Here is how candidates for the Democratic and Republican nominations for the U.S. House seat in the 3rd Congressional District responded to five questions about select issues and their campaigns.
Q. Republicans dominate the House, Democrats control the Senate and gridlock in both houses of Congress is at an all-time high. On which issues are you comfortable working with members of the opposite party?
Mary Headrick: I will work with all members in a civil fashion regardless of issue, political party, religion, gender or other factors. I wish to build consensus and solve problems. I am willing to listen to and read about someone else's positions and reasons for them.
Bill Taylor: I am ready to work with Republicans on all issues. We must work together as Americans to solve our problems. My moderate positions will help me to work both sides of the aisle to find common ground. There are other moderates in Congress who will help in this effort.
Ron Bhalla: Both parties need to work together on all issues always. Certainly I would extend myself to work on jobs, debt reduction, spending cuts, the economy and defense.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: All Americans must come together as we face down our debt and deficit problems, and that is why I voted to cut $1.6 trillion. Taxing, borrowing and spending is no longer acceptable for our country.
Scottie Mayfield: The "gridlock" is the Democratic Senate itself. It's been three years since a budget's been passed, and the Republican House has passed several job-creating bills that have failed to reach the Senate floor. The real solution is gaining back control of the Democratic Senate in November.
Weston Wamp: I will work with anyone on every issue because that's how our form of government is supposed to work. The longer the extreme polarization continues, the longer it will take to get out of the mess we are in. We need leaders who are willing to find common ground.
Q. How should Congress handle the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31 for the richest 2 percent of Americans? Should taxes for the nation's wealthiest increase or decrease?
Mary Headrick: Raise the tax rate for gross adjusted income over $250,000 so that earnings above $250,000 are taxed at 38.5 percent. Revise the tax code to eliminate the loopholes for corporations and wealthy individuals, e.g. eliminate the "carried interest rule."
Bill Taylor: Economists agree our deficit problems cannot be solved with spending cuts alone. Revenues will have to rise. My approach is to evaluate each of the Bush cuts. If the tax provision does not directly help create jobs or improve the economy, it should be eliminated.
Ron Bhalla: The richest people create a good number of jobs. As is, we are the No. 1 highest taxpayers, which is not good for the people who bring big industry at home. As an incentive to industrialists, we should decrease the taxes and leave the Bush tax cuts permanent.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: We should not raise taxes on Americans or small businesses. These tax cuts should be made permanent. We do not have a revenue problem in this country; we have a spending problem.
Scottie Mayfield: A better solution is reforming the tax code to flatter, fairer, simpler and lower. Raising taxes should never be a solution to pay for Washington's outrageous spending. The tax increases do not just affect the wealthy. They raise taxes on seniors who have made investments in order to retire.
Weston Wamp: With the economy struggling, now is not the time to raise taxes. The money generated by eliminating the Bush tax cuts would barely help the situation. We must cut spending, close loopholes and dramatically reform our tax code. If we give the government more money, government will spend it.
Q. Federal budgets included no money for repairing the Chickamauga Lock for fiscal 2013. If elected, how would you attempt to restore funding for the Chickamauga Lock?
Mary Headrick: Earmarks are not allowed. Federal-to-state transportation block grants allow states to seek funding for projects such as this. Low-interest federal bonds help pay for projects like the lock with gradual repayment for costs not met with block grants.
Bill Taylor: I'm on record that I would propose an earmark and work with other representatives for their earmarks so that mine would be retained. Given the current funding formula, an earmark is the only way to get the Chickamauga Lock funded.
Ron Bhalla: I will make every possible effort to get money for the Chickamauga Lock. What are the resources to utilize? I will know more when I get there.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: Since Day One, I have been working to reform the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. This is the key to ensuring Chickamauga Lock has sufficient funding and construction can be completed.
Scottie Mayfield: The Chickamauga Lock is only recently getting the attention it needs thanks to Sen. Lamar Alexander. Without federal funding, the lock will not receive the repairs it needs. As I've said throughout my campaign, the 3rd District needs a business leader who can work to help get funding for local projects here at home.
Weston Wamp: Instead of blaming others, I will engage the administration to secure our operations and maintenance money every year to keep the current lock open while we work to change the trust fund formula and get the construction dollars back in the president's budget request. Leadership is needed now.
Q. What are your thoughts on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare"?
Mary Headrick: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides good insurance reforms (e.g. no exclusions for pre-existing illness, lower premiums via exchanges, over 80 percent of premiums must be spent on patient care). ACA warrants improvements. Lessen the power of the independent payment advisory board; add a public option; negotiate drug prices.
Bill Taylor: The ACA is a good first start in making health insurance more affordable and available to almost everyone. But, there are parts of it that need work. My 35 years experience in health care uniquely qualifies me to aid in the further development of the ACA.
Ron Bhalla: Patient care is good, but not through the Obamacare plan. This is a very, very expensive plan and we should repeal it. As per the Congressional Budget Office, we will lose 80,000 jobs and will have a $1 trillion debt increase. We need an alternative plan. (Editor's note: CBO said last week that Obama's health care overhaul will shrink the nation's federal deficits over the next decade.)
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: It is a terrible piece of legislation, and I have voted to repeal it every time I have had the chance. A government takeover of our health care system is not the answer. We must replace it with free-market principles.
Scottie Mayfield: Obamacare hurts America financially and undermines the doctor-patient relationship. It cuts $500 billion from Medicare and raises taxes. As your congressman, I will vote to repeal Obamacare. I will support legislation for a free-market health care system that creates competition and more choice.
Weston Wamp: It needs to be repealed because it's a poorly designed piece of legislation. However, conservatives are not fixing any problems unless they address health care reform with the same amount of enthusiasm they have shown in opposing Obamacare. We need changes, but they should be free-market-based and not government mandated.
Q. If you want voters to know one big idea you've proposed as a candidate, what would it be?
Mary Headrick: Protect our economy and jobs. Discourage offshoring either jobs or capital. Restore "Made in the U.S.A." Spend on infrastructure including teachers, firemen and policemen. Raise the minimum wage to $10.16 per hour then index to inflation. Regulate greed. Punish the dishonesty of "Big Banks" and Wall Street. Break up the Big Banks.
Bill Taylor: Jobs. We can't improve our economy without getting people back to work. The result will be reduced unemployment expenditures and increased tax receipts. My proposals for increased funding in Oak Ridge and for completing Chickamauga Lock are examples of how federal job creation can lift the entire regional economy.
Ron Bhalla: Giving power to voters. Most of the bills in the House are passed under the influence of lobbyists, Washington politicians, special interest groups. The two parties are not able to solve issues. Today, because of technology and voter education I prefer to have my constituents participate, being able to vote on every bill.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: I proposed a seven-point, 33-page jobs plan -- "Less Government, More Jobs." I did not think it was enough just to say "no" to President Obama, so I proposed my own solutions to get the government out of the way and our economy back on track.
Scottie Mayfield: I'm the only candidate to commit to term limits in Congress and I will pursue legislation for 12-year term limits for members of Congress. Time and time again, members of Congress vote for short-term incentives to get re-elected, instead of long-term solutions that will help America.
Weston Wamp: The big idea is that long-term solutions can be found if "We the People" are ready to send people to Washington who will not play the blame game and will take political risks to work across the aisle to get something done without worrying about the next election. Time is running out.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...
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