’s record of providing material support for terrorist groups must be monitored and held in check.  The United States must now focus on enforcing the Iran Deal and making sure Iran does not cheat so that American interests remain secure.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

Trump’s idea of building a 1,900-mile wall that Mexico will pay for is ridiculous, does a disservice to the real work that needs to be done, and ignores the reality that many undocumented immigrants arrived legally only to overstay their visas — something a wall does nothing to prevent. Instead, we need comprehensive reform that includes an earned pathway to citizenship, keeps families together and also improves border security.

 

While I do not support Donald Trump’s plan for a wall,  I do support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill of 2013, which recognizes that physical security barriers -- including a border fence -- are only one component on an effective multilayered strategy to secure our nation’s borders. It includes 700 miles of fencing, 38,405 border patrol agents deployed between ports of entry, and the E-Verify employment verification system. It also includs a biometric program to stop those who overstay their work visas. In the long term, we need to combat the root causes by cracking down on cartels and helping economic development by improving education, infrastructure and social institutions.

 

Moreover, I have always supported comprehensive immigration reform that is practical, fair and humane. It’s clear to me that our current immigration system is broken and ineffective. I’m supportive of a long-term plan that secures our borders, keeps families together and includes an earned pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States only after they pay a fine and wait at the back of the line.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

I’m proud of the work I have done to restore and protect the Voting Rights Amendment. Rulings to overturn discriminatory voting laws in both Texas and Wisconsin mark a significant victory for civil rights, and for our nation as a whole. The right to vote is key pillar of our democracy, and the federal government must do it’s job to ensure states do not infringe upon this right for political expediency, which often comes in the form of unfair photo ID laws.

 

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 Tammy Duckworth:

The federal government plays a key role in ensuring our national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests remain protected. As Senator, I would continue to support the federal government’s role in preserving these lands and our environment.

 

In Congress, I voted against H.R. 8, a bill that would further entrench the use of fossil fuels in our energy systems and accelerate the construction of pipelines through national parks.  While I believe coal, oil, and natural gas will play a role in transitioning to a clean energy future, I also understand that there must be key environmental and safety precautions in place before we open public land for development or approve fossil fuel pipelines. During my time in the House, I voted to keep our water clean of dangerous chemicals, and recognize the social social cost of carbon emissions. As we take steps towards a cleaner environment, we need to make sure our families and communities are kept safe. As Senator, I want to ensure we can protect our environment, keep energy prices affordable for hardworking families, and create new energy sector jobs.

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

The current tax code is not fair. We ask working and middle-class families, Veterans and low-income seniors to pay more than their fair share while large corporations and multi-millionaires are allowed to exploit special-interest tax loopholes and avoid paying what they owe.

 

Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize the wealthiest among us, but that’s exactly what we see happening. We also need to focus on reforms like the Buffett Rule, which ensures that those who make over $1 million a year don’t pay lower tax rates than middle-class families. The Buffett Rule would be an important step towards deficit reduction while making our tax system fairer and more equitable. Further, I also support the President’s plan to limit corporate inversions, which could save the U.S. Treasury as much as $40 billion over the next decade. Rather than reward companies that ship American jobs overseas,  tax cuts should go to companies that bring jobs back home.

 

I have a “families first” approach to reforming our tax code, and will continue pushing legislation that supports middle-class families. In the Senate, I would support proposals focused on hard-working Illinois families, like the comprehensive college affordability legislation I introduced this year. My In the Red Act would put our nation on a fiscally-responsible path towards achieving debt-free college by closing several wasteful special interest tax loopholes.

 

As Senator, I’ll continue supporting tax policies critical to working families, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit, tuition tax credits and credits that help teachers afford needed expenses. I would also ensure our tax reform is comprehensive. If we are going to cut tax rates in order to lower tax rates for multinational corporations to repatriate funds currently held offshore, I would insist on lowering tax rates for small- and medium-sized businesses as well.

 

I’ve worked hard in my time in Congress – and I will do the same in the Senate - to pass tangible bipartisan improvements to the tax code that help the hardest working Illinoisans.

 

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

While we have to address our budget issues, we cannot do it on the backs of our seniors. When it comes to protecting Social Security, I am confident a bipartisan solution can be achieved, and I am eager to work with my colleagues to strengthen the program. I am open to lifting the current Social Security cap. If we went back to the way the law was in the 1980s and adjusted the cap accordingly, we could protect the solvency of this essential program for decades to come.

 

Further, I strongly oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. In fact, I want to explore increasing benefits for seniors, and introduced legislation to do just that: the SAVE Benefits Act. Seniors, Veterans, people with disabilities and other Social Security beneficiaries did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment this year despite rising costs. I am working with Senator Elizabeth Warren to provide a cost-of-living increase, which would give a one time boost of about $580 to the 70 million Social Security beneficiaries.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

I will continue to advocate for LGBT Americans and reject the Republican Party’s definition of marriage. Before all Americans were granted the freedom to marry by the Supreme Court, I signed onto an amicus brief to the Supreme Court advocating for the right to marry for same-sex couples. I’m also a cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, designed to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that all citizens receive the same federal benefits of marriage. I recently helped introduce the Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that all Americans are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I also support a transgender student’s right to choose the bathroom that matches their gender identity, and I do not believe that a parent should be able to force their children into conversion therapy.

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

First of all, no one should be able to buy a gun without a background check. This process is not onerous, and it will likely prevent fatalities. Recent reports have shown that more than 90 percent of Americans--including gun owners--support expanded background checks for gun purchases.

 

We must pass meaningful limits on assault weapons. Mass shooters often use high capacity magazines. They are dangerous and have no place in our communities. As a Soldier, I have an appreciation for the care and discipline it takes to use firearms properly, but some weapons of war simply do not belong on the streets of our cities.

 

We need to pass the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill I cosponsored to empower law enforcement to crack down on illegal gun trafficking and criminalize the use of middlemen to buy guns for criminals. Imposing these stronger penalties for “straw purchasers” would help stem the flow of firearms to violent criminals and gangs.


I’m proud to have worked with Senator Durbin to introduce common-sense legislation to prevent foreign nationals who have not been vetted by our intelligence community from purchasing firearms while they are in the United States. Together, we proposed closing that loophole in the Visa Waiver Program.

It is a matter of how we are directing our resources. In Chicago and communities across Illinois, we’re seeing a rash of gun violence, which law enforcement officials attribute to the easy availability of illegal guns, plus an overburdened criminal justice system that too frequently allows violent offenders and those with serious gun convictions back on the streets.


Putting a stop to these fatal tragedies also means strengthening community-police relationships. As Senator, I will work to support strong relationships between law enforcement and local communities.  Last year, even before the Laquan McDonald video was released, I laid out a comprehensive criminal justice reform plan, and I will continue to make this issue a priority and help restore trust in our communities. Ultimately, we need comprehensive reform that addresses out-of-date gun laws, and works to create stronger communities through enhanced economic opportunity and a more robust education system.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

I serve as a proud cosponsor of the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act. I strongly believe that the Attorney General should have the authority to prohibit individuals who are terrorists --  or individuals who the AG reasonably suspects are seeking to purchase a firearm or explosive to commit an act of terror -- from buying such deadly weapons.

 

Giving law enforcement the authority to prevent people from buying firearms or explosives who are on the FBI's Consolidated Terrorist Watchlist is simply common sense.

 

This should not be a partisan issue. Not only did a Republican author the bill, but the legislative proposal originates with the Bush Administration, which first submitted the proposal to Congress in 2007.

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

I oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It’s time for Congress to accept that the ACA is settled law. Instead of wasting time and taxpayer dollars on trying to repeal it, Congress should begin working together to improve the law. The ACA is not perfect and I support fixing flaws in the legislation so it can benefit the greatest number of Americans. For example, I was a proud cosponsor of the bipartisan PACE Act, which protects small businesses, and am pleased it was signed into law. I have also supported a bipartisan effort to repeal the excise tax and the medical device tax provisions of the law.

 

In Illinois, hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for health care plans through the ACA, and the current uninsured rate has dropped from 15.5 percent to 8.8 percent. Consumers and businesses that were being overcharged by their insurers have received over $1 billion in premium rebates thanks to the law, which is also helping slow the growth of health care costs. We cannot go back to the days where one medical emergency could put a person in debt for the rest of their life and insurance companies could deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. I’m confident that the ACA has made a positive impact on the lives of millions of Americans and I will continue to work to improve the law.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

No, I do not support Paul Ryan’s plan to replace Obamacare, and I do not support raising the eligibility age to 67. Instead of putting our seniors at risk, we need to focus our efforts on cutting waste and fraud. That’s why I cosponsored the bipartisan PRIME Act with Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) to crack down on physician identity theft, reduce overpayments, increase the penalties for fraudulent activity and expand anti-fraud data sharing among federal agencies. I’m proud that many of these provisions passed into law.

 

There are common-sense steps the Federal government can take without privatizing Medicare or turning it into a voucher program. I am encouraged that the Congressional Budget Office has lowered the projected future cost of Medicare for six years in a row. The current estimate for Medicare's cost in 2019 is $95 billion less than it was four years ago. We must continue pushing good ideas like the PRIME Act to continue this trend without compromising the basic Medicare guarantee.

 

We can also improve Medicare by allowing negotiations over prescription drugs, and aligning incentives so we are paying for quality of care rather than quantity of care. If we allowed Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for better prices we could save $24 billion each year. This simply has to happen.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

I support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s continued legal access to abortion. A woman's economic position should not impact a women's right to a safe and legal family planning. I also support full funding of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides vital healthcare services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, birth control and well-woman exams, for millions of women all across the country. In fact, when I was a college student I relied on Planned Parenthood to obtain a physical.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

I relied on student loans, Pell Grants, and a lot of waitressing to go to school, so I understand just how critical it is that we work to help students gain access to higher education, not hold them back. This is why I recently introduced In The Red Act, which would strengthen Pell Grants and build on the Obama administration's proposal to give deserving students access to tuition-free community college. This bill would also enable borrowers to refinance student debt at lower interest rates, and increase accountability among universities. We could help thousands more Americans receive an education by closing tax loopholes that give companies deductions for CEO and executive pay. This is a way to both create a fairer tax code, and support higher education.


I am also a proponent of instituting more public-private partnerships to strengthen our education system, and our economy. In Congress, I introduced introduced the Community College to Career Fund Act, which helps support innovative partnerships between community colleges, technical colleges and businesses to train students to fill high-demand jobs like Harper College’s Advanced Manufacturing Lab. The Harper College program, which sets up students for a career in manufacturing after they graduate, has enrolled over 2,100 students to date. I have introduced a bill to expand this type of program nationwide.

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 Tammy Duckworth:

It’s clear that universities are facing a rising tide of costs in order to stay competitive globally, causing education costs to skyrocket. With that said, we can’t afford for our students to be straddled with a lifetime of debt. Since the Great Recession, student loan debt is the only type of household debt that has continued to rise each year, toppling in at $1.3 trillion in 2016. The rising cost of college then poses a serious threat to both education opportunity and economic activity at large. When 40 million Americans are faced with mounting debt, fewer dollars are going into the consumer and housing markets that power national growth, hindering economic recovery nationwide.

 

In the House, I introduced the In The Red Act to allow individuals to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, saving more than 24 million student loan borrowers billions of dollars in interest. The bill also provides necessary financial support to offset the rising cost of education.  To adjust for the rate of inflation, the In The Red Act bolsters funding for Pell Grants, providing 9.2 million students with an additional $1,300 in financial aid. By closing a current loophole that allows corporations to write off executive bonuses as business expenses, millions of Americans are able to receive essential support for both higher education and job training.

 

In the Senate, I will continue to advocate for the expansion of Pell Grants, opportunities for students to refinance their loans at lower rates and federal financial aid options designed to help college-bound and currently-enrolled students pay for their education and complete their degree debt-free.

Who gave money to this candidate?

Contributions

Total money raised: $12,660,141

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

1
Employees of Simmons Hanly Conroy
$120,675
2
ILLINOIS COORDINATED VICTORY FUND 2016
$112,500
3
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)
$46,800
4
EMILY's List and employees
$32,885
5
J Street
$29,457

More information about contributions

By State:

Illinois 31.94%
California 13.24%
New York 11.53%
District of Columbia 9.56%
Other 33.73%
31.94%13.24%11.53%9.56%33.73%

By Size:

Large contributions (83.13%)
Small contributions (16.87%)
83.13%16.87%

By Type:

From organizations (15.57%)
From individuals (84.43%)
15.57%84.43%
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission.

Videos (1)

— October 12, 2016 Chicago Sun-Times

Tammy Duckworth tells why she should be one of the two U.S. Senators from Illinois.

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