As Ed travels around Virginia and hears from voters, we’ll continue to add more questions and answers in the space below.
Q. WHAT ABOUT JOBS AND THE ECONOMY?
A. By moving us away from our Constitutional principles of limited government and personal liberty, President Obama, Harry Reid and Mark Warner have enacted policies that have killed jobs, reduced take-home pay, and increased health care and energy costs. We can do better.
Conservative, pro-growth policies promoting lower taxes, less government spending, and ending excessive regulation create jobs, raise take-home pay, and reduce health care and energy costs by unleashing private investment and allowing working Americans rather than political appointees in Washington to make decisions about the best way to allocate their resources. Americans want and deserve intelligent policies to promote job creation, expand opportunities for recent high school and college graduates, and make career advancement a reality again for the many Virginians who have found themselves trapped in a weak economy.
The Obama-Reid-Warner economic policies are not only destroying jobs; they are undermining the American work ethic. There is not just economic value in labor, there is human dignity in work. We must enable more people to have that dignity. If elected I will promote a pro-growth economic agenda to create good-paying jobs for families, foster upward mobility, help those currently employed to keep more of what they earn, and enable people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Too many Virginians are living paycheck-to-paycheck—if they’re fortunate enough to have a paycheck. The U.S. labor force participation rate is at its lowest level in more than three decades, hovering somewhere around 63%. The Congressional Budget Office reported in February that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will mean millions fewer in the fulltime workforce. More people will be working only part-time and we will see the equivalent of 2.3 million fewer jobs over the next decade (nearly 64,000 in Virginia alone).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 92 million people are out of the labor force entirely, and 7 million Americans are working two or more jobs to make ends meet. That’s wrong, and policymakers must make a top priority of solving this problem, which I would do as our senator.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES WHEN IT COMES TO EDUCATION?
A. Every child deserves a high quality education, and I believe parents should be empowered to make the educational choices that are in their children’s best interests. Opportunity is enhanced by competition and choice, which is why I support public schools, charter schools, private and parochial schools, magnet schools, and home schooling. All Virginia children should have an opportunity to receive a world-class education, and no child should be forced to remain in a failing or unsafe school by the constraints of his or her zip code. That is why I support school choice programs that help ensure that all families have access to meaningful and accountable educational options.
Education policies and curriculum are state and local prerogatives. Virginia is rightly among a handful of states that have not adopted Common Core standards. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, and I will always support efforts to empower students, families and teachers, not political appointees at the Department of Education, to make these important educational decisions.
A. Virginia boasts some of the best public colleges and universities in the nation, and a strong system of community colleges, but for many Virginians, college tuition remains out of reach. There is work to do in making higher education more accessible and affordable. Higher education is an economic engine for the Commonwealth. The business community has documented the value of higher education through the “Grow By Degrees” effort, estimating that one dollar of investment produces over seventeen dollars in increased GDP and returns more than a dollar in new tax revenue to the Commonwealth.
I support the empowerment of higher education students by increasing transparency of higher education programs with information on earnings of graduates, by institution and degree, to be readily available to all potential students as they make choices to pursue their studies. Working Virginians require the resources to tailor their skills to the changes of a dynamic economy. That is why I applaud Virginia’s efforts to turn our community colleges into engines of workforce development, and why I will support intelligent workforce investment policies in the Senate, like those embodied in the SKILLS Act. There is no better program of social welfare than a good-paying job, so I will advance policies to help Virginians, and all Americans, develop the skills and expertise they need to compete in a global economy.
Q: DO YOU SUPPORT THE SECOND AMENDMENT?
A. As Virginia’s senator, I will oppose efforts to infringe upon our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, which is an individual right. I would not vote in favor of treaties that would cede firearm regulation to international bodies like the United Nations, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Senator Warner voted against the bi-partisan Senate rejection of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty which could undermine our Second Amendment rights and infringe on U.S. sovereignty. I would have stood up for our Second Amendment Constitutional right.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON REPEALING AND REPLACING OBAMACARE?
A. Virginians are concerned about having access to quality, affordable health care—and they know that Obamacare is making things worse. Everywhere I go, I hear from Virginians who face skyrocketing insurance premiums and stand to lose the coverage they like and the doctors they trust. We understand that Obamacare is not the solution, and that the problem with it is a lot more than just “a failed website launch.” It is harmful legislation that must be replaced with policies that make insurance more affordable, let us keep our doctors and insurance, and allows businesses to grow and hire.
Virginians know that a quality health care system empowers doctors and patients, not politicians and political appointees. We know that the way to reform health care isn’t to kill jobs, reduce wages, deny us our choice of doctors and cancel health care plans that Virginians like, cut $700 billion from Medicare, impose new taxes, and increase our deficit.
Sadly, Obamacare would not be the law today if Senator Warner had voted in the interests of Virginians instead of with his party line. As Virginia’s Senator, I would vote to replace Obamacare with policies that put patients first, provide more affordable options, and do not include a mandate. We need health care reform that works—and that means repealing Obamacare and replacing it with market-based reforms that take health care decisions out of the hands of political appointees.
We also need to focus on ways to keep Virginians healthy, not just treat them when they are sick. As Senator I will focus on medical innovations and finding cures for diseases, reforms that will produce more jobs, and keep America first in health care research. In the course of our campaign, I’ll outline policies in line with these principles.
Q. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO HELP SPUR DOMESTIC ENERGY PRODUCTION?
A. With the right policies, Virginia can be the East Coast’s energy leader, creating high-paying jobs here in the Commonwealth, bringing down costs for home heating in the Winter and prices at the gas pump in the Summer, and helping to move our nation closer to energy independence. We need a Senator who shares that vision and will support the growth of a vibrant, responsible energy sector.
Virginia’s energy sector directly employs more than 30,000 workers and indirectly supports as many as 200,000 jobs, making it a crucial component of our economy. With our natural resources, geographic location, and port access, Virginia can and should be a more integral part of America’s energy supply. From clean coal to wind energy to offshore oil and natural gas, Virginia is blessed with abundant natural resources, but efforts to develop these resources are often thwarted by an overreaching Federal Government.
I believe in an energy approach that embraces both traditional and alternative energy resources. I support oil and natural gas production—including responsible deep sea drilling off our coast—because we can protect our environment while ensuring access to the domestic energy resources we need to create new jobs, lower prices at the pump, and keep utility bills affordable.
As Senator, I’ll fight to protect coal jobs, because I understand how important coal is both to our economy right here in Virginia and to our nation’s energy independence, and I’ll stand up to the EPA’s failed policies that are driving up energy costs and imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens on our homes and businesses. Protecting public health and safety does not require duplicative regulations, needlessly complex and costly compliance requirements, or bureaucratic inefficiency. We need to make use of our abundant natural resources to create jobs and lower energy costs for Virginians. I will work to give Virginia the opportunity to lead on American energy independence.
Unfortunately, Mark Warner has voted in lockstep with the Obama Administration’s war on coal. He stood with Barbara Boxer and John Kerry when they released the Senate version of Cap and Trade in 2009, and has said, “The most significant thing we can do is send the market signal that either directly through a carbon tax or indirectly through cap and trade, we are going to put a price on carbon.”
Last year, Mark Warner voted against creating a 60-vote point of order against any budget resolution that includes a tax or fee on carbon emissions. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, a carbon tax could cost up to 21,000 jobs in Virginia. Five Senate Democrats broke ranks to protect their constituents from these job-killing policies—but Mark Warner toed the party line.
Mark Warner voted against an amendment that would have moved the Keystone pipeline project forward over President Obama’s opposition, and the amendment was defeated. He later backed a “non-binding resolution” supporting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in an effort to cover his tracks on the binding amendment. When it mattered, he voted against the Keystone pipeline, and when it didn’t matter he voted for it. That’s political posturing, not real leadership. I will work to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved.
As Senator, I’ll not just focus on developing energy resources, I’ll also work to remove the federal red-tape that slows down the development of energy infrastructure and limits the development of our energy sector and the creation of jobs. Energy projects, like building new pipelines and refineries, are a critical link between production and lower prices for consumers. Unfortunately, Senator Warner and President Obama, have shown no leadership in removing the barriers to job-creating, cost-reducing, energy infrastructure projects.
Q. ARE YOU PRO-LIFE?
A. I am pro-life, and believe we should foster a culture that respects human life. This means that as a civil society, we must respect and protect the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the sick, those with disabilities, and the elderly.
I would oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, and believe it was a mistake to abandon the explicit prohibition in federal law against it, as Mark Warner voted to do with Obamacare.
I understand that women facing an unplanned pregnancy need compassion and support, not judgment or condemnation. I support education and health care to help women avoid unplanned pregnancies, and believe we must offer life-affirming alternatives to women facing difficult decisions, ensuring that they have the opportunity to choose life. I support adoption and believe that government should help both women and children by making it easier, more affordable, and more accessible for both newborns and those in foster care.
Q. DO YOU SUPPORT A BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT?
A. Mark Warner once endorsed a Balanced Budget Amendment, but when he had a chance to vote for one in the Senate, he voted against it. As your Senator, I will not only support a Balanced Budget Amendment, I will introduce one. I will make it a priority to reduce wasteful, inefficient, and duplicative federal government spending.
At a time when millions of Americans have been forced to make due with less, it is an outrage that government continues to spend taxpayer dollars in such a reckless manner—particularly when profligate government spending is at the root of our economic problems. Deficit spending on the part of government sucks money out of the productive sector, impedes growth, and is a drag on our economy.
Raising taxes on American families and businesses that are already too high would only impede economic growth and make the problem worse. We do not have deficits because taxes aren’t high enough, we have deficits because Federal spending is out of control and our economy is not creating enough jobs. I promise my fellow Virginians I will fight and vote against any efforts to increase marginal income tax rates on individuals and businesses, and oppose any net reduction or elimination of tax deductions and credits unless they are matched by equal reductions in tax rates. Growing our economy and getting spending under control are the keys to resolving our burgeoning federal debt, not further adding to the tax burden on American families and businesses.
Mark Warner has voted to increase taxes by nearly $1 Trillion, and to increase our debt by $7 Trillion. An $18 trillion debt is simply unacceptable, and we cannot afford the consequences of continued inaction. We’re saddling our children with debt to pay for promises made in the past, and new promises President Obama and Mark Warner made in Obamacare.
It’s time we stop spending money we just don’t have.
Ed’s Background on Balancing the Budget:
Ed helped get the first federal balanced budget in 25 years and helped reform our welfare system:
“As a top congressional leadership aide, Ed Gillespie played a critical role in getting to the first balanced budget in 25 years, and enacting welfare reform legislation that helped people move from welfare to work. His knowledge of policy and understanding of how to get things done will make him an effective Senator for the people of Virginia.” -Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader (1995-2003) and U.S. Representative from Texas (1985-2003)
Ed was a principle drafter of the Contract with America, pointing out in 1994:
“Americans know that without a balanced budget amendment, Congress is not going to reconcile spending and taxes and we’ll never get spending under control.” (Ed Gillespie on C-SPAN, Nov. 1, 1994)
Q. WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM
A. I am proud to be the son of an immigrant. My father came to this country through Ellis Island from Ireland as a boy, because his father found work as a janitor. I appreciate the opportunities provided to my father — and by extension to me and my children — by the greatest country ever to grace the face of the earth.
When it comes to immigration reform, I believe we have not only a right but a responsibility to secure our borders. We must also enforce our existing laws. The steps we take to secure our borders would not only enable us to keep out those we don’t want coming into our country illegally, but to allow in legally those we want to welcome here.
An estimated 40% of those in our country illegally now have overstayed their visas, so we clearly need to reform our visa system. If this were a private sector problem, it would have been fixed by now, and our Federal Government needs to fix it. I also believe we can improve the E-Verify program to help employers be sure that anyone they hire is a citizen or a legal resident.
While steps like these would help stop illegal immigration going forward, they do not address the 10-12 million people here illegally now. I do not support amnesty, and oppose granting citizenship to them, which would be unfair to those who have come here legally and played by the rules. And I don’t believe we should give one of the greatest privileges in the world—American citizenship—to those who are here by virtue of having broken our laws.
At the same time, I do not believe that our nation will implement the mass deportation of 10-12 million people, so we need to come to terms with those who are here illegally now. It would be in the interest of both American citizens and those here illegally to be able to come forward and, after a series of processes (i.e., criminal background checks, payment of back taxes, assimilation, demonstration of self sufficiency), be issued new visas to be here legally.
Q. HOW DO YOU PROPOSE TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS WITH OUR VETERAN AFFAIRS HOSPITALS AND KEEP THE PROMISES WE HAVE MADE TO OUR NATION’S VETERANS
A. Virginia has one of the highest per capita population of veterans of any state, with nearly one in ten adult Virginians having worn our nation’s uniform. The more than 840,000 Virginians who have served in our armed forces deserve our undying gratitude for their service and sacrifice, and for their commitment to defending the freedoms we hold dear. It is imperative that we keep our promises to care for our wounded warriors, fight to preserve veteran benefits, keep TRICARE fees from being raised, and improve and expand education and job training options for returning veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits—primarily medical care, housing, and educational benefits—to nearly 6 million veterans. Approximately 840,000 of those reside in Virginia, which hosts three major Veteran Medical Centers (Richmond, Hampton, Salem). The agency’s primary responsibility is the administration of VA hospitals throughout the country.
However, this Administration and this Congress have failed to follow through on our obligations to veterans.
The Obama Administration and the VA have been reluctant to fire poor performers. In Senate testimony on May 15, former VA Secretary Shinseki was unaware of how many employees, if any, had been fired in the wake of a mismanagement scandal. Our highest priority should be to restore accountability at the VA. We cannot leave the crucial mission of serving our nation’s veterans to incompetent managers.
Despite mismanagement, the Federal Government still pays out millions in bonuses to VA supervisors. In some cases, administrators were found to be cooking their books to ensure their eligibility for bonuses. VA funds should be going to the care of veterans, not perks for federal government employees.
Every year, the Obama Administration has requested an increase in Tricare “co-pays” (which would result in troops, their families, and retirees paying more out of pocket) and a reduction in commissary funding. Mark Warner has stated that increases to the co-pay of Tricare have “to be on the table.” And, when asked what he might cut from the budget, Mark Warner said that he would “be doing everyone in this country a disservice if [he] said that we couldn’t rule out possibly increasing Tricare copays.” I will oppose any efforts to increase Tricare co-pays or reduce commissary funding. Vets are already being squeezed by this economy, and Congress should not add to that burden. Commissaries save service members and their families 25-35 percent monthly on groceries. The commissaries also employ veterans and military spouses. Sixty-four percent of commissary employees are military connected, and nearly 30 percent are military spouses. The grocery savings and jobs provided by the commissaries make a big difference for thousands of Virginia military families struggling to make ends meet.
In order to ensure that our all-volunteer Armed Forces are able to remain competitive with the private sector, we must continue the funding of these essential programs. VA benefits are critical to recruiting and retaining quality personnel. Quality, timely VA service is not a benefit, but an obligation earned through veterans’ service in uniform. Cuts in benefits for retired vets—a direct result of the budget sequester supported by Senator Warner—must be restored.
In 2013, there were more than 700,000 veterans looking for work. During 2013, the overall unemployment rate was around 7 percent. Joblessness among 18-24 year-old veterans is 21.4 percent, three times higher than the general level of unemployment. The solution to this crisis will not come from the Federal Government hiring all of these young veterans. Instead, we need to implement pro-growth policies that will help to create a vibrant, growing economy. The fact that our GDP shrank by 2.9 percentage points is unacceptable for our nation, and especially hard on our veterans.
As your Senator, I will protect our veterans’ interests. I will hold the VA accountable on behalf of the thousands of veterans and their families in Virginia, and I will ensure that funds allocated to the VA are used in the service of our veterans. Our veterans answered our nation’s call to serve, and I will answer their call to improve the Veterans Administration.