How do you assess the Trump administration so far?
Hoyer: The Trump Administration has been defined by chaos, conflict, and crisis. From weakening our health care system to raising taxes on millions of hardworking families and exploding our future debt, President Trump has failed Marylanders and our nation. He has failed to work with Congress to put the interests of the American people first. President Trump has refused to work toward a compromise on a number of issues of importance to Marylanders, including protections for DREAMers, funding the federal government, responding to gun violence, and working to provide affordable health care.
Do you support or oppose the federal tax cuts passed in 2017? What effect do you believe they will have on the economy?
Hoyer: I strongly opposed the Republican tax law, which raises taxes on hundreds of thousands of hardworking families in Maryland and adds $1.8 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years. Instead of providing relief to middle class families, the Republican legislation hurts Marylanders. The law double taxes many middle class families in Maryland by limiting the state and local tax deduction, which makes it more difficult for local jurisdictions to raise revenues to pay for services and increases the cost of homeownership. Congress ought to put working families first, not pass massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
Is the level of national debt a concern? What, if anything, should be done to reduce it or constrain its increase?
Hoyer: Deficits and debt are a serious long term problem that will require tough choices in the years ahead. As we work to invest in job creation, we must work to put our country back on a sustainable fiscal path. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress have made our debt problem much worse through their tax law that added trillions to our national debt. I am committed to reducing the deficit in a responsible way, and believe we must pay for what we buy. That is the principal behind Pay-As-You-Go budgeting that produced budget surpluses in the 1990s and I helped write into law in 2010. Both parties must work together to strengthen vital programs like Social Security and Medicare; support job creation; and protect the middle class, seniors and the most vulnerable. To restore our country’s fiscal sustainability, we must adopt a balanced approach that includes both responsible spending cuts and revenues.
Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and if so, what should the federal government do to address it?
Hoyer: Many families in Maryland struggle to make ends meet, and feel left behind. Congress must do more to develop policies that ensure more families in our country are economically secure. We must consider legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, work on breaking down barriers to education, address the rising cost of higher education, and ensure more Americans have access to affordable housing.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how?
Hoyer: When students feel unsafe in their classrooms, restaurant patrons feel threatened, and concerts are no longer safe, it is time for Congress to take action to address gun violence in our nation. For too long, we have seen the devastation this epidemic has caused in our communities, including the recent shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, which I represent. Even though a majority of the American people supports commonsense solutions to address the gun violence epidemic, Republican leaders refuse to act. I will continue to urge my Republican colleagues to bring to the Floor legislation to strengthen background checks, close the gun show loophole, ban bump stocks, and ban the sale of assault rifles like those used by soldiers on the battlefield.
What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act? Should it be strengthened, and if so, how? Should it be scrapped? If so, what if anything should replace it?
Hoyer: Congress should work to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the ACA, thousands of families in Maryland have access to quality, affordable health care. The number of uninsured Marylanders has hit a record low. And despite attempts by President Trump and Congressional Republicans to undermine the law, including cutting the enrollment period in half, over 150,000 Marylanders signed up for health insurance during the 2018 open enrollment period. However, there are aspects of the law that Congress should work to improve, such as bringing down health care costs for consumers. Instead of taking steps to sabotage the law, Republicans in Congress ought to work with Democrats on common sense solutions to strengthen the law, such as investing in outreach and enrollment efforts. I would urge my Republican colleagues in Congress to stop their continued attacks on the ACA. Instead of undermining consumer protections, imposing an age tax on older Americans’, destabilizing insurance markets, and driving up costs for individuals, the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to strengthen the law.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities like Baltimore?
Hoyer: In order to strengthen cities like Baltimore and rural communities like those throughout the Fifth District, we need to invest in a 21st century infrastructure plan that will create jobs and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness. Such a plan needs to address the crumbling roads, bridges, airports, ports, and rail and transit networks in Maryland and around the country. The recent shutdown of the Baltimore Metro system demonstrates that we cannot wait to invest in our infrastructure. It’s clear the President’s infrastructure plan is not a serious approach to building the infrastructure we need to have a strong economy. Maryland and local governments don’t have the kind of available capital that the Trump Administration’s plan demands they spend without federal assistance. Republicans and Democrats in Congress must work together on a real infrastructure plan that invests in our communities.
What can Congress do to address the opioid epidemic?
Hoyer: The ongoing opioid crisis is a serious problem in communities throughout Maryland, and around the nation. Congress must examine different ways the federal government can provide support to local jurisdictions battling the epidemic. I’m glad that legislation to fund the government for fiscal year 2018 included funds to address the opioid epidemic. The federal government must work in tandem with communities throughout the country to educate the public and prevent drug use while also providing treatment to those battling an addiction.
What changes if any should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies?
Hoyer: Eighty-six percent of Americans across the political spectrum believe it is wrong to deport individuals protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to countries they do not know. When President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September 2017, he left hundreds of thousands of hardworking young people twisting in the wind. I believe that we must take action and pass bipartisan legislation to protect the thousands of DREAMers who call Maryland home. Congress must pass legislation to restore DACA protections and provide a pathway to citizenship.
Should the United States continue with the free trade policies it pursued for the last several decades, or should it enact restrictions in an attempt to help domestic industries?
Hoyer: With 96% of the world’s customers living outside the United States, we have a clear interest in tearing down tariffs and other barriers to American exports. Our highly educated workforce, efficient and stable capital markets, strong intellectual property protections, and low energy costs mean that it is a great time to make it in America. So long as we are competing on a level playing field, we can compete with anyone in the world and win, so it is in our interest to open foreign markets to trade. At the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye to those who don’t play by the rules and use unfair trade practices to distort markets, undercut prices or steal our intellectual property. There is no question that China – and other countries – have engaged in these practices, hurting U.S. companies that play by the rules. We need to take strong, smart and effective actions to prevent these countries’ actions from putting our companies out of business and costing our workers their jobs. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s actions have been ham-handed and haphazard - with no coherent strategy or consideration of likely costs. As a result, while they may give the appearance of strength in the short term, they risk doing more harm than good to our economy in the long term.
Do you support the Iran nuclear deal?
Hoyer: I supported the Iran deal not because it was perfect, but because, if adhered to, it would have at least temporarily reduced the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. I believe negotiating to extend the life of the agreement and include non-nuclear aggressive behavior of Iran is appropriate. Iran remains an existential threat to Israel and our other allies, and it continues to support terrorism around the world. Its ballistic missile tests; murderous support for Assad; and continued sustenance of Hezbollah, indicate that it is not changing its behavior post Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). I strongly support preventing Iran from gaining a permanent foothold in Syria, and I believe we must do everything possible to ensure Israel has the ability to defend itself against any threats.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
Hoyer: Ballistic missile and nuclear tests by North Korea are immediate threats and demand an international response that goes beyond words of condemnation. China must work with the international community to isolate the Kim regime and make clear that nobody will sit idly by and tolerate such actions that threaten the peace and stability of the region and the global community.