Congressional candidates have policy ideas, too. Here are 13 to watch.

September 21, 2012

The Republican Senate candidate in Hawaii was misidentified as "Laura" Lingle. Her first name is Linda.

Wonkblog has paid a lot attention to GOP presidential ticket Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's policy proposals, and before that, those of Romney's Republican primary rivals. But a surprising number of Congressional campaigns have some interesting policy suggestions. To be sure, the vast majority either trade in platitudes — "protect Social Security and Medicare," "pro-growth tax reform" — or endorse other politicians' proposals, as in the many Democrats endorsing the American Jobs Act and the Buffett rule and the Republican candidates endorsing Ryan's budget. But a few campaigns stand out from the pack. Here are 13 of Wonkblog's picks as the most notable policy proposals.


Source: Washington Post

Angus King (I-Maine), running for Senate: Tie the Bush tax cuts to the unemployment rate

King, who was elected governor of Maine as an independent and served from 1995 to 2003, is running for Sen. Olympia Snowe's open seat. He has proposed tying the expiration of the Bush tax cuts to the rate of unemployment or GDP growth, so the cuts' repeal does not endanger the economic recovery. This resembles former White House budget director Peter Orszag's plan to tie the payroll tax rate to the unemployment or GDP rate, so that tax cuts take effect automatically when recessions hit. King also suggests reforming the filibuster by lowering the cloture threshold to 55, among other changes.


Source: AP/Mark Lennihan

Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), running for Senate: Ban parties, reverse more than just Citizens United

Bob Kerrey represented Nebraska in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2001 after a term as governor. After a tumultuous tenure as head of the New School in New York, he's back running for his old seat. His hallmark proposal is the "Norris amendment," named after George Norris, a progressive Republican senator from Nebraska who successfully pushed for the direct election of senators. The Constitutional amendment would (a) make Congress nonpartisan by banning partisan caucuses and the party-based determination of the House speaker, Senate majority leader, committee chairs, etc. (b) establish term limits (c) reverse both Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, a 1976 ruling that banned spending caps and other campaign finance reform measures and (d) limit the filibuster. This proposal package is much more ambitious than any congressional reforms other campaigns are proposing.

An additional proposal is a bit odd, given that Kerrey, who has already served 12 years in the Senate, proposes a 12-year limit on Congressional service (though he can "see the case for 18").


Source: Swalwell for Congress

Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) making House bid: A Congress that works from home

Swalwell is challenging Rep. Pete Stark, the veteran Democrat who represents part of the East Bay in the 15th District. Under a new California law, all candidates, regardless of party, compete in the same primary, and the top two vote-getters proceed to the general election. Swalwell is proposing a "mobile Congress," in which members remain in their districts rather than move to Washington, using the Internet and video conferencing to cast votes, attend hearings, etc. The idea is to limit lobbyist influence by denying special interests a single geographic location for setting up house, as well as by keeping members close to their constituents.


Source: Riley for Congress

Michael Riley (R-R.I.), making House bid: Stop paying banks to hold cash

Riley is running against Democratic incumbent James Langevin, the longtime representative of the southern/eastern Rhode Island 2nd District. Riley sets himself apart from most Republican candidates' anti-Fed statements with a condemnation of the Fed's "bizarre practice of paying banks to sit on money." This is a reference to the Fed's policy of paying 0.25 percent on excess reserves held by banks. Some advocates of more aggressive Fed action have called for the interest rate to be either lowered to zero or made negative, which produced favorable results when tried in Sweden.


Source: Washington Post

Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), making House bid: Break up the big banks

Gabbard, a 31-year-old Honolulu city councilor who'd be the first Hindu in Congress, is running to succeed Rep. Mazie Hirono (who's challenging Lingle for the Senate). The 2nd District covers all of the state except the urban sections of Honolulu. While many candidates, especially Democrats support bringing back the Glass-Steagall law that separated commercial and investment banks, Gabbard goes a step further and calls for a cap on bank size that would break up firms like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. She also wants a ban on naked credit default swaps, which allow banks to bet on mortgages they don't actually own.


Source: Ricky Gill for Congress

Ricky Gill (R-Calif.) making House bid: Single-subject bills

Gill, only 25, is trying to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) in the swing 9th District that includes the city of Stockton. Gill has proposed a "single-subject rule" for Congress. Many state legislatures have a similar rule, which requires that all bills deal with only a single topic. The idea is to prevent riders and large omnibus legislation. Such proposals run into difficulty when trying to define "subject". If the definition is overly broad, the rule won't have much effect; if it's too narrow, it would lead to gridlock. But it's a rare to see Congressional candidates embrace specific rule reform proposals, and Gill's plan has a long history in state legislatures.


Source: Huffman for Congress

Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), making House bid: Cram down legislation

Huffman, a state assemblyman, is running to replace retiring Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D), a liberal member of the House who represents Marin County and other parts of the Bay Area in the 2nd District. It's a safe Democratic seat, and Huffman is favored to win. He's made "cram down" legislation an issue in the campaign. That proposal would allow bankruptcy courts to reduce the principals on mortgages to their fair market value, giving underwater homeowners a way out without any taxpayer cost. President Obama supported the proposal in his 2008 presidential campaign, and it passed the House in 2009 before failing in the Senate. It's gotten markedly little attention since then, which makes Huffman's emphasis interesting.

Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii), running for Senate: Mend, but don't end, Obamacare


Source: Linda Lingle Senate Committee

Lingle, who was Hawaii's quite popular governor from 2003 to 2011, is running to succeed Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Democrat who's retiring after 22 years. Unlike most Republican candidates, she doesn't call for the Affordable Care Act's complete repeal, instead proposing a more modest set of changes (though she does support repeal over retaining the whole law). Specifically, she wants to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an independent panel that would evaluate the effectiveness of Medicare treatments, the taxes on medical device manufacturers and the cuts to Medicare advantage. She also wants to see more medical malpractice reform and allow catastrophic care and high deductible plans in the state health exchanges. None of these is new, per se, but it's interesting to see a Republican candidate taking a "mend it, don't end it" approach to the ACA.


Source: Bloomfield for Congress

Bill Bloomfield (I-Calif.), making House bid: Congressional rule reform.

Bloomfield, a self-financing businessman, is running as an independent against Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce committee who represents the 33rd District, which includes western Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Bloomfield has endorsed NoLabels' slate of congressional reforms, including up or down votes on presidential appointments within 90 days, filibuster reforms such as requiring filibustering senators to actually hold the floor, and so forth. Many of these plans deal with the Senate, so Bloomfield's ability to push them through if elected to the House are limited, but it's an ambitious agenda that not a lot of candidates have embraced.


Source: Christie Vilsack for Iowa

Christie Vilsack (D-Iowa), making House bid: Expand apprenticeships for young workers

Vilsack, the wife of former Iowa governor and current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is running against incumbent conservative Rep. Steve King (R) to represent northwestern Iowa in the 4th District. Vilsack has proposed a bevy of subsidies and training programs for farmers, as well as an infrastructure bank for rural areas. But unique to her campaign is a proposal to expand apprenticeship programs through tax credits and community colleges. It's one of the few proposals any campaigns have put out to help young, blue-collar workers develop skills outside of a college context.


Source: AP Photo

Linda McMahon (R-Conn.), running for Senate: Inflation-adjusted investment taxes.

McMahon, who lost the race for Connecticut's other Senate seat to Democrat Richard Blumenthal in 2010, is running a surprisingly strong campaign to replace independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who's retiring. Unlike most Republican congressional candidates, who support an existing plan like the Fair Tax, flat tax, or Herman Cain's "9-9-9" or else simply say they support lower tax rates, McMahon has put out a less ambitious but surprisingly detailed plan of her own. She'd maintain Bush-era brackets but eliminate the 25 percent bracket, folding it into the 15 percent bracket. That amounts to a big middle- and upper-class tax cut. She'd also exempt those in the new 15 percent bracket from capital gains taxation. And she'd change the tax for the rest of filers so that it only applies to gains after inflation, so those whose investments haven't gotten any real returns are exempt from tax. It's unclear how she would pay for any of these changes.


Source: Shelli Yoder for Congress

Shelli Yoder (D-Ind.), making House bid: Expand anti-poverty programs

Yoder, a former Miss Indiana, is running against 9th District Rep. Todd Young, a first-term Republican who beat a Democratic incumbent in the 2010 wave, to represent Bloomington and the rest of southern Indiana. Yoder's campaign stands out as one of the few to highlight poverty and to call for concrete measures, such as increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and allowing those on welfare to keep child support payments, to reduce it.

 

 


Source: Karen Ramsburg For Congress

Karen Ramsburg (I-Pa.) making House bid: Let people buy out-of-state health insurance, but also give them a public option.

Ramsburg is running as an independent against Republican incumbent Bill Shuster in this safe, southern Pennsylvania 9th District. Many Republican candidates endorse allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines, and many Democrats endorse a public option, but Ramsburg is the only candidate I've seen to endorse both.

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