Is your District still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy? What have you done to help?
CP: Hurricane Sandy caused unprecedented damage to my district and many homeowners and businesses are still struggling to recover and rebuild. In Congress, I advocated for a robust Sandy aid package to get communities the help they need to recover and rebuild. When Speaker Boehner postponed the vote on the Sandy Aid Package at the end of 2012, I joined with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to cry foul and demand a vote. When there was a shortage of temporary housing for those displaced from their homes, I got on the phone with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to demand more trailers and temporary housing for New Jersey. And when I found out flood insurance claims were being delayed I wrote to FEMA asking that they be expedited. Issues continue to rise that require attention as we work to rebuild the Shore. I am in constant communication with constituents and federal agencies, working first-hand to address the needs of the community and to assist in recovery efforts. We have a long road ahead of us and I will continue to take an active role, as I have since the Sandy first hit the Shore.
What have you accomplished as Congressman?
CP: Throughout my tenure in Congress, my legislative accomplishments have been geared to the protection and restoration of environmental resources and making health care more affordable and accessible.
As Health Subcommittee Chairman during the 111th Congress, I played a leading role in passing the Affordable Care Act. The landmark law extends health care coverage to an additional 32 million Americans while driving down health care costs and reigning in abusive tactics used by insurance companies to deny medical treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 105 million Americans no longer have a lifetime limit on their coverage and 5.1 million seniors have saved $3.2 billion on their prescription drugs, to date.
My additional key legislative accomplishments that are now law include reforming an outdated food safety system and expanding health care coverage to millions of low and middle income children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. I was one of the main authors of food safety reform legislation, which emphasizes prevention and safety measures that help ensure food is safe before it reaches the kitchen tables of millions of families.
Whether it has been my work to stop ocean dumping and offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, fighting to bring millions of dollars back home for the protection and maintenance of our pristine coastline or championing critical issues for New Jersey’s commercial and recreational fishing industries, I have never lost sight of the importance of our precious natural resources.
I believe a healthy society is a productive society and that we will not be able to lift our nation from economic low-points without making sure that all Americans have access to quality affordable health care. That’s why I have been a leader in protecting the integrity of the Medicare guarantee and Medicaid programs, ensuring food safety, strengthening the federal Superfund program to clean up toxic waste sites, strengthening the nation’s clean water laws, and protecting our shores against the threat of offshore drilling.
Providing a world-class education to our youth is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as a nation.
Why do you want to run for the Senate instead of Congress?
CP: Although I wish the opportunity to run for the seat vacated as a result of the loss of my good friend and colleague, Senator Frank Lautenberg had never risen, I am committed to carrying on his legacy of fighting for New Jersey.
I’m running because families in our state and throughout the nation are hurting and I believe that we have a responsibility to roll up our sleeves, get to work and help. Throughout my career, I have been committed to public service and to the idea that, no matter of the size of the challenge, I would continue to stand and fight and work toward sensible solutions.
I’m running for the Senate because we need to focus on getting people back to work, rebuilding our economy, making sure our environment is clean and safe for future generations, and standing up for equality for all Americans.
What would you like to accomplish?
CP: In the Senate, I will continue my record of service to New Jersey and keep fighting to rebuild our economy, create jobs, preserve Medicare and Social Security and make our state and nation a better place to live. I will lead the fight to improve our economy by investing in our nation’s infrastructure, encouraging more American manufacturing and expanding our efforts to move toward energy independence. We must do all this while protecting our precious natural resources and keeping our environment safe and clean for future generations.
What do you think about the IRS scandal, the government tapping everyone’s phones and the situation in Benghazi?
CP: The targeting of certain organizations by the IRS based on their ideological or political orientation is unacceptable. Since the initial revelations about this practice it has become clear that certain individuals at the IRS have acted inappropriate in targeting a broad range of groups. I believe that, while those responsible must be held accountable, rather than trying to turn this into a partisan blame-game that we must concentrate on ensuring it does not happen again.
I have serious concerns with the federal government’s warrant less wiretapping plan. I voted against the extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last year because I believe American citizens have a right to privacy that should not be jeopardized by government intrusion.
The attack on our embassy in Benghazi was a tragedy and one that our government must ensure never happens again. Unfortunately, in recent years our embassy security has been underfunded and when our men and women overseas do not have the resources they need to remain safe the potential for tragedy is increased. The independent Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) issued 29 recommendations following the incident in Benghazi and I believe the Department of State should act expeditiously to implement all of these recommendations.
Where do you stand on the following issues: immigration reform, gun safety, job creation, a minimum wage increase and school reform?
CP: I am a staunch supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. I think that there is no question that our current immigration system is broken and that it is time for serious change in the way that we approach immigration in the United States. Separately, I am a cosponsor of legislation that states calls on the US to take steps to help Israel become a Visa Waiver program country which would allow Israeli citizens to travel to the US without a visa for stays of 90 days or less.
I support stronger gun violence prevention efforts at the federal level. This includes enhanced background checks for gun purchases, reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban and cracking down on gun trafficking in our communities.
I believe Congress’ top priority should be job creation. I support a ‘Make It In America’ agenda to bring back domestic manufacturing and create jobs here in the US. Congress must also reverse the devastating cuts from sequestration that are threatening our slow economic recovery.
It has been four years since minimum wage workers saw an increase in their paycheck. Raising the minimum wage would help reverse the ongoing erosion of wages that has contributed significantly to growing income inequality, while providing a modest stimulus to the economy.
Providing a world-class education to our youth is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as a nation. I support reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and including reforms in the reauthorization to ensure that our local communities receive the support they need from the federal government.
Do you think having a new president in Iran will change things in the Middle East?
CP: I remain hopeful that the election of a new president in Iran will lead to change in the Middle East for the better. Hassan Rouhani has said that he seeks to improve ties with the West and has been labeled a moderate. However, we must keep in mind that he was essentially one of a few handpicked candidates that were ultimately allowed in the election, all of whom are loyal to Supreme Leader Khamenei. As such, moderate is all relative. Still it is encouraging that the Iranian people chose Rouhani, perhaps signaling that despite their government’s hard-line approach, they want to better relations with the West. At the end of the day, regardless of the president, Iran must comply with its international obligations, including ending its nuclear weapons program and allowing inspections to confirm that it has been ended.
What advice would you give to a young person who wants to get into politics?
CP: I believe that pubic service is an important calling for all Americans. Young people bring the kind of enthusiasm, energy and ideas that are critical to the democratic process, which is why it is so important for them to get involved. Our nation needs the kind of fresh prospective that young people bring to the table more now than ever.
For those who are interested in getting involved, it is important to come to public service with an open mind and a willingness to work hard to help their community. Young people should consider volunteering for the many worthy charitable and nonprofit organizations that are helping improve the lives of those who are in need and to find the issues that most inspire them and purse them vigorously.