Former Congresswoman Claudia Tenney spoke this week with the editorial board of the Daily Sentinel after her opponent Nov. 3 for the New York District 22 seat in Congress, Anthony Brindisi, spoke to the board in August. The topic was primarily the COVID-19 pandemic, but she and the board discussed other issues.
Below are highlights of the conversation with Tenney, edited for concision.
A similar article from Brindisi’s interview is at https://romesentinel.com/stories/brindisi-help-states-with-true-covid-costs,103160?
Q. What should Congress do regarding the pandemic?
I think they still need to go in and pass the stimulus. … I don’t like to call it a stimulus as much as I like to call it relief because so many businesses were forced to shut down not but because of bad business practice or anything they did. It was because the government said you have to shut down, and so that’s caused a huge ripple effect, which has hurt everyone, and then that ripple effect hurts the local governments, who have less sales tax, which I’m hearing is becoming a crisis.
I’m a fiscal conservative, but this is a crisis. … People are in need, and there’s a big controversy right now about what to do with unemployment. It originally came out at $600; the Senate bill compromised at $300. That $600 has come back into play. I think the point of that was to keep people home. Now we don’t need to keep people home. We need to keep people safe at work, safe at school, safe wherever they are.
My concern that is if you make that too high you’re going to continue to keep people staying home. I can see it being at the lesser rather than the $600; sort of phase it in, which is what the Senate was trying to do. …I kind of like the Senate bill mostly because I think it’s a compromise. I hear from employers every day every time I do a business event. They all are saying stop the 600 dollars, at least don’t go back to the 600. Because they do need people to come back to work and they can’t keep up with tit. They need the productivity.
Any thoughts on the package brought out by the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House?
Actually they do the opposite of what the Senate does, which is they start low and then build high to getting back to the $600. I don’t understand. It’s sort of a reverse incentive to stay home. It sounds good: “The Problem Solvers Caucus.” Like a lot of things in Washington they sound great, and like a lot of things in Albnay. So far I haven’t seen any problems they’ve solved. ...
I think they’re well intentioned. A lot of it’s more messaging than it is realistic. You could, I guess use it as a framework, but everything you can put out is a framework.
Q. Regarding the region’s military assets: What do you see for their future and what their role is moving forward in the region, such as Rome Lab and EADS (Eastern Air Defense Sector)?
When I first got into Congress the secretary of the Air Force met with me and said if you get that perimeter fence you will secure the likelihood that we’ll be able to keep Rome Lab there. They said it shows that you have stability, that you’re going to resist any kind of security attack on there, particularly the type of work they’re doing.We had (former members of Congress) Richard Hanna, Sherry Boehlert, Mike Arcuri had all been tasked with that. It was a struggle, but we got it, and it was signed into law and the president allocated the funds in August of 2018.
It would have been nice to get some credit and some coverage for it. … We really fought hard to bring the resources to Rome Lab and I got to talk to the president personally and got some great access that we probably haven’t had in the past, and that’s’ why we got a huge increase to Rome Lab across the board. DFAS was saved by a bill that I put in with (then-Maine Republican Congressman) Bruce Poliquin. … I’m not too concerned about losing that other than the fact that generally the Democrats like to cut the military budget.
I think we’ve done a good job of putting a lot of money into the military, and a lot of it was prioritized to making sure …that it was going a lot to our troops and to the people who serve. We’re always going to have the military industrial complex aspect of it. But I think the president tasked the secretary of defense for the first time ever to actually do an audit … of how we actually spend military funding, and it’s still not as efficient and good as it could be, but it’s a starting point.
... As long as Ohio has got a strong presence and a strong support — they have a very Republican area where Wright Patterson is (the Air Force base housing the headquarters of the division containing Rome Lab) they get a lot of resources, so we need to counter that. We need to be always fighting to keep so that nothing slips away.
Q. Where should we go on health care?
Obama care is just continuing to hurt us. It’s going to implode and we have no options. We don’t have a consumer-driven model. The only thing Democrats are offering is Medicare for All, which I don’t think is going to be the solution. Vermont tried it and they got out of it in a few weeks. ... We have a plan that would do a very tiny change to Obamacare and just incrementally work it around. I think that giving people a chance to have a consumer driven model
There are some great plans about going back to a consumer driven model that still provides public health care for anyone who needs it, and provides and guarantees (coverage for) pre-existing conditions. I also co-sponsored a bill that would mandate that anyone with a pre-existing condition (be covered) and yet there was a million or two million in ads saying that I voted to take away pre existing conditions. … We didn’t counter it enough.
It has the Kaiser model … I’m a perfect example. I kept my health insurance through my my family business all the way through Congress. I never took Obamacare or whatever they offered. I used to pay about $110 a month for health care and my deductible is like $500 a year. I now pay almost $600 a month and it’s just me. I’m very healthy; I don’t take any medications or anything, never smoked, don’t have cancer, none of those things. My deductible’s $6,700. I just got my statement the other day. I still need to spend $4,000 by the end of the year before I can actually (be covered).
The reasons you’re seeing a lot of middle class people don’t like Obamacare is they’re spending so much for their plans for their companies. They don’t have their own option. I think there’s a way of doing it that’s not going to bankrupt businesses and give us a choice. The biggest problem you have now is the insurance companies don’t have to compete.
What the government and health care industry are benefitting from — it’s kind of like the pharmaceutical industry: Everybody’s got a piece of the action, and it’s distanced us form our relationship with our doctor.
In the Kaiser model, families join a family health practice and pay a certain amount a month and that doctor’s office will serve them. It gives a lot more freedom to choose what you want to do without a lot of the mandates. There has to be public coverage for people who can’t cover for themselves -- truly needy seniors, people who just can’t work for whatever reason there has to be a public coverage of health care. And we actually guarantee that under our state constitution as well. We have that: you cannot leave people that are seniors special needs … I deeply feel we have to provide that. But other people who can work, who can provide for themselves shouldn’t be forced into plans and have no options … It’d be interesting to give us more freedom to see if the prices could come down and you could have more options.
Q. What do you want to work on Congress?
I’d like to make the personal side of the tax cuts (from the 2017 federal tax reform legislation) permanent. … When I was in the state Assembly I really wanted to reduce income tax because I thought that was a huge deterrent for us bringing back younger people … Then I got to go to Congress and actually cut taxes .. and it did really well for our economy. I probably did over 100 business tours in Congress and I probably met with or talked to probably another 100 businesses. I did not meet a single one that wasn’t happy with the tax cuts, from large medium to small. … In our area, 95 percent actually ended up paying less in taxes. The five percent that didn’t were typically people that make over $250,000 a year or have large pieces of property.
I think making sure we continue to find ways to reduce unnecessary regulations and focus on obviously splitting up monopoly institutions … Monopolies are not helpful to our communities, especially when it comes to prescription drugs. President Trump has actually sort of saved the day on that. He’s coming in and forcing transparency.
We have got to get our supply chain back here. We’ve got to be creating and investing whether it’s precious metals and rare earth metals. We actually dig them up here, send them to China to be processed, and they come back. We can easily do some of those jobs. I don’t know why we’re not.