Party: Democratic

Incumbent: Yes

Headquarters: PO Box 1454, Lowell, MA 01853
Phone: (978) 458-6454

Occupation: US Representative from the 5th Congressional District

Family: Three daughters: Ashley, Katina, and Molly.

Town: Lowell

Education: Smith College, Boston University School of Law

Experience: Social worker at Catholic Charities in Lowell.
Dean of external affairs at Middlesex Community College.
Family law attorney.

— Submitted by the candidate

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TIMELINE

Why are you running?

"I ran for Congress in 2007 because I was motivated by a lifelong commitment to public service and a desire to change people's lives for the better.

When Marty Meehan resigned in 2007 - and after my own work in community service, law, and education - I felt that I could have a real impact on the quality of life for those in the Fifth Congressional District and beyond."

— Submitted by the candidate

Issues

The economy

How can the federal government best stimulate the economy?

"We must continue to work to get our economy back on track, which means creating jobs.

Historically, we rely on our small businesses to help bring economies out of recession and create a significant percentage of new jobs. An important step in helping our small businesses recover was taken recently when the Small Business Jobs Act was signed into law.

This new law provides small businesses with $12 billion in tax cuts to spur investment and hiring, allows for 100% exclusion of capital gains on investments in small business, and doubles the tax deduction for start-up expenditures.

It also helps to unlock credit for small businesses through loan guarantees that are backed up by the Small Business Administration and existing successful state loan guarantee programs. These guarantees allow community banks to extend credit to reliable small businesses that have suffered during the downturn without absorbing all of the risk.

There are additional steps that Congress should take to support our small businesses, such as new tax credits for firms that hire new employees. It is also essential that we close tax loopholes that encourage large employers to ship jobs overseas.

While it is important to support policies at the federal level that encourage growth, it is equally important that a member of Congress be responsive to the unique business needs of their state and district.

That is why I have led the fight in Congress to extend the highly successful Renewal Communities Tax Credit, which is vital to job creation in Lowell and Lawrence. I am also working to make permanent the Research and Development tax credit that is so important to innovative businesses in the Fifth District.

Massachusetts is one of the top research and development economies in the world. Making this tax credit permanent would provide greater certainty to businesses in our area, and give them a valuable tool with which to hire more workers while increasing our global competitiveness."

Bush tax cuts

Will you vote to continue the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush for the top 3% of earners?

"I favor extending tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 and nearly all small businesses.

Extending tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans would grow the national deficit by another $700 billion, and I don't support putting tax breaks for millionaires ahead of starting to bring down the deficit.

Furthermore, I hear over and over again that businesses need certainty in the tax code, not short-term extensions that leave them guessing from year to year. That's why I support permanently returning to the tax rates of the 1990s for the wealthiest Americans, which were in place when we had record economic and jobs growth coupled with record surpluses.

It's also why I support making critical business tax incentives like the research and development credit permanent."

Federal deficit

If the bipartisan deficit commission says that both spending reductions and revenue increases, including tax hikes, are necessary to reduce the federal deficit to a sustainable level, would you support such a package?

"I couldn't comment on such a package without seeing it first, but long-term economic growth will only be possible if we tackle our national debt.

No one was more passionate about the dangers of an exploding national debt than my late husband, Senator Paul Tsongas, who made it a central focus of his 1992 campaign for president. During the 1990s, fiscal responsibility prevailed, in part because of the awareness Paul helped raise.

However, during the early 2000s, massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the midst of fighting two wars overseas turned budget surpluses into budget deficits. The Great Recession has made our fiscal situation even worse. While economists argue that some deficit-spending is necessary during the recession, we must take real steps toward fiscal responsibility over the long-term.

I was an original co-sponsor of legislation, signed into law in February, to restore the pay-as-you-go rule, which prevents Congress from new spending or tax cuts unless it saves that money elsewhere in the federal budget. Pay-as-you-go is common sense: if something is worth doing, we should find a way to pay for it instead of charging it to the national credit card.

During the 1990s, pay-as-you-go helped pave the way for balanced budgets. The Office of Management and Budget has noted that had pay-as-you-go principles been followed during the Bush years, our projected deficits would be $5 trillion less.

I also believe that given the extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances that families across Massachusetts are facing, elected representatives should be looking for ways to reduce spending and give back wherever possible. That's why I have never taken a pay raise since I was elected, and I support cutting pay for members of Congress.

And, this spring, I returned $75,000 to the Treasury from my 2009 budget for office expenses. While this is a relatively small amount compared to the overall federal budget, I believe that it sends an important message."

Health care law

What is your view of the national health care law?

"I strongly supported the new health care reform law because it will bring down health care costs for Massachusetts residents and small businesses, and prohibit unfair insurance company practices such as charging a woman more than a man and denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

I literally had thousands of conversations with Fifth District residents on this subject and heard repeatedly that health care costs were hurting businesses and families across Massachusetts. If left unchecked, health care costs were going to bankrupt our country.

Not only was health care reform fully paid for, but it cuts the federal deficit by more than $143 billion dollars over the next 10 years, and reduces it by another $1.2 billion in the decade that follows.

The bill helps move towards a system in which we pay doctors for the quality of care they provide, rather than the number of tests and procedures they perform.

It invests in electronic health records, which will avoid the cost of duplicative tests and treatments.

And it makes use of comparative effectiveness research - which will help doctors ensure that patients get the best care possible.

We are already starting to see the benefits of the new law:

Small businesses are receiving tax credits to provide insurance to their workers.

Recent college graduates who may not have access to insurance can remain on their parents' health plans until the age of 26.

Senior citizens who fall into the doughnut hole, 7,400 of whom live in the Fifth District, are starting to see it closed and have already received checks to help them afford needed medications.

Additional reforms that will further bring down costs and improve care are going to gradually take effect, and we should give the new law a chance to work."

Illegal immigration

Do you agree with Arizona's new immigration law? If not, what should the country do about illegal immigration?

"No. It goes too far and diverts resources away from other serious crimes, which is why the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposes it. But efforts like this expose a failure to address our broken system at the national level and that must change.

Federal immigration laws passed in 1986 and 1996 failed to adequately address the primary driver of immigration: employment due to the unmet demands for workers. For reform to be successful long-term, it must create a system capable of adapting to the changing demands of our economy.

Most importantly, reform should protect the American worker first and foremost, ensuring that immigrants don't displace Americans or depress wages. Employers have to know that hiring illegal immigrants will no longer be treated as business as usual. We must give employers the tools to verify the employee status, require employers to do so, and hold accountable those who don't comply or who keep hiring outside the law.

For the security of our nation, we must be able to account for every person who enters our country. I toured our southern border to get a first-hand look at border security measures. I believe we must provide additional resources to our current border protection efforts. Much of the technology we need to police our borders is being developed and manufactured here in the US and in the 5th District, creating well-paying jobs for American citizens.

Finally, we need to address the issue of the millions of immigrants living in the US illegally. Undocumented residents should be required to come forward and register for legal status, pay a fine and back taxes owed, learn English, and pass criminal background checks in order to remain in the country and work toward citizenship. Those who don't come forward should be removed.

I do support the DREAM Act, which gives young people brought to the US as children a path to citizenship."

Trade

Do you support free trade or fair trade? Why?

"In 2009, Massachusetts exported $23.6 billion in goods to the rest of the world. Encouraging exports and free trade is critical to our long-term global competitiveness.

But too many past agreements, including NAFTA and CAFTA, failed to create a level playing field for workers, with serious unintended consequences. NAFTA in particular has contributed to lost American manufacturing jobs on one hand and a large influx of illegal immigration on the other.

I consider each trade agreement on its merits and have consistently voted to oppose or delay agreements that didn't adequately provide a fair and level playing field for all workers.

I voted against the Peru Free Trade Agreement and I voted to delay consideration of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement because like NAFTA and CAFTA before them, these agreements failed to address the billion-dollar American agricultural subsidies that drive subsistence farmers out of the market and into the United States illegally.

I also had serious concerns about human rights abuses in Colombia and Peru, including violence against human rights advocates and union workers who pressed for more rights. I continue to evaluate the proposed FTAs with Korea and Panama. Both countries are important strategic allies, but both trade agreements contain potential flaws."

Social security

What specific changes would you support to make Social Security and Medicare sustainable over the long term?

"I supported health care reform in part because it extends the solvency of Medicare by an additional 12 years - to 2029 - while also adding benefits to seniors in the form of free preventive care and by eliminating gaps in prescription drug coverage.

This is the case because health care reform ends overpayments to private insurers through Medicare Advantage, and reduces health care costs.

Also, health care reform created the Independent Payment Advisory Board, specifically tasked with making recommendations on reining in Medicare spending each year - and thereby extend Medicare's solvency.

I am also a strong supporter of Social Security, one of America's most successful government programs.

It was never envisioned to be the sole source of a person's retirement, but without it, those who rely on it would have no safety net. That is why I am absolutely committed to strengthening Social Security so that our national contract with America's workers endures for future generations of seniors.

I oppose attempts to privatize Social Security, which would divert resources from the program and have an immediate impact on today's beneficiaries and ensure that the program doesn't exist in the future. We don't want to replace a guarantee with a gamble."

Responses gathered through e.thePeople

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