Election 2024 Questionnaire: Bill Foster, 11th Congressional District

Election 2024
Congressman Bill Foster (D-11) speaks at the VNA Health Care facility ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023 in Joliet.

Full Name: Bill Foster

What office are you seeking? U.S. Congress Illinois 11th District

What public offices, if any, have you previously held? U.S. Representative, 14th District of Illinois (2008-2011) U.S. Representative, 11th District of Illinois (2013-current)

City: Naperville, IL

Occupation: Scientist and Businessman

Campaign website: billfoster.com

In light of the increasing influx of migrants to Illinois, how do you propose the federal government should address the challenges?

The first step is to pass a bipartisan compromise along the lines negotiated over months in the Senate: more resources for border security, humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers including financial assistance to states like Illinois that are shouldering much of the burden, and for immigration courts to eliminate the 2-year backlog of asylum cases, and structural reform for our asylum procedures so that they do not become an end-run around. The ultimate solution will require comprehensive Immigration Reform. One of the great tragedies of the past decade was in 2013, when the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have passed the House with a bipartisan majority if then-Speaker John Boehner would have allowed it to come up for a vote. Unfortunately, he caved to the far-right “freedom caucus” and blocked it from being voted on. The same dynamic is playing out today.

What are the top issues facing your district and what would you like to do to address those issues?

When I first started representing the 11th District under the new map, there was an economic emergency in the northern part of the district due to the announced closing of the Chrysler-Stellantis Belvidere Assembly Plant, which for generations had been the beating heart the city of Belvidere as well as the surrounding region. The response to this emergency was an “all hands on deck” effort joined by the Governor, the congressional delegation, state and local elected officials, and the UAW. My top priority was to make sure that all of the federal incentives to produce Electric Vehicles that we had voted for in the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure bill, and the Chips and Science Act were brought to bear to encourage Stellantis to provide Belvidere with a role in the EV Future. With my encouragement the relevant federal agencies and the White House got involved, and the final deal provided not only a new EV assembly facility at Belvidere, but a new battery factory and parts distribution center. My priority at this point is to make sure that those federal incentives are actually delivered to the project so those thousands of jobs can be restored as soon as possible.

In the southern part of the district, Argonne and Fermi National Lab should continue to play key roles in the rebirth of high-tech manufacturing throughout the region. They are also playing important roles in developing the technologies we will need to deal with Climate Change, AI and quantum computing, and the technologies of the future. As someone who has started a company that now provides over a thousand high-tech manufacturing jobs, and has kept those jobs in the Midwest, I know how to make this happen.

First, I am focused on reproductive rights, which are especially under threat after the Dobbs decision. Ensuring access to reproductive health services, including abortion and birth control, is critical both as a human right and for families’ financial stability.

Finally, as a member of the Financial Services Committee, I’m focused on ensuring all Americans have access to banking with fair terms. We can help families become homeowners, avoid loans designed to keep them in debt forever, and prevent people from being charged exorbitant fees for simple mistakes.

What local road and bridge projects should be a priority to get done in the district?

Continuing improvements to Route 47 should be a priority as it becomes a major artery that runs most of the length of the district. In the south end of the district, we need a comprehensive plan to redevelop the Des Plaines River valley as its fossil-fuel based industries fade away and are replaced by modern and cleaner industries and the ecology is restored. To kick off that effort, our office has helped initiate an effort to rename the “Sanitary and Shipping Canal” to something – anything – that does not contain the word “Sanitary”.

What plans do you have to help the lower and middle class?

The first priority is continuing and strengthening the economic recovery. Nothing helps the lower and middle class as much as a strong job market, as they are often the first fired and last rehired. This must be accomplished both locally, with efforts like saving the Belvidere Assembly Plant, and nationally, like extending the record job and wage growth that has occurred under President Biden.

Combating inflation is also a priority. Inflation is now hovering around 3%, down significantly from the 9% late in the COVID pandemic and continuing to fall. When inflation was at its peak I supported policies, like the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, to address the supply chain issues that were causing goods to become so expensive.

Affordable housing has long been a priority of mine. During the last Congress, we were able to pass legislation through the House to address this crisis as part of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, but it was stripped out by two Senators. We will live to fight another day on this.

To help families afford essential goods and services, I also support policies to restore the Child Tax Credit expansion; to subsidize unaffordable child care costs; expand SNAP benefits and make them more flexible

Drug costs are also a major burden for the lower and middle class. In the last Congress, we passed historic legislation to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors at $2000/year.

Strong unions are essential to a healthy middle class. To that end, I’m proud to support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which will ensure every worker has the right to form a union, and the Raise the Wage Act, to gradually raise the minimum wage and get rid of the lower minimum wages for tipped workers and people with disabilities. The research is clear that increased unionization and higher minimum wages raise wages for everyone, unionized or not, near the minimum wage or not.

What are the top two threats to our national security?

As the only PhD Physicist in Congress, I believe that nuclear proliferation remains our most serious national security threat. Non-state actors and hostile states like Iran are getting closer to obtaining these weapons. The aggressive behavior of known proliferators like North Korea, and the ambivalent response to this behavior by the Trump Administration, risks encouraging an arms race in the already nuclear-capable states in East Asia. And finally, Ukraine, which gave up its nuclear weapons at the end of the Cold War in return for a guarantee of territorial integrity, is being abandoned by Republicans in Congress – the worst possible signal to send. As part of my work on nuclear proliferation in Congress, I’ve introduced numerous bills and amendments aimed at reducing our country’s use of highly-enriched uranium fuel (HEU) for non-weapons purposes, improving our ability to detect and inspect nuclear facilities, and strengthening our arms control treaties around the world.

The second largest threat comes from the convergence of synthetic biology and Artificial Intelligence. While for more than a decade we have understood the principles and methods necessary to produce custom and lethal pathogens more dangerous than SARS-CoV-2. However in the past, this has required a large laboratory and a team of talented individuals. Modern automated synthetic biology techniques are now reducing this to a tabletop exercise. Moreover, the detailed technical knowledge to produce pathogens is available on the Internet and has now been incorporated and captured in “Large Language Model” AI’s like ChatGPT. This leads to the likelihood that a single person without much technical training will now have the power to create destructive pathogens. This risk was appropriately highlighted in President Biden’s executive order on AI, but the solution to this risk is not at hand.

What is your position on climate change and what should be done about it?

Climate change is real, and a threat to national security. The natural disasters, droughts, and other consequences of climate change have destabilized foreign governments and created historic numbers of refugees seeking a more liveable home.

The way we address this is twofold:

First, we must decarbonize our economy using the technology at hand, and use our diplomatic tools to encourage other countries to do the same. To this end, I have been proud to vote for the historic investments in green technology under the Inflation Reduction Act, that will support U.S. compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Secondly, we must lead the cost-reduction research to develop technologies that will make it decarbonizing affordable for the developing world. As an example, I was proud to see my Better Energy Storage Technology Act become law in 2020, which supports federal research funding into how to improve energy storage on the electric grid -- a necessary step for us to transition to intermittent energy sources like solar and wind. I’ve led the House on funding this program in the years since.

What is your position on nuclear energy expansion?

I believe nuclear energy can be an important part of our nation’s green energy transition. Modern nuclear energy production is extremely safe. Nuclear power can also be produced continuously, helping us fill in the gaps when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. As a co-chair of the Advanced Nuclear Caucus, I’ve prioritized investing in research into making nuclear energy more efficient. However, we must take care to keep communities intact and create good union jobs as we build these new plants.

Should America invest in other forms of renewable energy? Please explain.

We must invest in the broad spectrum of renewable energy technologies, both those that are already in use, like solar and wind, and those that are still under development but hold significant promise, like nuclear fusion. The Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, both of which I voted for, made historic investments in the development and deployment of many of these technologies. I’ve also long supported the research done at Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab, which are home to many groundbreaking energy research projects. I was proud to see my Better Energy Storage Technology Act become law in 2020, which supports federal research funding into how to improve energy storage on the electric grid -- a necessary step for us to transition to intermittent energy sources like solar and wind.

Should pregnant women have the right to get an abortion?

Yes. The federal government must stand strong in protecting women’s reproductive rights, including the right to abortion. I’m proud to support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade nationwide and ensure no woman is denied her right to an abortion. I also support the EACH Act, which requires all health insurance plans to cover abortion care. Last Congress, I cosponsored the Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act, which protects women’s right to travel across state lines to get an abortion. Access to birth control is similarly important to access to abortion. To protect against far-right encroachment on that right, I’ve cosponsored the Right to Contraception Act, which would protect access to birth control at the federal level.

Do you support the Illinois gun ban? Why or why not?

I support Illinois’ ban on assault rifles, and support a similar nationwide ban. I cosponsored the Assault Weapons Ban of 2023, and have signed a discharge petition to force the Speaker to bring it for a vote. Weapons of war do not belong on our streets, period. I’ve also supported several other efforts to address gun violence in our community. I cosponsored the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would establish universal background checks, the absolute minimum we should be doing to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands. Finally, I cosponsor the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, which finishes the job started by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and closes the “boyfriend loophole”, assuring no domestic abusers can legally purchase a lethal weapon. I also support ‘red flag laws’ to allow courts to remove guns from dangerous individuals; closing the “Charleston loophole” affecting background checks; and requiring secure storage of firearms in homes with children; among other policies to keep Americans safe.

How would you classify the state of public health in your district? Do you believe access to affordable healthcare is an issue? Why or why not? If you believe its an issue, what ideas do you have to remedy it?

Our country’s access to affordable health care has improved substantially since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but we still have a long way to go to ensure that every family can get the care they need. To move in that direction, I support the creation of a public option on the ACA health insurance marketplaces, which would increase competition and bring down costs for everyone. As part of the American Rescue Plan, I also voted for an increase in the values of the ACA subsidies, making plans on the marketplace more affordable to families. I also voted to lower prescription drug costs as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies and capping seniors’ costs at $2,000 per year.

Opioid addiction is a continuing problem, as it is in other areas of the country. One of the few rays of hope is the successful results with Medically Assisted Treatment, and I have worked in Congress to prioritize funding for this. I have also worked to prioritize research on new non-addictive painkillers that work at the site of the pain, rather than in the brain. These are now emerging successfully from clinical trials, and could help reduce one of the major entry points for addiction.

Did Joe Biden win the 2020 Presidential election?

Yes. There has been no evidence of substantial voter fraud in the 2020 election, so Joe Biden is the rightful President of the United States. Efforts to overturn this result outside of our legal system have seriously undermined our democracy, and the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 constituted an insurrection.

Would you have voted to ratify his presidency?

Yes, I did vote to affirm the 2020 Presidential election results.

Would you, as a member of Congress, ever vote against certifying presidential electoral votes submitted by states’ official voting authorities?

I would vote against certifying electoral votes only if there was clear evidence of widespread fraud, and that relevant amounts of fraud had been verified by our legal justice system. This has not occurred in American history.