Name: Heidi Heitkamp
Race: U.S. Senate
Questions for Senate candidates:
1) If a bill is introduced to repeal the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the Senate, will you vote to repeal the law or uphold it in its present form and why?
There are some good things in the law and some serious problems that need fixing. Good things include tax breaks for small businesses that provide health insurance, more preventive care, no more denials of health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, you can't get thrown off your health insurance if you get old or sick, and children can also stay on their parents' policy until age 26. Also, the law included $600 million dollars for North Dakota hospitals. We can't afford to lose any of that.
But again, there are serious problems with the law like the federal mandate requiring you to buy health insurance and too much red tape for small businesses. All of that needs to be fixed, but the only way we can fix it is to fix Washington. Too many Democrats in Washington won't admit there are problems and too many Republicans like Rick Berg want to throw it all out, the good and the bad, just because it's President Obama's law. That's what's wrong with that place.
2) Do you favor or oppose religious employers, such as Catholic hospitals and Catholic schools, opting out of portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act they find morally objectionable? Why or Why not?
I would need to see the specifics of any piece of legislation before it comes to a vote. However, I have concerns with both (H.R. 3897 and S. 2043) as they stand. They go far beyond exemptions for religious institutions, which many North Dakotans consider reasonable. Either of these bills, if passed, would allow any employer, for almost any reason, to take away preventative care of all kinds that women already have and rely on. I think most North Dakotans want to keep their health coverage and want their bosses to stay out of their private health care decisions -- just as they want the government to give an exemption to churches.
3) If a vote to override a presidential veto of the construction of the section of the Keystone XL Pipeline that crosses the Canadian border and runs through Montana into Nebraska is brought to the floor of the Senate, how will you vote and why?
Again, it's important for me to see the specifics of any particular legislation before it comes to a vote. I'm a longtime advocate for a strong, multi-pronged energy industry in North Dakota. I believe our state can be a leader in reducing the country's dependence on Mideast oil through domestic energy sources such as natural gas, oil, and renewable energy like solar and wind power. Just last week I outlined my plans to support the Keystone XL Pipeline, end reckless oil speculation by big Wall Street traders, increase domestic drilling and energy production and support alternate energy like wind and biofuels. The Keystone XL Pipeline would mean billions invested into our economy, thousands of family-supporting jobs and it would help reduce our dependence on Mideast oil. As Senator, I'll work with both parties to move North Dakota forward and ensure the Keystone Pipeline -- which has been delayed too long -- gets built.
4) What provisions would you like to see included in the new farm bill that are currently not included in the current farm bill?
When I travel around the state what I hear is that people understand it's time to make responsible cuts in the Farm Bill, but that Crop Insurance is a key part of the safety net we need to protect and preserve. The compromise led by Senators Conrad and Hoeven moves us in the right direction. But Rep. Berg had a chance to lead and what we saw was someone who put party politics before what was best for North Dakota. Rep. Berg voted for Paul Ryan's budget that cuts $180 billion from Farm programs including $31 billion from commodity and crop insurance <http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/19669/>, then came back to North Dakota and tried to claim he supported the Senate version of the Farm Bill instead <http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/19723/>. Those proposals are as far apart as Bismarck is from Washington, D.C., and if Rep. Berg can't see that maybe he should spend more time back in North Dakota.
5) Name six federal programs that you would support cutting or reducing funding for in order to reduce the deficit and indicate the amount of money that you would support reducing or cutting from each program?
Fiscal discipline won't come by itself. That's why I am committed to supporting a balanced budget amendment that doesn't put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block. As our campaign moves forward, I'll be giving specific examples of places we can make cuts. Here are a few: Allowing Medicare to negotiate for drug prices like the Veterans Administration could save as much as $200 billion. Congress gets automatic pay raises. Where else are pay raises automatic? Ending that practice would save $80 million. The federal government owns or leases enough vehicles to cover most people in North Dakota. Cutting the fleet by 20 percent would save $5.6 billion. Cutting the number of limos in the federal government alone saves another $115 million. Spending on government conferences has gotten out of hand. Cutting back could save $1 billion. Reducing the number of no-bid contracts in government would save another $2 billion.