2022 election: Q&A with Rep. Scott Peters, 50th Congressional District candidate

May 12, 2022

Congressman Peters is running for reelection in CA50 to continue his work addressing the climate crisis, supporting our military and veterans, advocating for more homes for everyone, and more.

Read more about the ways he is fighting for San Diego’s priorities in Washington in this April 25th piece by the San Diego Union Tribune, posted below:

2022 election: Q&A with Rep. Scott Peters, 50th Congressional District candidate

By The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board

April 25, 2022

There are five candidates on the June 7 ballot in the campaign for the 50th Congressional District that represents coastal and north inland San Diego County. Democratic Rep. Scott Peters is being challenged by coffee shop owner David Chiddick and business owner/educator Corey Gustafson, both Republicans; scientist Adam Schindler, a no-party preference candidate; and tech nonprofit executive Kylie Taitano, a Democrat. The top two vote-getters will advance to a Nov. 8 runoff.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board e-mailed each candidate a 12-question survey.

If you have comments or questions about the election or any of the candidates after reading this interview, please email Editorial and Opinion Director Matthew T. Hall at matthew.hall@sduniontribune.com.

Below are Rep. Scott Peters’ responses and a link to the other responses.

Q: What will be your top domestic and international priority in Congress?

A: Domestically, my top priority is to make sure what’s important in San Diego is addressed in Washington, D.C. I’ve helped increase investment in scientific research by tens of billions, supported trade pacts that protect intellectual property and patent rights of inventors and passed historic legislation to tackle climate change. I’ve championed billions of dollars in military investments: a new training campus for Navy SEALs, new infrastructure at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and support for 25 new home-ported Navy ships. On the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I fought to ensure our veterans have jobs, health care and resources to reduce veteran homelessness and suicide.

San Diegans view our border with Mexico as an opportunity, not a threat. I’m focused on two issues there — increasing trade and decreasing pollution. Our delegation brought $500 million in federal investment to improve and expand the San Ysidro border crossing, the busiest land port in the world, to increase security and commerce. We are working now to build a new crossing, Otay II. To further reduce border waits and spur economic activity and jobs, we must ensure those facilities are fully staffed with customs and security agents. To fix the decades-old problem of cross-border pollution, we’ve secured $300 million as part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, plus $50 million more through annual appropriations. The required environmental review needed to expand and upgrade the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant is proceeding; design work happens next year, and construction is expected in 2024. Meanwhile, other repairs and improvements to pumping and collector stations are underway.

Q: What more can Congress do to combat climate change?

A: Scientists have warned that the world must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued another stark warning that we are running out of time.

Achieving net-zero emissions is my priority on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. There is no magic bullet. We must 1) decarbonize our economic sectors: electricity, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and buildings; 2) regulate damaging short-lived climate pollutants, especially methane; 3) impose a price on carbon; 4) invest in technological innovation for new fuels and technologies, such as long-duration energy storage; and 5) develop carbon capture and carbon removal technologies. I’ve led or co-led three of the most significant climate bills to become law since I joined Congress, on methane, coolants and carbon management. The U.S. must also engage and lead internationally. In 2017, I addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City on U.S. climate policy. In 2019, I was honored to help represent our country at the United Nations COP25 climate conference in Madrid. In 2021, I introduced legislation to better align our climate and trade goals and help reduce emissions globally.

No matter how rapidly we reduce emissions, we will face more severe climate impacts, including drought, wildfire and extreme heat. Therefore, we must invest in climate resilience and adaptation. I introduced legislation to create a national climate adaptation and resilience strategy and am working on legislation to make our iconic forests more resilient to wildfires.

Q: How do you assess the Biden administration’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine? What would you have done differently?

A: The Biden administration has performed extremely well. While I believe we should have supplied Ukraine with more arms prior to the start of the conflict, the president has done an excellent job of marshaling our allies and partners to effectively respond to Russia’s aggression. President Joe Biden has used his decades of experience in foreign affairs to rally the world against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tyranny. This is what voters wanted when they replaced the previous president who did Putin’s bidding. The positive response from our European partners and NATO would not have occurred without American leadership. Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, it is not appropriate to enter direct conflict, thus, tough sanctions on Russia, Putin and his oligarchs, coupled with massive security and humanitarian assistance, are the right responses.

In March, Congress approved with my support, and the president signed, a $13.6 billion emergency package that provides military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and all those hurt by Russia’s brutal and unjustified assault. The package provides support for refugees forced to flee the country, food and health care support, and gave the president the authority to transfer defense equipment to Ukraine and its allies. Also in March, I co-sponsored the SUPPORT Act, which declares America’s continued support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, both through intelligence sharing and other means going forward. Finally, this crisis highlights a fundamental truth — the world is safer when America leads with its allies. Smart diplomacy and working with our foreign partners will always outweigh acting alone.

Q: U.S. immigration policy is complex. What two areas would you focus on to make changes to it?

A: One of the reasons we are experiencing inflation is that we have a labor shortage throughout the economy, from farms to hospitals to factories to labs. The U.S. has always turned to immigrants in these times, and we should do so again. The reform should be comprehensive, based on merit, family unification and security. If I had to select two priorities, the first would be to bring out from the shadows those immigrants without documents who are already part of our economy. I support an immigration policy that protects Dreamers and provides them a path to citizenship that allows them to stay in the only country they know. I would create a path to earned citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who have been here for decades, as have many under temporary protective status, and who have become part of our essential workforce so they can step up and be counted, pay into and benefit from the social safety net and contribute even more to the national economy. They deserve to live with dignity and free from fear of deportation.

Second, I would do what we can to attract and retain the science and technology talent that makes our nation and our region the center of innovation in a brain-powered economy. I would raise the caps on H1-B visas and allow permanent residence for master’s and Ph.D. graduates in science, technology, engineering and math.

Q: How should the United States handle the growing number of refugees and asylum seekers from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Central and South America and elsewhere?

A: We need to keep our promises to the Afghan refugees who risked their lives to fight alongside the U.S. military in the past two decades, so that others will be willing to take that risk in the future. We need to show compassion to the Ukrainians who are fleeing from Putin’s tyranny. I support ongoing efforts to resettle Afghans in San Diego and throughout the United States and applaud the president’s recent announcement to resettle 100,000 Ukrainians. We can already see this policy actively at work on our southern border as dozens of Ukrainian families have been admitted through the San Ysidro Port of Entry. In addition, my staff has personally assisted hundreds of Afghan and Ukrainian families navigate our complex immigration system to expedite their entry into the United States. During a time of great labor shortages, these migrants come to us with skills and experience that can instantly be put to use in building and growing our economy. Doctors, engineers, teachers, farmers and business owners can look to build a new life safe from conflict or support themselves until it becomes safe to return home.

With respect to Central and South America, I support continued investment to increase economic opportunity and reduce crime so that so many of these residents will not be induced to flee. Climate change and corruption are both contributing to the growing numbers of immigrants who feel like they have lost the ability to succeed in their native countries. The United States can be a leader in combating these problems while also recognizing that this nation of immigrants should continue to provide a safe haven for those truly at risk.

Q: How would you try to improve border wait times for personal and commercial crossers at the U.S.-Mexico border?

A: Our delegation worked together to bring almost $1 billion to the region for the expansion and modernization of the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa and Calexico ports of entry because our residents and businesses depend on it. At the same time, with the addition of personal and commercial crossers, we have not done enough to ensure staffing levels keep pace with current traffic. I have long been a proponent of increased Customs and Border Protection officers and additional technology to ensure the efficient passage of traffic. In addition, we should continue to promote advances that are already being made, such as the CBP One app, which allows travelers to complete necessary documents ahead of time, and increased use of trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry and the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI). As part of the Otay Mesa modernization, CBP just opened a brand new facility specifically dedicated to processing SENTRI and Global Entry applicants, which should help reduce processing times as well.

Q: What specific steps does the nation need to take immediately and over time to ensure it’s better prepared to handle the next pandemic?

A: The government must act to ensure greater supply chain reliability for personal protective equipment, basic pharmaceuticals, energy supplies and computer chips, among other things. We should embrace the success of Project Warp Speed and be prepared once again to accelerate the development of tests, vaccines and cures, and we must continue our vaccine research all the time. We also know that school closure is damaging for our economy and our kids, and we should invest now in ensuring ventilation in buildings to inhibit the spread of respiratory diseases. And we should standardize national, state, county or city-level public reporting on COVID-19. Today we can provide experts only a fraction of the data we need to fight the pandemic. Last month, I introduced the Health Statistics Act that will fix detrimental inconsistencies in data collection and reporting, which is essential to effectively combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Finally, those without access to care, who are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, are hit hardest by the virus and are more likely to fall victim to its worst effects, which are more deadly and more expensive to treat. I have been an outspoken champion both for protecting the Affordable Care Act and for fixing the parts that need to be fixed, such as keeping insurance premiums lower and more stable.

Q: What role, if any, should the government play in helping American workers obtain health insurance? If you support a government-related insurance plan, how would you finance it?

A: Our goal for health insurance should be universal coverage and, to that end, the federal government should pursue policies that ensure that all Americans have access to a health plan they can afford. While most Americans get their health insurance through their employer, those who do not are eligible to receive federal premium support through the Affordable Care Act. The expansion of premium support payments included in the American Rescue Plan and signed into law in early 2021 helped drive record enrollment in health plans through Covered California, where, if you earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, you can get insurance for an average of $35 per month.

What the pandemic has made clear, however, is that as positive as the Affordable Care Act has been, there are still too many people who lack access to affordable coverage. For that reason, I support the work of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, on which I serve, to promote a “public option” for health care, sponsored by the federal government. A public option would provide competitive pressure against privately sponsored plans and give Americans more choice in their health coverage. The ability to choose our health plans, doctors, pharmacies, etc., is one of the strengths of the American health-care system and helps drive innovation within the sector. As we seek to improve access and affordability in health care, we should preserve what works and reform what doesn’t.

Q: How would you use your federal position to advance local issues, such as housing, homelessness and veterans affairs?

A: The housing crisis is the main impediment to continued prosperity and quality of life in San Diego and in California. In Congress, I introduced the Build More Housing Near Transit Act, which would use the leverage of federal transportation funding to get local governments to build more homes near these major federal investments. We could increase housing supply, take more cars off the roads and boost farebox recovery.

I have also been an advocate for changing state law. I have long called for shielding infill housing from lawsuits brought under the California Environmental Quality Act. I supported the efforts of UC San Diego to build more on-campus housing. And I am a co-founder of San Diego YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) Democrats, to advocate for more homes for San Diegans.

Finally, San Diego is home to one of the nation’s largest veteran populations and I have made legislating on their behalf a priority. I have led efforts to make housing vouchers more easily accessible to our veterans, to ensure that more of our veterans are able to use G.I. Bill benefits to further their education and helped launch zero8hundred, a nonprofit organization that eases the transition from military to civilian life, to help service members transition from active duty to civilian life. And my office has helped hundreds of veterans and their families access the benefits they earned with their service.

Q: How would you address economic pressures facing Americans with high inflation, gas prices and other costs and how would you address the massive national debt clouding America’s future?

A: At the onset of the pandemic, most economists agreed the U.S. should borrow money to address the immediate economic effects, to support businesses, workers and families. They advised going too big rather than too small, to stave off a recession or depression. Today, we have record high growth and low unemployment. I created and lead the New Democrats’ Inflation Working Group. Our highest priority is passing the America Competes Act, which will invest in good-paying jobs, domestic manufacturing, research and innovation, and lowering prices.

Our national debt is at its highest level since World War II and growing faster than the economy. Every year, interest payments consume a growing portion of taxpayer revenues. That is not sustainable. I am working with the Committee on a Responsible Federal Budget and leading a bipartisan group of 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans to call on House and Senate leadership to commit to three policies as part of any future stimulus. First, Congress must receive an annual Fiscal State of the Nation that lays the extent of our debt. Second, we need a bipartisan panel to recommend policies to avoid the impending insolvency of many of our trust funds, including highways and Social Security. And third, we would change the current debt ceiling limitation from a political cudgel to a legitimate policy tool to ensure that over time our debt grows more slowly than our economy. I have been named a Fiscal Hero by the nonpartisan Committee to Fix the Debt three times for my commitment.

Q: How worried are you about how polarized the U.S. has become? Do you think our democracy is at risk?

A: President Abraham Lincoln counseled us that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” And again, the greatest challenge for our democracy is the divide among us. We have never and will never overcome any great obstacle with support from one political party alone — whether it’s winning a world war, going to the moon or battling climate change. Democrats and Republicans are political competitors, not enemies. I believe that Democrats must lead on many issues — and must maintain House and Senate majorities to do so — but the most durable progress is always bipartisan.

Q: When have you shown independence from your political party on a significant issue?

A: I and others, including dozens of patient advocacy groups, had strong concerns about the effect the Democrats’ original drug pricing proposal — HR 3 — would have on private investment in drug discovery. Private investment in U.S. drug innovation totaled $102 billion in 2018. San Diego has more than 1,000 life science companies, most of them small, that employ more than 68,000 of our neighbors.

I knew HR 3 would not pass the Senate and become law because several Democratic senators did not support it. So I told Speaker Nancy Pelosi early on that I would create an alternative. I was one of three Democrats on the committee of jurisdiction to vote against the party’s proposal and support an alternative that addressed our concerns and still met Democrats’ goal of lowering prices for seniors.

The result: Our alternative approach was passed in the House as part of Build Back Better. Out-of-pocket expenses for seniors are capped at $2,000 per year, insulin is capped at $35 per month, drug prices can’t rise faster than inflation, and Medicare can negotiate drug prices without discouraging the private investment required to create new lifesaving medicines.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this plan will save the country $300 billion. It now awaits approval in the Senate. It’s now supported by AARP and every Democratic senator, from West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren, as well as Vermont independent Bernie Sanders.

3.31.02

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