Brad Schneider persuasively makes the case that there are “real differences” between him and his opponent U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) in the deadlocked race for Illinois’ 10th district representative.
And Schneider need convince almost no one that Dold is part of a legislative body mired in “unbelievable gridlock.”
But like many candidates running for Congress, Schneider is caught in a moment of political uncertainty where there is an absence of bold policy ideas.
No one knows what party will run the U.S. House or the White House in 2013. Moreover, the December 31 “fiscal cliff”, when the Bush tax cuts expire and automatic spending reductions kick in, means that the 112th Congress may still have a big impact on the nation's tax and spending policies.
In the 10th district and across Illinois, Democratic candidates are arguing the case for the full implemention of the Affordable Care Act and fiercely opposing a budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the Republican presidential nominee. The Ryan budget cuts overall government money toward health care, and would turn Medicaid into a block grant program and restructure Medicare by 2022. But with the key exception of ACA implementation, major campaign issues have not translated into major policy proposals.
Schneider, 52, lives with his family in Deerfield and has mainly worked in the private sector as a business consultant. He talked to Progress Illinois yesterday on a range of issues, particularly wanting to draw a contrast with Dold on gay rights and the environment.
Dold is moderate on social issues by Republican Party standards, but, as Schneider points out, opposes legalizing same-sex marriage.
Schneider supports gay marriage and says that he would like to “work with Congress on addressing full marriage equality”, including the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 legislation codifies marriage as between one woman and one man.
A Congressional gay marriage debate may be irrelevant, though, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the constitution’s equal protection clause, which could happen within the year.
Schneider also points out that in contrast to his opponent, he supports the proposed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act that would extend workplace equal rights to gay and transgendered employees.
The Deerfield Democrat touted his environmental credentials by noting endorsements from the Sierra Club and League of Conversation Voters. Schneider said he would “make sure that we start addressing real challenges” on the environment
But Schneider dodged the biggest environmental issue of the day – what government can do to avert catastrophic climate change. The candidate said, “We need to accept that climate change is real.” But he then pivoted to indirect ways the problem can be solved, such as curbing subsidies for oil companies or improving fuel mileage standards, an idea already taken up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Schneider says his priorities are to “get the economy working again and education growing.” Pressed to name an economic policy he would support, Schneider named the infrastructure bank, an idea previously floated by President Barack Obama to leverage private money toward public projects. He says a federal infrastructure bank, which the Chicago Infrastructure Trust is partly modeled after, “would help get some of those projects that communities desperately need.”
On education, Schneider likes the “dynamic of promoting innovation”, which is championed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington like Duncan, though teachers unions are cool to his policies. Schneider specifically likes the Obama administration idea of hiring more math and science teachers. Also, he wants to look “at efforts to stop bullying young kids who are developing their sexual identity.”
Schneider also stressed the need for bipartisan collaboration. Asked what he learned from traveling across the Democratic-leaning district in the North Shore suburbs, the Congressional contender noted the “common frustration with gridlock they have seen in Washington.”