Collin C. Peterson - Democratic-Farmer-Labor

Terrorism: Rate the effectiveness of the current war on terrorism. Do you support a specific timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq? If so, what is it? Will you vote to end the war in Iraq?...

Terrorism: Rate the effectiveness of the current war on terrorism. Do you support a specific timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq? If so, what is it? Will you vote to end the war in Iraq?

It's fairly clear that the war on terrorism has not been a total success. Many of our nation's internal security systems and procedures have been significantly improved, but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do. Perhaps the most important measure of our progress is simply that there has not been a terrorist attack on American soil since "9-11". However, the situation in Iraq is clearly not what we want it to be and in spite of the great job being done by the men and women of the U.S. military we still have numerous problems to deal with, and frankly there's really no end in sight at this time. The military has a difficult mission in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but without thoughtful reevaluation and reconsideration of the Administration's current objectives and policies - as the President himself has admitted - it will be all but impossible for the United States to "win" in the traditional sense of the word. Going into Afghanistan in the aftermath of "9-11" was the right thing to do, but from there the Administration moved to expand the war without fully accomplishing that first mission and without a clearly thought out plan for the second. The justifications the Administration used to take the U.S. to war in Iraq, now appear to have been intentionally misleading. Nonetheless, now that we're there, we are going to have to complete the task, and that will require leadership that pursues achievable objectives and is honest with the American people about how long we will need to be there and what it's going to cost. A timetable for withdrawal, simply for the sake of having a timetable, is not a viable strategy. Only through rational military and diplomatic policies will we be able to defeat terrorism and achieve the safer world we all seek.

Homeland Security: Are Americans more secure through efforts of the Homeland Security Department? Are federal anti-terrorism funds being distributed equitably among states?

The Homeland Security Department is a mess. Instead of an effective agency designed to defend the United States against external threats, the Administration created a bureaucracy so large that it has difficulty effectively communicating with itself, let alone defending the nation. Obviously in this post "9-11" world we need government resources and personnel focused on delivering improved Homeland Security, but from where it stands now we still have quite a ways to go. As for the distribution of funds, at present it seems haphazard at best. The Department doesn't seem to have a coherent and well structured plan for equitable distribution of anti-terrorism funds, distributing funds, and as far as I can tell Minnesota - especially rural jurisdictions - are not getting a fair share. The Department seems to have very little focus on securing the northern border, protecting our food supply, improving port security technology, and providing our locally based first responders with the equipment they tell us they need now.

Agriculture: What actions can be taken to ensure U.S. farmers are on a level playing field in the international marketplace?


NAFTA, GATT and CAFTA are some of the worst in the series of bad trade deals that U.S. Presidents have signed in recent times. The playing field won't be level for U.S. farmers until we start negotiating smarter agreements and stop allowing foreign governments to dictate our agriculture policies. Farmers do not need international trade simply for the sake of trade. Farmers need real markets, domestic or international, that return real profits. Minnesota farmers are some of the most efficient and productive in the world, but poorly negotiated trade agreements that promised much but delivered little have not helped them compete overseas. We already know that a lot of what we will consider in the 2007 Farm Bill will be constrained by existing international trade agreements that previous and current Administrations have signed. We also know that the current President and his Secretary of Agriculture believe we should pass more trade agreements and make deeper cuts to farm programs in this country in order to get foreign nations to sign them. This is not acceptable to me and I will continue to do all I can to stop this from happening. This year I participated in hearings around the country and in Minnesota and the overwhelming consensus we heard was "the 2002 Farm Bill works and should largely be extended." No one said "let's let the international trade negotiators tell us what programs we can have for American farmers". As the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture I will have a leading role in writing the 2007 Farm Bill. If we do it right the next Farm Bill will largely be an extension of the 2002 bill with the addition of a permanent disaster program, a significant energy title, a renewed commitment to conservation and more rural development funding - and it will improve, not hamper, U.S. farmers' ability to compete in the international marketplace.

Social Security: The Social Security Trust Fund is scheduled to become insolvent as baby boomers retire. Should Social Security be privatized? If not, what solutions do you propose?

We've heard this before, but the fact is that Social Security Trust Fund will never become insolvent unless Congress fails to act. Social Security Trust Funds should only be spent on Social Security. I oppose privatizing the system, but I think we can increase opportunities for individuals to invest their retirement funds without risking the safety and soundness of the system. I am open to giving young people - say those under 30 - the option of redirecting a small portion of their Social Security taxes into a 401-K type plan/ so long as they accept a corresponding reduction in the future benefits from Social Security (calculated on an actuarial basis according to how much they diverted) and no pre-retirement withdrawals of any kind were allowed.

Health care: Do you support universal health care coverage? Will the Medicare drug discount card bring prescription cost relief to senior citizens?

Universal health care coverage is the right goal and I think we'll get there eventually, but until that day it is important to be realistic and improve that which can be improved while we develop the political courage and the financing required for universal coverage. A good first step that would help expand access to health care and increase the number of Americans with coverage would be to simply allow individuals and small businesses to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). By taking this approach we can make use of an existing system with well established plans that have delivered quality health care to large numbers of beneficiaries. Although the new Medicare law made some changes that should help rural health care in general it is still too soon to tell whether or not the drug discount card will in the long run actually help bring down prices for senior citizens. In the meantime Congress should also pass legislation that I have been supporting which would allow for the reimportation of lower priced drugs from Canada. Medicare should also be allowed to negotiate "program wide" drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies in the same manner that the Veterans Administration does.

Education: What should be the federal government's role in enacting education standards and providing accompanying funding?

The federal government should NOT be telling Minnesotans how to run their schools, and it most certainly should NOT be setting the standards while short-changing school districts on the amount of money it should be sending to Minnesota to pay for federally mandated education programs. I voted against the President's so called No Child Left Behind Act because it amounted to a direct assault by the federal government on Minnesota's tradition of local control of schools. Washington DC should NOT be imposing policy on schools in rural Minnesota. Many of the rural school district leaders I've talked to have told me that the state government is creating additional problems for rural schools through their efforts to implement this seriously flawed edict from Washington. The bill should be repealed, but if we can't secure enough votes to get that done at the very least it should be amended so that rural schools can "opt out".

Energy: Should the United States expand domestic oil production? What should be the parameters? What should be done to promote alternative energy sources?


The United States must expand domestic oil production and reduce its dependency on foreign energy sources. We also need to continue our efforts to develop all available alternative energy sources. As the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture I intend to see that an energy title is written into the 2007 Farm Bill to help expand the development and distribution of domestically produced biofuels. In the House we are working to pass our "25 x 25 plan which would have 25 percent of the nation's energy coming from renewable fuels by 2025. I believe that the United States can even surpass that goal because we have demonstrated in Minnesota what this will do, not only for the country, but for the rural area. I think the opportunity that we have in renewable energy is the most exciting thing to happen to agriculture in 100 years. When we passed the Energy Bill I worked hard to get strong language and funding for the renewable fuels sections, including support for ethanol, bio-diesel, and wind energy. I also introduced legislation to allow individuals, as well as corporations, to take advantage of the existing system of tax credits for wind energy production and to allow the $25,000 offset for individuals under the passive loss rules to apply to investments in wind energy facilities. Our overall policy should be domestically focused so as to reduce dependence on foreign oil and increase energy conservation. I believe that we have the capacity to accomplish this in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to the environment and to future generations. If we do it right American consumers will spend some of their money on energy from the Midwest - not the Middle East. We need to get this right so that we can stop fighting wars over oil and stop buying oil from people who hate us.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

As 7th District Congressman, I have been a consistent and effective advocate for rural Minnesota. I grew up on a farm in Baker, Minnesota, graduated from Moorhead State, had my own small business (as a CPA) and served in the Minnesota Senate before being elected to Congress. I'm an advocate for rural development and agriculture, public education, veterans, affordable, quality rural health care and fiscal discipline. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee I have helped write the last several Farm Bills, including the 2002 Bill that overhauled the dairy program, instituted a countercyclical safety net, and protected and expanded conservation programs, including CRP. As the current Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee I will have a pivotal role in writing the 2007 Farm Bill and in that position I will do all I can to see that the interests and concerns of Minnesota's farmers and rural communities are addressed. In the years I served on the House Select Intelligence Committee (on leave from the Veterans Affairs Committee) I worked to strengthen our national defense capabilities and our human capital intelligence resources. In addition, I led the successful effort to add $25 Billion - specifically for rural health care - to the Medicare bill.

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