League of Women Voters of Elmhurst
Voters Guide for the General Primary Election: March 20, 2018
Democratic Candidate for the 5th Congressional District — Mike Quigley
1. What can be done to help improve civic discourse and reduce the level of rancor and partisan bickering in national politics?
We live in a tumultuous time when too many Members of Congress would rather score political points than get things done to improve the lives of the American people. Families are worried that their neighborhood streets are no longer safe enough for their children to play on. Middle-class workers are still struggling to recover from the recession. And parents are fearful that the future of America will not be as bright for their children and grandchildren.These are serious issues that require steady leadership from people who are willing to put aside partisan politics and work across the aisle.
I am a proud Democrat and will continue to fight for policies that expand the middle class and ensure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to succeed. However, real legislative accomplishments don’t come from partisan bickering, they’re a result of hard work and honest, bipartisan compromise. In some instances that requires us to look past party affiliation and ultimately do what we believe is in the best interest of our constituents and the country. This is a philosophy that I have held since my time as a Cook County Commissioner. I wasn’t afraid to be the Democrat leading the reform fight in Cook County for ten years. It was as difficult a personal, political, and governmental role that I have ever had. It’s a role I was proud to play and one that I miss most since coming to Congress.
That philosophy informed one of the most important votes I have taken in Congress, which was in support of a long-term bipartisan budget plan with only 37 of my colleagues. Introduced by Republican Steve LaTourette and Democrat Jim Cooper, it was modeled after the Simpson-Bowles Commission deficit reduction plan. The plan included the three “B’s” I believe are necessary for any deficit plan. It was big, balanced, and bipartisan, and was something that members of both parties should have agreed on.
As the only Illinois member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have had success working with my Republican colleagues on the committee to drive resources back to Chicago. I will continue to fight for the federal funding Chicago and Illinois needs to remain a safe, competitive place for families to live and work. Whether it’s increased funding for Core Capacity grants to assist the Chicago Transit Authority, secure tens of millions in funding for the McCook reservoir project and the recently completed Thornton reservoir, or preventing harmful cuts to Homeland Security grants that help protect soft targets, the needs of my constituents have been and will continue to be my priority. And finally, as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I have made it a priority to combat terrorism and lone-wolf threats both at home and abroad. We are fighting a war much different than the those fought by our father’s or grandfather’s, so Congress must reprioritize resources and policies that really keep Americans safe against today’s threats.
Despite efforts to forge consensus across party lines when possible, bipartisan cooperation has been incredibly difficult this year. Congressional Republicans have yet to reach out to Democrats for support on any significant legislation. President Trump has only exacerbated the problem. Rather than attempting to pursue a policy agenda through bipartisan consensus, he’s chosen to stake out extreme positions on issue after issue in an effort to appease his shrinking base of supporters. He often goes out of his way to alienate people and he’s fostered a political environment that makes bipartisan cooperation in Congress nearly impossible.
2. Where do you stand on gun control legislation?
The most important action Congress could take to curb gun violence in the United States would be to expand background checks to all firearm transfers. Whether a sale is online, at a gun show, between neighbors, or at a licensed dealer, the process to purchase a firearm should not differ. I experienced this first hand when I visited a gun show in Indiana. The ability to purchase a semi-automatic rifle with no questions asked is not only disturbing, it is nonsensical. Lax gun laws in Indiana drive much of the unprecedented violence we see in Chicago. According to the Chicago Police Department, 20 percent of all crime guns come from Indiana. Requiring mandatory background checks and providing adequate funding for the National Instant Background Check System is just one step to address these loopholes that plague our gun laws.
Congress must also reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban that lapsed in 2004. Mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Orlando, and Las Vegas -- just to name a few -- have demonstrated all too clearly the need to regulate this style of weapon. The type of firearms that fall into this category are not used for hunting or sport, they are weapons of war. The original ban included certain types of ammunition that I believe should be banned again. A magazine capable of holding 100 rounds far exceeds everyday use. To put this in perspective, the military only uses 30-round magazines with their semi-automatic M16 issued rifles. Legislation, which I’ve helped introduce, already exists to re-implement this ban. As Anthony Scalia stated in his opinion of the District of Columbia et al. v. Heller case, “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” I do not disagree that Americans have the right to bear arms, but weapons used on the battlefield should not be among them.
When it comes to preventing gun violence, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Elected officials must stop cowering to the gun lobby and address the gun violence epidemic our country is facing. That’s why I was awarded the Legislative Advocacy Award from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. The award goes to public officials that promote common-sense gun violence prevention policies that make our communities safer. Ultimately, there is no one size fits all solution to the gun violence epidemic. We will need to enact a combination of small pragmatic measures. I look forward to continuing the fight for gun violence prevention and finding ways to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who wish to do us harm.
3. Immigration detention centers have a reputation for insensitive and inhumane treatment of those being detained, such as keeping families separated for an extended period of time. How could you or would you seek to improve these conditions at detention centers?
Regardless of immigration status, one of the most severe punishments we can levy on an individual is to deprive them of their freedom. The current system for detaining immigrants fails our moral imperative to ensure the safety of any individual under our charge. Within our detention facilities, undocumented immigrants face pervasive and systematic abuse. Too many of these facilities are devoid of health services or basic medical standards, and lack proper leadership. This has has led to high suicide rates, traumatized children and families, and an alarming rate of abuse for LGBT immigrants. This is all a result of a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to detaining immigrants who pose no threat to public safety, needlessly separating families and disrupting communities.
We must protect the most vulnerable among us and that begins with fair and equitable conditions in our detention facilities. That’s why I’ve led efforts to require the Department of Homeland Security to adopt alternatives to detention, rather than maintaining the current inhumane and costly policies. In this regard, I also recently spoke out on the House floor against the Republican decision for repeated budget increases for Ice and Customs Enforcement. I’ve introduced legislation to improve living conditions in detention facilities, and after hearing repeated allegations about unchecked sexual abuse of immigrants I led an effort that required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate and offer possible remedies to shield undocumented immigrants in detention facilities from sexual assault and abuse. The conclusion of that report supported the recommendation many already knew, we must adopt a single, uniform standard to protect all detainees around the country.
Immigrants have come to Chicago for generations to make a better life for themselves and for their families. They helped build our skyscrapers, contributed the hard work necessary for our industries to prosper, and established vibrant civic and religious organizations. Every day we fail to pass immigration reform is another day that American families are torn apart, and we deny basic rights to thousands living in detention.We need comprehensive immigration reform that will secure our borders, grow our economy, and provide hardworking immigrants an earned pathway to citizenship.
4. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world, the Great Lakes. How would you work to help protect the Great Lakes Initiative?
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is one of the most important, and successful, programs for our region. The Great Lakes are not only home to 90% of the nation’s freshwater supply, they are an economic driver for our entire region- supporting jobs, commerce, agriculture, transportation and tourism for millions of people- and ensuring that the Great Lakes ecosystem is healthy and vibrant is vital.
In its seven years, GLRI has supported more than 3,000 restoration projects that address environmental challenges in the Lakes and has produced real and measurable results. For this reason, the program has enjoyed broad and bipartisan support in Congress and relatively stable funding. Unfathomably, despite all this, the Trump Administration proposed eliminating GLRI entirely in its Fiscal Year 2018 budget last spring. I have pressed the Office of Management and Budget on the need to fully fund GLRI and, as the only Illinois member of the House Appropriations Committee and an active participant in the Congressional Great Lakes task force, I am uniquely suited to help ensure that GLRI gets that funding. This past year, I was able to help save GLRI and get $300 million for the program- still less than the Great Lakes need, but a substantial sum of money. I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Appropriations committee to fight for adequate funding for GLRI, no matter how much the President attempts to cut it.
Since GLRI is an EPA program and largely administered out of EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago, it is also necessary to ensure that that office has strong leadership and appropriate staffing to meet its goals. I have been deeply dismayed by reports of staffing cuts and buyouts across EPA and especially at Region 5 offices, the same offices where I started my career at EPA. I believe that we need a strong and dedicated workforce at EPA to meet the agency’s mission of protecting our nation’s health and natural resources and guaranteeing clean air and clean water for every American. I will continue to use congress’ oversight powers and my position on the Appropriations Committee to keep a close eye on EPA’s leadership in the regional offices and in Washington DC and to make sure they are acting in the best interests of the American people, not just corporations and fossil fuel extractors.
Since coming to Congress, I have co-sponsored numerous bills aimed at giving federal agencies the tools they need to set and enforce common-sense rules to protect and defend our environment and sent dozens of letters to ensure they use this authority responsibly. Since my time as an EPA employee and then as an environmental law professor, I have understood the value of responsible environmental stewardship. As a result, I am proud to have earned the consistent endorsement of the Sierra Club and a 100% score from the League of Conservation Voters and the Humane Society in their annual legislative scorecards.
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan political organization, neither supports nor opposes any candidate.