US Rep. Lewis Response to APN Questionnaire

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(APN) ATLANTA — As part of our coverage of the upcoming July 31, 2012, Partisan Primary and Non-partisan General Election, Atlanta Progressive News requested interviews with incumbent US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Michael Johnson, the two candidates for the Democratic nomination for Georgia’s 5th US Congressional District.  

Johnson participated in an interview; his positions will be summarized again below for each question.  Lewis did not participate in an interview but provided his responses, as described below.

On many issues, Johnson and Lewis have the same positions.  However, a few differences are clear.  First, Lewis supports single-payer health care, while Johnson is not familiar with the program.  Second, Lewis opposes nuclear power, while Johnson supports it.  

Third, while Lewis provided a vague, coded statement on public housing demolitions in response to the questionnaire, APN has previously reported that Lewis supported the Atlanta demolitions in 2008, when residents sought his intervention.  Johnson says he only supports such demolitions if adequate affordable housing opportunities for displaced families are ensured; such was not the case in Atlanta.

(1) WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON SINGLE-PAYER HEALTH CARE?

LEWIS: I believe that healthcare is a right, not a privilege.  It should not depend on the digits in your zip code or the size of your wallet.  I strongly believe that Medicare for All would be the best, most economical coverage for every citizen, but we do not have a majority in Congress who agree with that approach. We have taken some historic steps in healthcare that extend coverage to many more people.  We need to do more.  I have supported and will continue to support efforts to move toward more comprehensive coverage, but ultimately we need a majority in Congress with that perspective to get those kinds of ideas through.

(NOTE: US Rep. Lewis was one of 87 co-sponsors of HR 676 universal health care through a single-payer, Medicare for all system.  Johnson said he was unfamiliar with the program.)

(2) WOULD YOU HAVE VOTED FOR THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, AKA OBAMACARE?

LEWIS: While I would have preferred a more comprehensive health care package like Medicare for All, the Congress didn’t have the votes.  I felt access to affordable health care was and is an emergency.  At the time we passed that law people with chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes who needed healthcare the most were being denied coverage and pushed off the rolls.  Hospitalization was a major cause of bankruptcy.  Seniors were making hard choices between buying food and medication.  This law is helping to alleviate these problems.  We had to do the best job we could in the legislative environment that existed to make some progress on this issue.

(Johnson would have also supported the Act.)

(3) DO YOU SUPPORT NUCLEAR POWER?

LEWIS: We need to develop alternative ways to  create energy sources that are sustainable and that do not put the earth and the health and safety of people at risk.  While nuclear power creates large amounts of power, it also has risks, and that is why I believe we need to invest in the development of clean energy sources as a nation that have been denied the same generous subsidies that nuclear and fossil fuels have enjoyed.  We need to leave this little piece of real estate a little cleaner and a little greener than we found it.

(Johnson supports nuclear power and the federal loan guarantees.)

(4) WHAT IS YOUR PLAN TO INCREASE SOLAR AND WIND ENERGY?

LEWIS: To increase solar and wind energy development we need to invest in it.  I have consistently supported legislation that authorizes funds to begin exploring and perfecting solar and wind energy solutions.  However, today we are still fighting against forces in Congress who want to protect subsidies for oil built on short-term, traditional approaches to energy production, instead of facing  the inevitable need to invest in clean energy.  We need to change this, and we can change it, especially if more members of Congress have that as a goal.

(Johnson supports federal investment in solar and wind energy.)

(5) WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON PUBLIC HOUSING DEMOLITIONS?

LEWIS: At a time when Republicans in Congress are attacking funding for public housing, I am more committed than ever to ensuring that our low-income neighbors have access to affordable, clean and safe housing that does not endanger the lives of its residents.  I am a strong supporter of public housing funding and improvements that ensure long term stability for residents. We should rehabilitate unsafe and unclean housing that can be renovated, otherwise we should create new housing that is clean and safe.

(Lewis has been a strong supporter of the Atlanta Housing Authority’s mass demolition and eviction program, siding with AHA in 2008 when residents sought his support and intervention.  Johnson said he would support the demolitions, but he would want to ensure affordable housing opportunities for the people who are displaced.)

(6) WOULD YOU SUPPORT RESTORING FELON VOTING RIGHTS IN FEDERAL ELECTIONS?

LEWIS: Yes.  I have used my vote in Congress to not only support restoring felon rights, but I have introduced legislation that expands and protects access to the polls and increases accountability and integrity. The Voter Empowerment Act focuses on a host of voter access issues like guaranteeing early voting opportunities, allowing same-day registration, outlawing “voter caging,” counting provisional ballots, and penalizing voter intimidation. However, the law also expands eligibility to allow all former offenders who have paid their debt to society and have been released from prison, to register and vote in federal elections, including those who may still be on probation or parole.

(Johnson also would support this.)

(7) WOULD YOU SUPPORT A FEDERAL CREDIT CARD INTEREST RATE CAP OF FIFTEEN OR EIGHTEEN PERCENT?

LEWIS: Yes I would.  Progressives in Congress have been working hard to lower the rate of usury.  I was a cosponsor and supporter of the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act which was signed into law by President Obama.  When Democrats were in the majority, we took on the big banks and Republican opposition to protect families from unfair and deceptive credit practices.  We see people struggling under the burden of unmanageable debt, however, as yet we don’t’ have enough members in Congress willing to pass a change in the national usury rate. If we get enough members willing to do this, I would support a 15 or 18 percent cap.

(Johnson would also support this.)

(8) WOULD YOU SUPPORT THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA?

LEWIS: While I believe that our drug policies have not been effective in deterring drug use, and have led to over-incarceration of people who actually need medical help and psychological counseling and  would benefit more from drug treatment programs, I do not be believe that that legalizing marijuana is the answer to these difficult problems.  I believe we should be helping people move beyond drug dependency.  I have introduced legislation like the Parents Corps Act to break the cycle of addiction and illicit drug use among young people.  I am also a strong supporter of Drug Courts and federal programs to rehabilitate addicts. Medicinal uses of marijuana should be available within states that have voted to legalize that form of therapy, but that is a state and local matter to decide. That is not currently our perspective in Georgia and I would not advocate otherwise.

(Johnson would not support legalization either.)

(9) WOULD YOU SUPPORT THE PRODUCTION OF NEW NUCLEAR BOMB MATERIAL, AS IS CURRENTLY BEING PURSUED BY THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION?

LEWIS: While I admire the courage and bravery of men and women in uniform and am a strong supporter of funding of veterans programs, if we look at our experience as a nation objectively, we see that war does not work. War does not resolve problems, it creates more problems.  We need to find other means to settle international differences that does not require human beings to pay with their lives. I consistently vote no on funding for war and funding to produce the tools of war, whether nuclear or otherwise.  Recently, the House of Representatives adopted my amendment – the Cost of War Act.  It requires that the Department of Defense and the IRS calculate the cost of war to every American taxpayer.

(Johnson also would not support new bomb production.)

(10) WOULD YOU SUPPORT RESTORING FEDERAL FUNDING FOR THE LOW-INCOME HEATING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LIHEAP)?

LEWIS: Of course I support LIHEAP, but more must be done. Right now the formula that distributes LIHEAP dollars favors northern states. As our summers grow hotter, the problem only becomes worse for cities like Atlanta. Last winter, I requested the Secretary of Health and Human Services to find the necessary funding to stop temporary delays in heating assistance, but to balance the distribution of funds southerners from both parties and from many states will have to work together. I look forward to working with my friends across the aisle on this.

(Johnson also would restore full LIHEAP funding.)

(11) WHAT PROGRAMS WOULD YOU SUPPORT CUTTING?

LEWIS: Congress is in the midst of a very serious debate about the budget.  We are a nation with a trillion dollar economy, so actually our problem is not as much about revenue as it is around how to spend the money we do have.  Some congresspeople do not believe the federal government should be involved in social service, so they want to privatize everything—schools, Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, and they want to invest everything in the military and cut the rest of these programs back.  But Americans do not realize what a huge chunk of the budget is spent on defense.  We are paying for military equipment even that even the Pentagon says we don’t need.  These are billion dollar expenditures that could be cut back to strengthen Social Security, expand investment in alternative energy, help states rebuild their infrastructure that would create jobs in our economy.  We need to get our nation’s finances in order, but we need to make decisions that support American families instead of corporate interests.

Recently, I sponsored a congressional briefing on the Institute for Economics and Peace’s report on the Economic Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy.  A few weeks ago, the bipartisan House of Representatives adopted my amendment – H.R. 3088, the Cost of War Act – during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act.  The White House also included a federal taxpayer receipt to help Americans calculate their share of war spending while filing their taxes.  We must reduce our nation’s spending on war and the tools of war.

In addition, I am an original sponsor of the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act (H.R.3974) which would eliminate wasteful spending in the nuclear weapons budget. We can find $100 billion in the budget to use elsewhere if we cut our investment in nuclear weapon.
Across the government, among social service programs as well, there are many ways to consolidate and streamline. We need to use those to mechanisms rein in spending without cutting vital services or jeopardizing our security.

(Johnson also emphasizes Defense cuts.)

(12) WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON EXTENDING THE BUSH TAX CUTS FOR WEALTHY INDIVIDUALS?

LEWIS: The Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire.  The top 2 percent of Americans have expanded their wealth in the last decade because of these lenient tax policies toward them while the rest of Americans are struggling with stagnant wages, higher costs of living, increasing debt and higher tax rates.  That is not fair.  Frankly, in this economic climate we cannot afford these tax cuts because that money is needed to alleviate the suffering of the rest of Americans.  I will not stand by idly as Republicans attempt to turn back the clock and balance the budget on the backs of the middle class and the working poor.  We should all pay our fair share.

(Johnson also wants to do away with the Bush tax cuts.)

(13) WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE UPCOMING T-SPLOST VOTE FOR METRO ATLANTA?

LEWIS: I support the T-SPLOST.  I have met with the GDOT Board and my colleagues of the Georgia Congressional Delegation urging that we must move forward on transportation in Georgia.  I was lucky to have been able to have a number of key initiatives included in the recent surface transportation reauthorization bill that was signed into law.  As a State, as a region, we must move forward.  Transportation is the key to economy and our future.  Our competitors in other parts of the country know this.  We need to get on the ball, and get it done.

(Johnson also supports the T-SPLOST.)

(END/2012)

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