The Democratic Party is once again failing to mount a serious challenge to Representative Vern Ehlers this election season. The race–which has received next to no attention in the corporate media–has been incredibly one-sided, with Ehlers raising a substantial amount of money and Democrat Henry Sanchez reporting no money raised.
Over the years, Ehlers has consistently enjoyed the reputation of being a “moderate”–a popular misconception that has made it hard to muster the energy to oppose Ehlers. However, the MLive.com online voters guide makes it clear that on a number of issues, Ehlers is anything but moderate:
Do you favor withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq in the next year?
Vernon J. Ehlers: Not immediately. When we toppled Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime, we made a commitment to the people of Iraq that we would not leave them until they had a stable governmental structure and security. After some initial set backs, we are now making substantial progress, and so are the Iraqi government and people. As Iraqi security capabilities increase, our military presence can decrease.
The federal government has assumed a large role in local education policy with the enactment of No Child Left Behind. Do you support that legislation, and is it appropriate for the federal government to assume such a role?
Vernon J. Ehlers: Yes, I support the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and it should be updated. It is appropriate for the federal government to assume such a role, so long as the local and state officials are still empowered to make their decisions. Before NCLB, the federal government provided funds for education, but did not require accountability. NCLB has added the necessary accountability for student learning to the more than $24 billion states receive annually in federal funding. Data have shown that NCLB has led to improvements in students’ understanding of math and reading, as well as a narrowing of the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. In the upcoming reauthorization, I hope to address many concerns and improve NCLB. We need to improve NCLB’s teacher in-service programs to ensure our students learn math, reading and science. We also should make certain that there is equity across states in how they are reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as parity in what states require their students to achieve. Most importantly, we must make certain that we focus on students and their potential for success in school. Children are our nation’s future and they deserve our utmost support.
Do you favor making permanent federal tax cuts that expire in 2010?
Vernon J. Ehlers: Yes. I supported President Bush’s tax cuts and subsequent extensions when they were passed in 2001, 2003, and 2006. Also, I am a cosponsor of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 2734), which would make these tax cuts permanent. We also need to permanently eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax. Tax relief will help spur economic growth by putting more money in people’s hands, and by giving businesses more resources to purchase equipment and invest in capital improvements, both of which will lead to more jobs. Permanently extending these cuts is needed to stimulate our economy. By lowering taxes, we are helping businesses hire employees and invest in our communities, which foster economic growth. These tax-relief extensions will help our nation’s businesses and families, and many business owners and consumers in Michigan would benefit from these extensions.
Do you favor expansion of health care coverage to include all Americans?
Vernon J. Ehlers: Yes, I support expanding health care coverage for all Americans, but not by means of a government-run system. Already, Congress has passed several bills to expand health care coverage and reduce health care costs, and I have supported and voted for them. In 2003, Congress passed a bill to provide prescription drug coverage for those with Medicare. This drug coverage enables the typical senior to spend about half of what he or she used to spend on prescription drugs each year. Also in 2003, Congress created Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). HSAs allow Americans to contribute to a tax-free account to pay for medical needs and to build savings by rolling over any unspent contributions. I support many other ways to reduce health care costs, while improving health care access and quality. For example, I have been a supporter of Association Health Plans. Also, I support medical liability reform to cut down on frivolous lawsuits, which drive up health care costs. Finally, I am a strong supporter of health information technology (IT) tools. Although initially health IT may be expensive for health providers to adopt, in the long run, it will save money by eliminating duplicative or unnecessary medical services, paperwork and mistakes.
Do you favor a woman’s right to abortion? If no, please note any exceptions.
Vernon J. Ehlers: No. I strongly believe in the sanctity of all life, for those who are born and unborn, and have a consistent voting record in opposition to abortion (as well as the death penalty). We must prevent abortion, except in cases where the pregnancy poses a danger to the life of the mother.
Do you favor a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage?
Vernon J. Ehlers: Yes. I have always believed that marriage should retain its historic meaning. Marriage between one man and one woman is an enduring human institution that has served us well for many millennia, and sits at the foundation of our cultural, religious and societal roots. It should be honored, encouraged and protected. In July 2006, the House of Representatives voted on the “Marriage Protection Amendment.” This proposal would have amended the Constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Although I voted in favor of the amendment, it did not get enough votes to pass. I had reservations about taking the significant step of amending the Constitution, something that our country has done only 17 times in more than 200 years. In particular, I was concerned about defining or limiting the kind of legislation that states may enact, particularly on issues related to family law that have traditionally been left to states to govern. However, the proposed amendment was worded to allow states to continue their traditional governance over other issues surrounding marriage or civil unions, while ensuring that the institution of marriage will be defended against attempts by some activist judges to redefine it.