The race for Congress: Ninth District candidates on the issues

The race for Congress: Ninth District candidates on the issues

Rep. William J. Pascrell: 'I'm the fighter for the people'

Rep. William J. Pascrell

Why you?

Voters need someone representing them who is honest and trustworthy. My opponent has run a campaign that has been anything but. Politifact NJ gave him a “Pants on Fire” rating for one of his campaign’s most egregious lies. But maybe the most offensive distortion his campaign has perpetuated is that I’m somehow not pro-Israel, despite the fact that me and my opponent have the exact same voting record on the subject. In fact, Steve Rothman vouched for my strong support for the Jewish state less than two years ago when a Tea Party Republican attempted to make the same claims. Assemblyman Gary Schaer upheld my support for Israel, too. What changed between now and then? Only the fact that he is running against me and is so desperate to keep his seat in Congress that he will say or do anything to get re-elected. I’ve grown up with both Jews and Muslims in Paterson, and I’ve represented both in Congress for many years. David Steiner, the former president of AIPAC, endorsed me by saying, “He’s 100 percent American through and through, and that’s why I’m supporting him.”

I’m confident the voters will see through these lies and distortions. But the reality is that this election is bigger than this, and the stakes for our country could not be higher. I believe that northern New Jersey needs a fighter standing up for them, and my record will show that I’ve always been a 100 percent Jersey fighter. The economic downturn has hit the middle class the hardest, and the Tea Party extremists in Congress have only tried to make it worse. I stand up every day to those politicians who want to make the middle class pay for tax cuts for millionaires and corporate welfare for companies that ship jobs overseas. I have always stood for the middle class against these extremists, while delivering results for northern New Jersey. From providing our veterans treatment for traumatic brain injury, to protecting deductions for property taxes, to establishing flood mitigation projects, to protecting funding for our police and firefighters, I believe I have proven that I’m the fighter for the people of northern New Jersey. And in the next Congress, the top issue facing the Congress will be reforming our nation’s tax code. I believe that our state needs a representative on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee during this important debate. I ask the voters of North Jersey to give me that opportunity to continue to serve.

2. Iran

I think the United States must continue sending a strong message to the government of Iran that all options are on the table, including military action, if they continue to pursue nuclear weapons. A world with a nuclear armed Iran is simply unacceptable. Recently, the House of Representatives passed H. Res. 568, which reaffirms the U.S. policy of preventing the government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation, which passed by an overwhelming vote of 401-11.

I have also been a strong and consistent advocate of more forceful sanctions against the Iranian regime, should they continue to defy the international community. I co-sponsored legislation that passed to put hard hitting sanctions on refined petroleum products and financial transactions with the Iranian regime. I strongly supported the Obama administration’s efforts to build consensus at the United Nations for more wide-ranging action. Already, we are seeing these sanctions impact the Iranian economy, and we will continue to support hard-hitting sanctions on the Iranian regime to encourage them to forgo their nuclear ambitions and negotiate.

3. Iran – red lines?

Recently, Defense Secretary [Leon] Panetta confirmed that the U.S. has a military plan in place to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Although it is never easy to make the decision to use military force, I firmly believe that containment is not a viable option for Iran, and all options must be on the table. However, I do not have any single red line at which I would say the United States should commit to using military force. Voting to authorize the Iraq war in 2003 was one of the toughest decisions I have made in my time in the United States Congress, and I regret that vote to this day. Members of Congress have a solemn responsibility to send the brave men and women in our armed forces into harm’s way only when absolutely necessary for the defense of our country and our close allies. I will be monitoring the situation in Iran very closely and making a decision based on the conditions as a whole, not a single benchmark.

4. Vouchers

As a proud product of the parochial Catholic school system in Paterson, I believe that parents should have many options to provide education for their children. However, I do not believe that vouchers are the proper path to that end. By diverting money away from school board budgets, voucher programs can have a negative impact on our neediest public schools. During my years as a public school teacher in Paramus, I learned how hard our teachers work with the limited resources they are given. That’s why I support increased funding for education at all levels instead of vouchers.

This does not mean that the federal government has no responsibility to engage with and help Jewish and parochial schools. I support increased funding for programs like IDEA, which can help students with disabilities in both private and public schools. I have also fought for funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides federal funding for security upgrades at vulnerable private institutions like yeshivahs, temples, and synagogues. Just last year, I was happy to announce that YBH of Passaic-Hillel was awarded a Nonprofit Security Grant in the maximum amount of $75,000. I fought to preserve this critical program, which is especially important in the wake of the heinous attacks on Jewish places of worship in Bergen County which took place earlier this year.

5. How would you balance
the concerns of your Jewish
and your Muslim constituents
when they conflict?

Growing up in Paterson, I was exposed at an early age to groups of people from all over the world. My support for Israel has never wavered, but I have developed an excellent relationship with my Muslim constituents, as well. It’s important to find those things that we all have in common and remember that we all share the same goals: peace and security for Israel, and the people living in the Palestinian territories. We can’t lose sight of the fact that everyone wants to see peace in this world and wants to be able to create a better life for their children, no matter what background they come from. For this reason, I have gained a reputation as a bridge-builder in the United States Congress and have tried to bring the religious leaders in my district together. I will always be honest about my positions; I will say the same thing at a mosque in Prospect Park as I will at a synagogue in Teaneck. I think my constituents in northern New Jersey respect that we can find common ground even if we do not agree on every issue.

6. Annexing the west bank

I am quite concerned that the Palestinian Authority is attempting to short-circuit the peace process by pushing for statehood through multi-national organizations such as the United Nations, instead of working with Israel to come to a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Israeli annexation of the west bank would exacerbate the problem rather than contribute to a solution. I firmly believe that the Palestinians and the Israelis must negotiate directly to arrive at a two-state solution for their conflict. Under that framework, the west bank will ultimately become part of the Palestinian state, with land swaps performed for established Israeli settlements. In my view, this bilateral, directly negotiated two-state approach, with the strong involvement of the United States, is the best way forward for a lasting peace for both Israel and the Palestinians.

7. Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program

From my seats on the Ways and Means and Budget Committees, I have fought against the Tea Party’s attempts to cut nutrition programs like food stamps (SNAP), Women and Infant Children nutrition, and Meals on Wheels. Not only do I think these programs are vital to the seniors and our most vulnerable citizens, I believe it is morally wrong to ask these people who have so little to contribute more so millionaires can have tax cuts and Congress can increase defense spending by demanding programs our military leaders do not even want. Balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class, seniors, and our most vulnerable citizens isn’t good policy and it is morally wrong.

8 Jewish issues

I believe that there are as many issues of concern as there are voters. I subscribe to The Jewish Standard at my home, and read every week about a diverse array of issues and projects of concern to local residents. Ultimately, I think that the concerns of Jewish voters are no different from the concerns of most voters across this country. They want someone who will fight to get our economy back on track, lift the economic burden on the middle class, and make the investments that will allow us to create a bright future for our children and grandchildren. The Tea Party, their billionaire financiers, and their allies in Congress will do everything in their power to maintain the status quo where the rich ride high and the rest of us struggle to keep our heads above the water. I will never run from a fight on behalf of the little guy, and that’s why I’m the best person to represent the Jewish voters, and all voters, in the Ninth District.

Obviously, many Jewish voters place a high value on supporting a candidate with a strong record on Israel. I believe my record in advocating for the success and security of the Jewish State is excellent. I authored legislation signed by the president to advance cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on homeland security. I visited Jonathan Pollard and led efforts in the House to convince the president to commute his sentence. I have been endorsed by a former president of AIPAC and have broad support in the pro-Israel community.

But don’t take my word for it. In this newspaper less than two years ago (10/15/10), Steve Rothman praised my record on Israel, writing, “Bill Pascrell has consistently voted in favor of legislation supporting the Jewish state – such as the billions of dollars in military aid we allocate to Israel every year and sanctions against Iran.”

There are many differences between me and my opponent, but support for Israel is not one of them.

9. Most important issues

By far, the most important issue facing congress is to ensure that we rebuild our middle class and foster job creation. For too long, Washington and Republicans have neglected the middle class’s needs, favoring policies that benefit the multi-national corporations and millionaires, and insisting that some of that will trickle down to the rest of us. We’ve seen how that’s worked out over the last 30 years.

I believe we need to reform the tax system, focusing on manufacturing, income security and exports. In northern New Jersey, I will use my position on the Ways and Means Committee to protect important tax deductions like the property tax deduction, which some Republicans like Mitt Romney have talked about limiting or eliminating. And I will also work to limit the Alternative Minimum Tax’s effects on middle class families by repealing this stealth tax.

We should also be focusing on the needs of our returning veterans, by ensuring they have proper access to jobs and healthcare. As the chairman of the traumatic brain injury task force, I have fought to make sure that the defense department understands the signature injury of these wars, and they are provided the tools necessary to treat our vets.

10. Partisanship

I agree there is too much partisanship in Congress, and I have always tried to find common ground with people across the political spectrum. For many, it seems like compromise is a dirty word, especially for this Tea Party Congress. I will continue to successfully work to find common ground on issues like veterans, funding police and firefighters, and access to healthcare for those with traumatic brain injury. But compromise does not mean caving on your values or forgetting who you fight for. You will never find a stronger defender of the middle class from this Tea Party assault.

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