Nov. 2022 Election: Q&A with Rep. Sara Jacobs, 51 Congressional District candidate [8/17/22]

Nov. 2022 Election: Q&A with Rep. Sara Jacobs, 51 Congressional District candidate [8/17/22]

Aug 17th, 2022The San Diego Union-Tribune

Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs, who is seeking a second two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives, is being challenged by Republican small business owner Stan Caplan in the redrawn 51st Congressional District that represents central San Diego and parts of East County. Election Day is Nov. 8 and voting will begin a month earlier.
Here are Jacobs’ 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: When I think about writing policy, I start by looking at what can have the biggest return on investment. That means, for domestic policy, I focus on policies that alleviate childhood poverty and support kids. If done right, these policies help lift kids out of poverty now and keep them out of poverty over their lifetimes. I was proud to lead in passing the expanded and improved Child Tax Credit, which returned $192 million to approximately 129,000 children and 83,000 households in the 53rd Congressional District last year. I’m continuing to fight to make it permanent.

I’m also focused on making sure that our fundamental rights and our democracy are protected. Reproductive care is my health care, so the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade is incredibly personal. Congress needs to codify the right to abortion into law, ensure that patients can receive the care that is right for them and that doctors are able to provide it without fear of prosecution, and make sure that people’s digital footprint — including much of our most private and intimate information — can’t be used against us as abortion is criminalized.

Internationally, I have prioritized rethinking U.S. foreign policy to make sure we’re addressing current and future threats, not just the threats of the past. I’ve been especially focused on limiting civilian casualties of war, making sure we prioritize and appropriately fund our diplomatic corps, and providing development assistance and support to countries prone to conflict before the conflicts arise.

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: Jan. 6, 2021, was my fourth day in office. I was watching the certification of the election results from the House Gallery when the Capitol was breached. After sheltering in place and donning gas masks, my colleagues and I escaped — climbing over chairs and under railings, down staircases, into the tunnels, and away from the shouting mob — with only seconds to spare. It was the closest I’ve ever come to losing my life.

Before Congress, I worked for the United Nations and the State Department in conflict-torn countries and in the aftermath of violent coups. I know from that work that political violence often comes from deep fault lines in society — like the long history of White supremacy in the U.S. — combined with conflict entrepreneurs — like Donald Trump — who mobilize people around those fault lines. It’s clear that Jan. 6, 2021, wasn’t a spontaneous act of violence but a concerted effort by Trump to overturn the will of the people, even after he knew he’d lost. That’s why I’ve been focused on making sure we have accountability, because without accountability, more violence will follow.

I’m very worried about the implications for the future of the United States, especially as we see an influx of state and local candidates emboldened and actively working to undermine our democracy in more insidious ways, and as we see election deniers win Republican nominations. But I’ve seen countries more torn apart than ours find ways to put themselves back together, so I still have hope.

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: As California’s youngest member of Congress, I understand the deep economic consequences high inflation can have on future generations, and I’ve been working with my colleagues to ease these financial burdens. I’m grateful that the Senate and the House passed — and President Joe Biden signed — the Inflation Reduction Act. This historic package will reduce inflation, cut the deficit, lower costs, create millions of good-paying jobs and invest in our climate resilience for the first time in decades.

It’s also important that we recognize that for many San Diegans, this economic pressure highlights the already high costs of living here, including for health care, child care and housing.

One way to address inflation is to increase labor force participation. Many parents, and particularly women, were pushed out of the workforce because of the lack of child care during the pandemic. By investing in child care, we can increase labor force participation, address one of the highest costs for families, and make a good investment in the future of our economy. Nobel Prize-winning research shows that we save $6 for every $1 we invest in quality early childhood programs and additional research shows that the U.S. economy loses more than $1 trillion annually due to the costs and impacts of childhood poverty. I will keep fighting to make sure the federal government makes the investments in child care that San Diego’s families, and our economy, desperately need.

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: I agree that the Supreme Court has lost the faith and confidence of the American public and that it needs serious reform. Whatever avenue we take, the most important priority is to restore the court’s legitimacy with the American people and make sure we aren’t further feeding into mistrust of our institutions.

I am open to many of the possible reforms, including through the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would expand the court to 13 justices. Other interesting proposals include expanding the court to 15 justices and elevating judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals on a rotating basis for five-year terms — or setting 18-year term limits to remove the overbearing nature of lifetime appointments.

Regardless of the specific solution, it’s clear we need significant, structural court reform. Right now, the majority of our justices were appointed by presidents who did not win the popular vote and confirmed by senators who do not represent the majority of Americans.

Q: What do you see as the implications of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade?

A: As a young woman, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a gut punch. Six justices think they know more about my body and my health care than my doctor and I do, and their decision has far-reaching implications for privacy and bodily autonomy.

We also have to recognize that the post-Roe era won’t look like the pre-Roe era. In the 50 years since Roe became the law of the land, we’ve seen a vast digital surveillance system emerge — one that can be used against people who are seeking abortions and those helping them. That’s why I introduced the My Body, My Data Act — a bill to create a new national standard to protect personal reproductive and sexual health data. I’ve heard from friends, constituents and peers who are worried that their reproductive health data — from period or fertility tracking apps, Google searches, location data and more — could be used against them. By minimizing the personal reproductive health data that is collected and retained, the bill would prevent this information from being disclosed or misused.

We saw in Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring decision that this was only the beginning of the court’s plan to erode the rights we’ve won, like marriage equality and the right to contraception. I was proud to co-lead the Right to Contraception Act, which would guarantee the right to contraception, and to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, which would protect marriage equality. Now, we have to take those fights to the Senate.

Q: What will you do in Congress to combat climate change?

A: On Friday, I proudly voted in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate bill to ever become law. The bill invests more than $360 billion to protect our climate and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 — putting the United States back on the path to fulfilling our commitment to the Paris Agreement. These investments will also lower energy prices and help the U.S. build a more reliable and affordable energy sector for the future.

As a millennial, I am proud to represent a generation that is pushing the federal government to address climate change with the urgency it deserves. This bill is a big deal and will go a long way in protecting our planet for future generations — and I’m so grateful for the young Americans who have fought so hard to make this progress a reality.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I’m also looking at ways that we can decrease the Department of Defense’s greenhouse gas emissions and use its research and innovation to further our climate goals.

We also can’t get complacent. Low-income communities and communities of color are the most vulnerable to natural disasters and emergencies, exposure to pollutants and depletion of natural resources. As we make these historic investments, we have to make sure that prioritizing environmental justice is central to that work.

Q: How should the U.S. approach the war in Ukraine? What should its involvement be?

A: President Joe Biden has been masterful in his handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin thought the West would be divided — that NATO would fracture — but because of the Biden administration’s focus on coalition building and early public sharing of intelligence, the trans-Atlantic Alliance has remained incredibly strong. When I traveled to Brussels and Ukraine in January, I saw this early groundwork firsthand. Our partners and allies in Europe and around the world remain united in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-determination.

As the conflict continues in its sixth month, I think it is clear — as both President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have said — that there ultimately won’t be a military solution to the conflict. The U.S. and our European and NATO allies should continue providing Ukraine with the weapons and assistance it needs, ensuring Ukraine is in the best possible position to ultimately negotiate from when the time is right.

It is also important that we continue to avoid a wider war or any direct conflict between the U.S. or any of our NATO allies and Russia. Representing a military community that knows the consequences of war better than most, I’m grateful that President Biden has been mindful of escalation and remained committed to not sending American troops to Ukraine.

Q: How should the U.S. change its immigration policies? What specific changes would you pursue?

A: Congress is long overdue for a complete overhaul of our immigration system. To start, we should prioritize the American Dream and Promise Act — to help ease the anxiety, uncertainty and trauma we’ve inflicted on young people who have only ever known the U.S. as their home. The House passed the bill last March, and the Senate needs to do the same.

More broadly, I support a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented individuals living in the U.S. and a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. While that has hit roadblocks in Congress, there are still significant steps we can take to help repair our broken system. First, we need an immediate increase in the number of federal immigration judges. We continue to have a large backlog of immigration cases, and increasing the number of judges within the Executive Office of Immigration Review is a crucial step to cutting the backlog and getting asylum seekers a permanent legal status so that they can start their lives here.

We should also provide legal counsel to those facing immigration proceedings. I’m grateful that San Diego County is providing free legal representation to immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers facing removal and deportation. By providing people with legal representation, we also set up a more fair and efficient legal process. Congress should look to this program as a pilot for expanding legal representation nationally, and at the bare minimum, should ensure that no minor is without legal representation in immigration proceedings.

Q: What specific issues about border life in San Diego and Tijuana will you prioritize?

A: I hear from my constituents all the time about long wait times at the border. When I last met with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, I communicated the need to open the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry as soon as possible, which, once completed, is projected to cut wait times in half and to have a 10-to-1 return on investment for the San Diego region, boosting our economy by $1.8 billion annually.

We also know that solving the Tijuana River Valley crisis is key to improving the quality of life for our region. The pollution and raw sewage that flow into the ocean have been devastating, especially for our communities closest to the border — closing beaches, impacting businesses, damaging our environment and hurting our tourism industry. Rep. Juan Vargas and I secured language in the fiscal year 2023 government funding bill to transfer $300 million from the Environmental Protection Agency to the International Boundary and Water Commission — to get previously secured funds to the appropriate agency and to restart progress on solving the crisis.

I’ve also been working closely with Rep. Vargas to urge Customs and Border Protection to restore public access to Friendship Park. San Diegans know firsthand the value of Friendship Park — both as a place for separated families to be together again and as a symbol of our vibrant, binational community.

I’m also committed to bringing home our deported veterans, many of whom now live in Tijuana and the surrounding communities. If you serve our country, you should be able to live here.

Q: The nation is experiencing more mass shootings with higher death tolls in recent years. How would you address this issue?

A: As a millennial and a member of the Columbine generation, I grew up in the shadow of school shootings and active shooter drills. It’s heartbreaking and outrageous that 15 years after I graduated, we’re still dealing with the same problem and kids are still afraid to go to school. Americans everywhere should be able to go about their daily lives without fearing they’ll be shot — at church, the grocery store, school, or anywhere.

I was proud to help pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first gun violence legislation passed into law in nearly three decades. I’m especially proud and grateful that the bill included a provision to close the boyfriend loophole, which previously meant a domestic abuser could keep their gun as long as they weren’t married to or living with the victim. I talk a lot about the connection between gun violence and domestic violence, and closing the boyfriend loophole will undoubtedly save lives.

And while I’m proud of that bill, it is by no means enough. In the House, we passed a series of vitally important gun violence prevention bills, including the Assault Weapons Ban, the Protecting Our Kids Act and the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, all of which will save lives and which are waiting in the Senate.

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: I commend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others in the federal government for the accelerated release and distribution of the vaccine — and their continued work to make sure vaccines are up to date and match our public health needs given the evolution of the current strains. I am incredibly grateful that President Biden prioritized getting shots into arms — and met his very ambitious but important goal of administering 200 million doses in his first 100 days in office. This pandemic has already been horrific and heartbreaking for so many families — and without adequate leadership, it could have been much, much worse.

The most important thing in public health is public trust, and I do think there were missteps, especially in the early days of the pandemic, without adequate and clear communications to reinforce that trust. That was true during both the Trump and Biden administrations. There were times, after becoming a member of Congress, when even I wasn’t sure what guidance we should be following around masking, exposure and isolation. The federal government should have communicated more clearly and should have been more honest about what was known and what wasn’t. We should have picked up on the aerosol nature of the virus earlier, saving us from the pandemic theater of bleaching countertops, washing our groceries and changing our clothes three times a day — and instead focused on things that really work in protecting people from the virus, like improving ventilation. Government funded the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations at a historic speed. However, having witnessed the pandemic firsthand from the front lines, one issue that still needs to be addressed is ensuring that workers who test positive for COVID-19 are able to stay home when they are sick to avoid spreading the virus. I will support providing paid sick time so people don’t have to make the difficult choice between coming to work sick or paying their bills.

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: I’m happy that the Inflation Reduction Act includes historic cost-saving measures for health care and prescription drugs — including extending Affordable Care Act subsidies, enabling Medicare to finally negotiate drug prices and capping monthly insulin costs to $35 and annual out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000 for Medicare recipients. It’s shameful that Senate Republicans voted down a provision to extend insulin price caps for the millions of Americans using private insurance, too.

Health care is a human right, and we need to do everything we can to get universal coverage. I’ve lived and worked in countries around the world and have seen firsthand how universal coverage is achievable, especially for the wealthiest country in the world. Many examples around the world show that a strong public role in health care can provide affordable, universal coverage. I support Medicare for All and am an original co-sponsor of the Medicare for All Act.

So much of the conversation around how to pay for universal, single-payer health care neglects to address how expensive and unsustainable our current system is. Families are already paying thousands of dollars for co-payments, deductibles and exorbitantly expensive emergency services all because they couldn’t afford preventative care in the first place. The real question we have to consider is how much Medicare for All costs versus what our current system costs us now.

Fortunately, research shows that transitioning the U.S. to a single-payer system would save taxpayers $450 billion each year, with the average family saving about $2,400 annually.

Q: What can and should the federal government do to address the high cost of housing?

A: As a third-generation San Diegan, I’ve seen our housing crisis go from bad to worse. In February, San Diego was named “the least affordable city” in the entire country for homebuyers. For so many people of my generation, that means San Diego is simply out of reach.

I’ve worked with my colleagues on several ways to address this crisis — including with House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters to explore ways to secure additional funding — and I’ve continued to fight to improve our existing systems. To start, Section 8 housing vouchers should be universal, so that anyone who needs access to them receives them in a timely manner, instead of the years-long waitlist that is hurting San Diegans right now.

Addressing the military housing crisis will also help alleviate pressure on our broader housing market. I secured provisions around military housing in the past two National Defense Authorization Acts. And earlier this month, I introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Military Housing Readiness Council Act to address the unacceptable conditions in military housing.

We also need to make our tax code fairer for renters. I support creating a refundable rental housing tax credit to help individuals who live in rental housing and pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

As a member of the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, I am particularly interested in the ways housing and homeownership have contributed to inequality and what more the federal government can be doing to address housing in an equitable way.

Q: Reducing homelessness has been a focus for all levels of government in recent years. What would you do differently?

A: In San Diego, questions about the high cost of housing and about homelessness are two parts of the same question — because we know that for so many in our region, homelessness is directly related to the lack of housing that’s affordable. We also know that for too long, San Diego hasn’t been getting our fair share of support from the federal government.

San Diego County has the fourth highest homeless population in the nation but often is around 20th in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I have been pushing for HUD to modernize its funding formula, which will bring more grant funding into our region in support of proven programs to put homeless individuals into permanent housing and help them access the social services they need. And I’m continuing to push for a consistent, government-wide definition of homelessness that takes into account what we know homelessness looks like in our community.

I’ve also worked to specifically address the intersection of homelessness, housing, and veterans’ issues. The Ending Veteran Homelessness Act, which I introduced with Rep. Nancy Mace, would study the effectiveness of the Shallow Subsidy rental assistance program for veterans and provide Congress with the data necessary to permanently expand the program. And the HUD-VASH Improvement Act, also introduced with Rep. Mace, would encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs to look for contractors who have experience providing case management services to veterans in administering the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.

Q: The U.S. national debt has exploded in recent decades. Are you concerned about this?

A: I’m excited that President Biden has signed the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that will cut the deficit by $305 billion through 2031.

As we look at how to further address our national debt, we need to be smart about how we do it. Any business owner will tell you that they would gladly take on debt in the near term to make investments that will realize a profit in the future. That should be true for our federal investments, too. We save $6, for example, for every $1 we invest in quality early childhood programs, which means we shouldn’t be shy about funding these programs that will have an enormous return on investment. We see the same thing when we talk about health care or climate investments — the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of reform.

We also need to be honest about what has contributed to our national debt, like the decades-long wars we entered without an exit strategy and the incredibly damaging Trump tax cuts that have allowed the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to avoid paying their fair share in taxes. These mistakes have cost us trillions of dollars and pushed us further into debt, and I reject the idea — as my Republican colleagues would suggest — that the only solution is to cut the essential services that protect seniors, low-income people and working families.

Q: Why should voters elect you over your opponent?

A: I’ve led in Congress on expanding access to child care, addressing childhood poverty, protecting reproductive rights, supporting our military families, prioritizing diplomacy and development around the world and more. My team and I have returned more than $7.5 million to constituents from federal agencies. Last year, I secured $3 million in Community Project Funding, and I am on track to secure an additional $16 million this year — through projects that will directly support military families, make child care more affordable and accessible, help our region combat wildfires and more. I’m proud to be an active and effective member for my district.

I’m incredibly proud of those successes and I’m especially proud to be part of a new generation of leaders that is taking on some of our most stubborn problems with a new perspective — and addressing new problems Congress hasn’t even tried to solve yet. I have brought a very different perspective to the institution — as a young woman, as the third youngest member of the 117th Congress, and as the youngest member representing California. That’s been especially meaningful since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — because reproductive health care is my health care. I use a period-tracking app, I use an IUD, and I understand personally what’s at stake.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent San Diego and my generation in Congress. I have a lot more work to do, and I would be honored to continue serving the community I love.

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