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Joe Courtney

Running for U.S. House

44 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Democrat

CEP Status:


Age: 67

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: Vernon

Current Job: Member of Congress

Previous Job: State Representative

Previous Job: Public Defender

Education: Tufts University, UConn Law

Despite statements to the contrary by various individuals, PPE has remained in short supply throughout the country. If elected, how will you ensure that every state and US territory is provided with enough medical supplies and capacity to manage the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the next one(s)?
Since March, I have been in touch with our local health centers, hospitals, fire departments, and doctors’ offices about shortages of Personal Protective Equipment. At its worst, the shortage went beyond masks to include gowns, face shields, and even basic medical supplies. As soon as we realized the Strategic National Stockpile would not be sufficient to supply the entire nation throughout the pandemic, the President should have invoked the Defense Production Act to create a domestic supply chain of these necessary items. Unfortunately the Trump Administration did not take this action and shortages still persist. As a member of the armed services Committee, I have repeatedly pushed the President and the Department of Defense to use the DPA for PPE, just like what was done for ventilators. In the meantime, last May, I voted for passage of the Heroes Act, which included requirements that the Department of Health and Human Services create a Medical Supplies Response Coordinator to monitor nationwide supply levels, and made changes to the National Strategic Stockpile to improve the availability of PPE, other supplies, and necessary pharmaceuticals.
The coronavirus has placed a tremendous strain on the healthcare system, and the rise in unemployment has resulted in many people losing their health insurance, amplifying disparities in access to health care. If elected, what would you do to help the healthcare system and all the people who need it? Would you expand coverage with a public option or a Medicare For All concept, something else, or nothing?
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only revealed disparities in health care in the US, it has exacerbated them. Lower wage workers are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed, and therefore more likely to lose their employer-based health insurance. To respond to this crisis, I supported legislation to ensure workers laid off due to the pandemic could keep their employer-sponsored insurance through COBRA at no additional cost to them, but Republicans in Congress and the White House refused that proposal. To ensure Americans have access to affordable, quality health care well beyond the pandemic, I support significant expansion of the Affordable Care Act as a crucial first step. In June, I voted for a package of reforms that would have lowered premiums for Americans who purchase their insurance through the exchanges, directed the HHS Secretary to negotiate prescription drug prices for all Americans, and reversed the Trump Administration’s attacks on the ACA. While these are necessary next steps to build upon and protect the ACA, I also support bigger proposals to expand access to affordable coverage such as a public option, and my bill to allow Americans aged 50-64 to buy into Medicare.
Do you agree or disagree with President Trump's recent decisions to label certain American cities as "anarchist," and to send federal agents – uninvited by local authorities – into cities such as Portland, Oregon? In your opinion, is this a legitimate use of federal force and rhetoric, or is this an overreach?
I strongly disagree with this decision. With regard to the use of federal officers and authority, I expressed serious concern over the statutory authority under which these officers were deployed, as well as their mission, and the unidentified nature of their presence in US cities this summer in a letter signed by dozens of Members of Congress to the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice this July. I also supported efforts to ensure that federal law enforcement officers are required to clearly identify their organizational affiliation on their uniforms, and require a governor's consent to the presence of National Guard members deployed by the President when the National Defense Authorization Act when was considered by the House Armed Services Committee.
The pandemic has led to massive changes in our workforce, with many jobs disappearing entirely, at least for now. If elected, how do you envision reshaping the workforce to create new opportunities for those whose jobs have evaporated – for example, in restaurants and bars and throughout the service sector?
As a senior member of the Education and Labor Committee, I helped introduce the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act to invest in workforce development services and layoff aversion programs that can help dislocated workers find employment. These services include career navigation, technical training, and adult education, and would be supported through grants to state and local workforce development agencies, community colleges, and industry partners to help connect workers with jobs in in-demand industries. I also strongly support the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 which would invest in our successful Registered Apprenticeship program to help individuals “earn as they learn” and expand this proven workforce development model to new industries.
COVID-19 and the resulting recession have increased the number of people who qualify for Medicaid just when state revenues are dropping. Will you support more relief for state Medicaid programs to continue coverage levels and ensure access to providers?
Yes, I support an increase to the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), which determines how much money states will receive to fund their Medicaid programs, known as Husky in Connecticut. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act included an initial 6.2% increase, but I support additional increases to ensure Husky can continue to provide the high quality care to children, the elderly, and other Connecticut residents who need it.
The coronavirus is going to be with us for the foreseeable future, bringing with it, massive ongoing disruption to all of our systems, from food supply to employment to health care to education and more. From a broad perspective, how do you holistically envision addressing this crisis in the long-term?
First, we need to provide relief funding that even Repubican advisers know will ensure that the pandemic recession does not linger longer than necessary. Trump’s own economic advisers have made it clear that without this additional financial relief to our local governments, education, and small businesses, the American people will suffer needlessly for longer. Additionally, we need to let the science and evidence lead us as we learn more about the long-term impact of COVID-19. As we learn new ways to treat and control the virus, relying on unbiased scientific evidence as a guide for public policy is crucial.
Many Americans are now calling racism a public health crisis in our country, with policy implications and disparities across multiple sectors like law enforcement, residential zoning, healthcare access, employment, and educational equity, among others. What measures must Congress take to address racism and its impact over many generations in America?
It is clear that Americans of color have been systematically disadvantaged throughout our nation’s history. This summer, Americans of good will spoke out against these injustices, including in our communities in the second district where I participated in peaceful vigils with my friends and neighbors who were calling for action. In response, the House of Representatives passed a package of police reforms like banning choke holds and ensuring police vehicles have dashboard cameras, many of which are already standard practice in eastern Connecticut’s police departments. However, America’s history of racial injustice goes beyond policing, and I support policies that ensure a strong Voting Rights Act, decrease school segregation, and address the crisis in black maternal mortality, among others.
What measures do you support to help protect voting rights this year and for the years ahead, within the context of the pandemic and post-pandemic voting?
Well before we were faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, I helped pass HR 1, a package of sweeping reforms to remove dark money from politics, make it easier for Americans to exercise the right to vote, end the process of partisan redistricting nationwide, and impose new, higher standards of ethics for elected officials. This legislation includes automatic voter registration, institutes nationwide early voting, and restores portions of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court. More recently, I supported legislation that has provided millions in emergency election security grant funding to Connecticut to ensure our election this November is safe, accessible, and secure for all voters. That funding is being used right now to support expanding mail in voting, ballot drop boxes in every town, and other measures to ensure that voters in this critical election do not have to sacrifice their health for their vote.
Do you agree or disagree with President Trump’s directive for all schools to return to a full schedule this school year? What parameters and/or process do you endorse in making decisions involving the operation of public schools in the age of COVID-19?
Each school district needs to make the decision that is right for their students and faculty based on local conditions. Regardless of whether a school is returning to in-person learning or is conducting virtual instruction, they need significant resources that they simply do not have without new federal investment. The Heroes Act would provide these necessary resources through direct assistance to school districts as well as support for state and local governments struggling with budget shortfalls. This year is highly unusual and will require investments that match these needs if we are to avoid learning loss and keep students and educators safe.
The world is facing an impending climate emergency. With the US spending more than the next 10 countries combined on our military budget, do you think that it is important that we transition some of those resources to combat and build resiliency ahead of a predicted global climate catastrophe? How can Connecticut’s existing engineering, manufacturing, and technical project management expertise be transitioned to address that next emergency before it is too late?
Beyond the threat it poses to our planet, tackling this challenge is an opportunity to create good jobs in manufacturing and a green economy. I support the US rejoining the Paris Accord, restoring fuel efficiency standards and methane controls at once. I recently helped pass HR 4447, a bipartisan bill which would take critical steps toward combating climate change while also boosting our economy. The bill will grow new renewable energy sources, increase the energy efficiency of homes and other buildings, modernize and harden our electric grid, and help electrify our transportation sector.