Opinion: Nov. 2022 Election: Q&A with Rep. Mike Levin, 49th Congressional District candidate
BY THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD AUG. 15, 2022 5:54 PM PT
Democratic Rep. Mike Levin is seeking a third two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives, challenged by Republican businessman/nonprofit executive Brian Maryott, a former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, in the newly redrawn 49th Congressional District that represents northern San Diego County and part of southern Orange County. Election Day is Nov. 8 and voting will begin a month earlier. Here are Levin’s complete answers from both candidates to all 16 questions from The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board.
Q: What will be your top domestic and international priority in Congress?
A: My top domestic priorities include addressing inflation and lowering gas prices, combating climate change, and growing our clean energy economy, strengthening benefits and services for veterans and their families and safely removing the nuclear waste from San Onofre. I’m proud to have made progress on all of these priorities, and I will continue to work across the aisle for additional action. My top international priority is continuing to support Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid. I believe Ukraine’s defense is essential to the defense of democracy around the world. We must continue to support it. Q: How do you view the events of Jan. 6, 2021, in our nation’s Capitol and what led up to them? Do those events have implications about the future of the United States?
A: The insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. The attack that day caused the deaths of as many as five police officers and severe injuries to more than 100 other officers. Those who defended our democracy that day are heroes. So far, the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack has revealed stunning facts about former President Donald Trump’s scheme to stop the transfer of power. Former President Trump and his campaign pushed lies about the election and used these lies to pressure state and local officials to overturn the election. When that failed, he incited a violent insurrection. The Jan. 6 Committee has revealed clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of former President Trump, who knew his supporters were armed and dangerous when he sent them to attack the Capitol. Ultimately, it is critical that everyone who had a role in the events of Jan. 6 is held accountable. Without proper accountability, those who contributed to the attack on our democracy will be emboldened to take similar actions again. Congress must also act to protect future elections. I am encouraged by the bipartisan progress on legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act. Among the potential reforms, it is critical that we reaffirm the vice president’s very limited role in counting Electoral College votes and create stronger protections to prevent illegitimate efforts to reject states’ electors. Q: Inflation is at 40-year highs in the U.S., causing economic hardship for many Americans. What can the federal government do about this? What will you do?
A: I have helped pass several bills in the House to address inflation and bring down costs for everything from food to fuel. We passed legislation to crack down on price gouging by Big Oil, which has taken in record-breaking profits while we pay for it at the gas pump. We passed legislation to support farmers and lower prices for families at the grocery store. We passed bills to fix our supply chains and manufacture more goods in America. And we recently sent legislation to the president’s desk to help end the chip shortage that has driven up costs for everything from cars to consumer goods.
Unfortunately, it seems like many of my Republican colleagues prefer to keep inflation as a political campaign issue instead of joining us to deliver solutions and help working families make ends meet. I’ll keep fighting to deliver real relief for Americans struggling with high costs.
Q: Confidence in the Supreme Court is steadily declining. Should justices have term limits? Should the court be expanded? What, if anything, should change about the high court?
A: The lack of confidence in our Supreme Court is a result of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans refusing to hold confirmation hearings on an exceptionally qualified nominee before confirming several far-right justices in recent years. I believe the best way to restore trust in our Supreme Court is to institute stronger transparency and accountability measures, which is why I have co-sponsored a bill to establish strong ethical standards within the federal judiciary.
Q: What do you see as the implications of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade?
A: The decision by the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court to throw out decades of judicial precedent and eliminate an established constitutional right to abortion is appalling. This callous and reckless decision will threaten the lives of women everywhere. As we saw before Roe v. Wade, women will continue to make their own decisions about their bodies, but many will be forced to do so without safe access to the health care services that they need and deserve. I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe v. Wade protections into law, and the Senate must act on that bill. It’s also paramount that every citizen recognizes the importance of their vote in protecting their most fundamental rights. I will continue to fight every day in Congress to protect those rights.
Q: What will you do in Congress to combat climate change?
A: Combating climate change is a top priority for me as a member of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the Natural Resources Committee. We can protect our environment and grow our economy at the same time, creating good-paying clean energy jobs in the process. I have helped pass legislation to support the transition to zero-emission vehicles and ensure the clean energy technologies of the future are made right here in America, and I believe Congress needs to make additional investments to accelerate our transition to a more sustainable future. I will continue to fight for action to protect our community against the effects of climate change like rising sea levels, coastal erosion, wildfires, and more.
Q: How should the U.S. approach the war in Ukraine? What should its involvement be?
A: Ukraine’s defense is essential to the defense of democracy and freedom around the world. The United States and our global allies cannot allow Vladimir Putin to get away with an unjustified invasion of a sovereign country, which is why it is critical that we continue to support Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid and support international efforts to prosecute war crimes. While I support sending additional weapons and other resources to the Ukrainian military, I do not support sending American service members into combat there.
Q: How should the U.S. change its immigration policies? What specific changes would you pursue?
A: This issue is personal to me. My mom’s parents were Mexican immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age. My mom likes to say they were the “‘Dreamers’ of their day.” I hope that the opportunity they had when they arrived in our country is still alive today. My guiding principles all along have been for immigration policies that emphasize both security and humanity. In other words, we need to treat immigrants with dignity and respect while also cracking down on drug and human trafficking. I focus on those two areas when it comes to improving our immigration system. We need to provide an earned pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and other legal residents while also investing more in smart border security technology.
Q: What specific issues about border life in San Diego and Tijuana will you prioritize?
A: I have been fighting to address the pollution from the Tijuana River Valley since I was first sworn into office. I am proud to have helped secure $300 million to clean up the Tijuana River Valley as part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. This environmental issue has plagued our region for generations, and this funding will take major strides in helping us address health and ecological challenges we face. I am now focused on making sure that the funding is spent in a smart and productive way, as soon as possible. We have much more work to do on this challenge, but the funding is a historic step, and I will continue to fight to end this pollution once and for all.
Q: The nation is experiencing more mass shootings with higher death tolls in recent years. How would you address this issue?
A: For far too long, Congress failed to take any meaningful action on gun violence. Schoolchildren, churchgoers, shoppers and Americans from every walk of life have been killed by gun violence that could have been prevented. Finally, Congress made progress that will save lives, and I was proud to help pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law. That bill includes funding for red flag laws, closing the boyfriend loophole to stop convicted domestic abusers from buying or owning guns, strengthening background checks for purchasers under 21, and cracking down on gun traffickers and those who buy guns for someone else.
While this progress is important, we must do more.
The vast majority of Americans support House-passed legislation I co-sponsored to implement universal background checks, outlaw high-capacity magazines and more. I have also introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce gun violence — including suicide and accidental shootings — by providing a modest tax credit for retailers to incentivize the sale of safe storage devices for firearms. To truly end the epidemic of gun violence in our country, we must implement those measures as well.
Q: What did the U.S. government get right and wrong in its approach to the pandemic since its start in early 2020? How would you have responded differently?
A: One of the most serious mistakes early in the pandemic was the spread of misinformation by then-President Trump. Instead of encouraging Americans to take the steps we knew would limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe, the former president repeatedly shared conspiracy theories and misinformation. The American people needed consistent and accurate information from public health experts to stay safe, not Trump’s suggestion to inject disinfectants. To help people get reliable information about COVID-19 directly from public health experts, I converted my town halls into a virtual format and had epidemiologists from UC San Diego join me to answer questions from constituents. I held dozens of those town halls with public health professionals in the early months of the pandemic to help people stay safe and healthy. One of the things we did right is pass relief legislation in Congress to deliver funds for hospitals and health care workers, free COVID testing, loans to small businesses and restaurants, paid emergency family and medical leave, relief for homeowners and renters and extended unemployment insurance. All of that relief helped us recover from this pandemic and create historic economic growth.
Q: How would you address the rising cost of private health insurance nationwide? Do you support government-subsidized health insurance for all Americans? Why or why not?
A: Every American should have access to affordable, quality health care and nobody should have to choose to pay for rent or groceries instead of seeing a doctor or paying for a prescription. I am committed to expanding access to affordable health care, which includes protecting and strengthening Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, protecting those with pre-existing conditions and lowering prescription drug costs. All options should be on the table — including addressing the Medicare eligibility age — to ensure individuals and families get the medical support they need. I am a co-sponsor of the Protecting Pre-existing Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act to improve health insurance access and affordability, and to undo the Trump administration’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act. This includes strengthening tax credits for middle-class families, requiring plans to cover all essential health benefits, ensuring broad coverage of prescription drugs, and funding outreach and education.
Q: What can and should the federal government do to address the high cost of housing?
A: While most housing policy is determined at the state and local level, I support federal investments in new affordable housing development, particularly near public transit and places of work. I have co-sponsored legislation that would make significant investments in the federal Housing Trust Fund and build hundreds of thousands of new housing units across California and the nation.
Q: Reducing homelessness has been a focus for all levels of government in recent years. What would you do differently?
A: The housing and homelessness crisis in our state is a top concern for me and I strongly support federal investments to make housing more affordable and reduce homelessness. I helped pass rent and mortgage relief during the pandemic, and I was proud to recently secure $2.25 million in federal funding to develop a new homeless shelter in Oceanside. I also supported $46.2 billion included in recent government funding legislation to support programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to keep low-income families at risk of homelessness in their homes. I will continue to advocate for federal investments to lower housing costs and strengthen programs to help homeless individuals get back on their feet.
Q: The U.S. national debt has exploded in recent decades. Are you concerned about this?
A: There is no question that we need to get our deficits and debt under control. I have two young kids, and I worry about the debt that we’re leaving behind for future generations. I believe we need to reverse some of former President Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-wealthy. The 2017 Trump tax plan gave 83 percent of the benefit to the top 1 percent while blowing a $2 trillion hole in our deficit. If we just went back to the corporate tax rates in place before 2017, it would begin the process of getting our fiscal house back in order. This is also why we passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will reduce the deficit by $300 billion while also lowering the costs of health care, prescription drugs and energy.
Q: Why should voters elect you over your opponent?
A: I am running for re-election because we have made incredible bipartisan progress on our local priorities, and I know we can do much more. I have been honored to lead 18 bipartisan bills to support veterans that have been signed into law by presidents of both parties. I’ve secured federal funding to limit coastal erosion and address pollution in the Tijuana River Valley. I’ve been proud to make substantial progress on getting the nuclear waste at San Onofre off of our beach. I delivered more than $350 million in relief for local families, front-line workers and small businesses to get through the pandemic and get people vaccinated. At the same time, I know families are struggling with higher costs at the gas pump and grocery store, and I am focused on real solutions. I helped pass legislation to lower gas prices by cracking down on price gouging by Big Oil, and I also helped pass legislation to lower food costs, fix supply chains and make more goods in America. Meanwhile, my opponent has failed to offer any substantive solutions to the challenges facing our country and refused to answer many important questions about where he stands on key issues. Most recently, he welcomed the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, showing how out of touch he is with this district. By listening and working together with Democrats, Republicans and independents, I have delivered real results on local priorities. I am running for reelection to build on that important progress. Read the article here.