Brown Daily Herald: R.I. elected officials talk future of Dem. Party

Brown Daily Herald: R.I. elected officials talk future of Dem. Party

By Alex Reice

PROVIDENCE, R.I.– After the midterm elections turned the House of Representatives blue, Rhode Island’s Democratic Congressmen say they are hopeful that their party is positioned for success in 2020. Recently re-elected officials Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse D-R.I., Rep. David Cicilline ’83 D-R.I. and Rep. Jim Langevin D-R.I. in addition to Sen. Jack Reed D-R.I., who was not up for re-election Nov. 6, spoke to The Herald about their hopes for the future of the country and the Democratic Party.

“We had extraordinary candidates running for Congress all across the country, and I think Democrats, including me, ran on a very specific agenda that really focused on the issues that are important to the American people,” Cicilline said.

Among the most pressing issues for Rhode Island’s elected officials is affordable healthcare. Whitehouse plans to prioritize healthcare by changing the industry’s incentives — rewarding doctors for having healthy patients rather than for the number of procedures they perform, he said. 

The congressmen also said they are ramping up efforts to improve economic conditions for middle-class families in the state. Cicilline hopes Congress takes action “on a number of proposals to help raise incomes and really address the economic consolidation in this country,” he said. “People need to earn a living wage,” and “nobody should be working 40 hours a week and living below the poverty level,” Langevin added.

Rhode Island representatives and senators alike expressed the importance of bipartisanship in addressing the issues most important to them. With the Senate and the presidency still in Republican hands, the only way to pass legislation in Congress is to work together “wherever possible,” Langevin said, adding that there is potential for bipartisan cooperation when it comes to infrastructure. Trump campaigned on a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package, but getting that through Congress is something that will take both Democrats and Republicans, Langevin added.

While they plan to work across the aisle in Congress, Rhode Island’s elected officials see the election results as a sign of Americans’ dissatisfaction with Washington’s current Republican leadership. “There are a number of issues where I think the Democrats better reflect the concerns and wishes of the American public,” Whitehouse said. Americans are “voting for change, and they’re voting for Democrats,” Langevin said.

The Democratic majority in the House will also likely focus on checking the presidency, Cicilline said. “We’re going to be able to conduct real oversight,” he added. Democrats’ success sends a signal that Americans want to see “real accountability in Washington,” Reed said.

“Once there’s another power sector in Washington that he has to deal with, I think that the conversation will move much towards the middle,” Whitehouse said.

Rhode Island’s congressmen are also concerned about Trump’s recent firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In place of Sessions, Trump selected Matthew Whitaker as interim Attorney General, circumventing the normal line of succession which calls on the Deputy Attorney General to serve. “Why would you bring in somebody who isn’t in the ordinary line of succession and has not been confirmed by the Senate, unless you have some ulterior motive?” Whitehouse said. If it were just an ordinary president, “there’s nothing to get too excited about,” he added.

Now that the midterms are over, the Democrats voted into office are ready to show their constituents that they can accomplish real change. According to Langevin, Democrats have been running on an economic message prioritizing the working and middle class for years, and with newfound control of the House, “hopefully that is the message that we can deliver on. … We have two years before the next election to earn our message with the bills that we pass and the work that we do,” Whitehouse said, emphasizing the importance of running on policy rather than relying on political messaging to win over voters.

In preparation for a competitive presidential election in 2020, Cicilline sees issues centered around lowering healthcare costs, protecting retirement security and ensuring economic security for all as “the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,” he said. “I have no doubt that we’re going to have a very strong candidate to run against Trump, if he’s a candidate in 2020,” he added.

WJAR: Cicilline, Langevin weigh in on divided Congress

WJAR: Cicilline, Langevin weigh in on divided Congress

By Michelle San Miguel

The midterm election left the country with a divided Congress — Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans picked up more seats in the Senate.

Rhode Island Democratic Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, who both won their bid for re-election, are optimistic Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.

“I hope right away we take up an infrastructure bill,” Langevin said. “The president had campaigned on infrastructure and the promise of a perhaps one-trillion dollar infrastructure package. Democrats welcome that.”

With Democrats in control of the House for the first time since 2010, Cicilline is seeking a leadership position. If Cicilline becomes the assistant Democratic leader, it would make him the fourth ranking Democrat in the House.

“I hope that the work that I did as a member of the House Democratic leadership in helping to bring us into the majority will be valued by my colleagues,” Cicilline said.

Cicilline and Langevin welcome the checks and balances that Democrats will have now that they’re in control of one of the two chambers.

NBC 10 political analyst Wendy Schiller cautions that Democrats should pick their battles wisely.

“Democrats should not spend all their time investigating Trump. That’s a no win for the voters. They don’t want to see that. They want to see the Democrats worrying about healthcare, education, security,” Schiller said.

Cicilline said, “I think there’s an enormous amount of work that have to do with respect to our oversight responsibilities that have nothing to do Mr. Mueller’s investigation — that have to do with administration policies, child separation policies, the Department of Justice’s policies. I mean there are a whole range of issues that require immediate review from this administration.”

As for whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should be named House Speaker once again, Schiller said, “At this point in time, the Democrats need an experienced politician who can go toe to toe with Trump, who knows Washington, who knows how to deal with McConnell. The very person that is – is Nancy Pelosi.”

Cicilline said he’ll support Pelosi for the speaker position.

When NBC 10 asked Langevin if he would vote for Pelosi, he said, “I think all options are on the table right now. I’m not announcing my support for anyone just yet to be the next speaker. I’m excited that it’s going to be a Democrat.”

WPRI: Ground broken on Pawtucket-Central Falls commuter rail, bus hub

WPRI: Ground broken on Pawtucket-Central Falls commuter rail, bus hub

By Bill Tomison

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — With the heft of shovels, Rhode Island leaders launched a transit center project Friday afternoon kicking around Pawtucket and Central Falls for years: a new commuter rail station that will incorporate the state’s public bus service.

The hub project is part of the RhodeWorks bridges and transportation infrastructure improvement initiative. Joining Gov. Gina Raimondo for the groundbreaking were the state’s congressional delegation; Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Jim Langevin and Rep. David Cicilline all played roles in securing funding for the project.

On Pine Street at Goff Avenue, the new transit center will be situated in a wedge-shaped lot next to a neighborhood of industrial mill buildings – several redeveloped, or being redeveloped, into loft apartments and more – all part of the Conant Thread District straddling the two cities, which itself has lofty goals for development.

When the transit center’s commuter rail connection is finished, it’ll allow riders to connect to Providence, T.F. Green Airport’s InterLink, and Wickford Junction stations on the MBTA’s intercity rail system, as well as Boston and South Attleboro, and all the Massachusetts cities in between.

It’ll take over from Pawtucket’s current bus interchange on Roosevelt Avenue. The center will include an overpass over the train tracks, elevators, ramps and stairs. Early estimates figure 520 people will board transit at the hub each day.

The price tag for the project is $47 million, funded by federal grants known as TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – now known as BUILD) grants, funding from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), as well as grants from the state and city.

The actual construction work starts immediately, according to RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin, and the bulk of it will take about three years all told. The bus aspects are set to be completed by the end of 2020; train, late 2021, but train service won’t be expected to start until summer 2022 due to safety testing. Most of the work will be done during overnight hours, when Amtrak trains won’t be running on the rails that workers will have to build over and alongside.

ProJo: Rep. Langevin, seeking to restrain Trump, faces Caiozzo, GOP moderate and veteran

ProJo: Rep. Langevin, seeking to restrain Trump, faces Caiozzo, GOP moderate and veteran

By Mark Reynolds

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –

A 57-year-old West Greenwich man who served in the Army before he ran a plumbing business is the Republican candidate who hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin next month.

To continue his run in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, which started in 2000, Langevin must vanquish Salvatore G. Caiozzo on Nov. 6.

Langevin has done this before. But the political landscape has changed since the 54-year-old Democrat beat Caiozzo in 2016.

This is not to say that Caiozzo, who ran as an independent that year, now represents himself as Rhode Island’s version of President Donald Trump.

“I am Sal,” Caiozzo says in the early moments of his interview. “Sal is a guy who has been out here with everybody else and knows exactly what everyone is going through. I have my own platform.”

“Yes, I am a Republican, because I stand by certain Republican values, but it doesn’t mean I stand by all of them,” adds Caiozzo, who describes his politics as moderate and not unlike those of a John F. Kennedy Democrat.

That said, here are a few things that Caiozzo and Trump agree on:

Like Trump, Caiozzo supports members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spending more money on their own defense.

“I think we’ve been used long enough by NATO,” says the candidate, who won endorsement from the Republican Liberty Caucus, an association of the GOP’s libertarian-leaning activists.

But if the U.S. spends less money on its NATO commitments, Caiozzo says, the savings should benefit veterans.

Caiozzo, who says he was disabled by exposure to chemicals on an Alabama Army base in the 1980s, talks quite a bit about supporting veterans.

Like Trump, Caiozzo wants to change the nation’s health-care policy. But he says he would not abandon parts of the Affordable Care Act that provide coverage for preexisting conditions.

Schools and education decentralization are central to the Taunton, Massachusetts, native’s platform. He says he wants to improve education across the country and he believes education should be governed at the state and local levels, not by the federal government.

Neither Caiozzo nor Langevin brought up the probe being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

When prompted, Caiozzo says, “I haven’t really seen the Mueller investigation come up with anything.” He adds that he regards the probe as a “waste of money.”

Langevin said if he and other Democrats can control the House after the election, they can provide stronger checks and balances on Trump generally.

He is hopeful, he says, that even with the current Republican majority in the House, Congress will keep Trump from shutting down the investigation.

“I’m determined to let the truth come out and let the facts lead where they will,” Langevin says.

But taking control of the House would “certainly allow us to advocate for and put forth policies that are important to building a strong middle class in this country,” he says.

“We would end attempts to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” he says. “And we would hopefully work on ways to strengthen and improve health care, quality health care, in the country, and also work on growing good-paying jobs to further grow a strong middle class.”

The experienced politician has lots to say about how he would proceed if given the chance.

Langevin’s focus is on the middle class, improving the health-care system, launching infrastructure projects, protecting the country from cyberattacks and reducing gun violence.

“The country is at its best when we have a very strong middle class,” says the Warwick resident, who also says political leaders must do what’s possible to help Rhode Islanders gain the skills they need to find good-paying jobs.

Langevin, the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, was paralyzed when he was accidentally shot as a 16-year-old. He says he’s captivated by research that shows that a large proportion of all guns tied to crimes are funneled through a very small proportion of companies that supply guns.

“There is something wrong with that,” he says.

 

Salvatore G. Caiozzo

Age: 57

Residence: West Greenwich

Occupation: Retired from plumbing business, disabled veteran

Affiliation: Republican Party

Education: Monsignor Coyle & Cassidy High School, attended Labore Junior College and the University of Palermo

Previous elected office: None

Family: Single with two grown sons and one daughter

 

JAMES R. LANGEVIN

Age: 54

Residence: Warwick

Occupation: U.S. representative

Affiliation: Democrat

Education: Rhode Island College, Harvard University

Previous elected office: Rhode Island secretary of state, 1995-2000; state representative, 1989-1994

Family: Single

RIPR: JAMES LANGEVIN – US HOUSE DISTRICT 2 – DEMOCRAT 2018

RIPR: JAMES LANGEVIN – US HOUSE DISTRICT 2 – DEMOCRAT 2018

By RIPR Staff

Editor’s note: these are the candidate’s responses to questions provided by RIPR. The views expressed are the candidate’s alone, edited only in cases of inappropriate or libelous language. No changes have been made to correct errors of fact, spelling or grammar. 

What are your positions on immigration reform?

We need comprehensive immigration reform in this country. That means improving security at our border, but it also means reforming and modernizing our visa system. We also need to address the undocumented members of our communities, particularly the Dreamers brought to this country through no fault of their own. Unfortunately, far from working toward comprehensive reform, the current Administration has embraced senseless – and at times heartless – policies including a border wall, a travel ban targeted at Muslims, and, most disturbingly, the separation of children from their families at the border.

Should the Affordable Care Act be repealed and replaced? If so, by what?

Americans need affordable, quality health care. The Affordable Care Act was not a perfect law, but it was a significant step toward expanding coverage for millions of Americans, including 100,000 Rhode Islanders.  However, many Rhode Islanders are seeing steep premium increases due to the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine the law. That’s why I introduced the Individual Health Insurance Marketplace Improvement Act, a bill that would create a stabilization fund to increase competition among insurers and lower premiums. I hope to see more work on a bipartisan basis to advance solutions rather than overturn meaningful reforms, like protections for people with preexisting conditions, that have changed the lives of so many for the better.

Rhode Island was rated by CNBC as having among the worst infrastructure in the nation; Should transportation infrastructure be a more important issue in the US House’s next legislative session?

Rhode Island’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and modernization – especially our highway bridges, which are beaten down from extended use and corroded by storms. I am pleased the state is making this a priority, but we also need the federal government to pitch in more. That’s why I introduced the SAFE Bridges Act, which would direct up to $170 million in federal funds toward repairing Rhode Island’s bridges. I will continue to fight for funding that will enable our state to build the first-rate roads, bridges and public transit systems we need to support a 21st Century economy and allow Rhode Islanders to connect and travel safely and with ease.

How can Congress help solve the opioid crisis?

We must take a comprehensive approach to the opioid epidemic, including educating physicians about opioid prescribing practices, funding research that looks at alternative pathways and treatments to manage pain, and supporting programs that are the lifeline for those seeking treatment and recovery from addiction.  It’s also important to prevent these substances from arriving in our communities in the first place.  That’s why I’m pleased that my bill, the Joint Task Force to Combat Opioid Trafficking Act, passed the House of Representatives. The legislation creates a task force at the Department of Homeland Security to increase coordination within the Department and with public and private sector partners in order to stop the inflow of opioids before they cross our border. This public health emergency cannot be ignored, and Congress’ work is important to reducing the prevalence of addiction and overdose deaths in our communities.

What is your position on abortion and Roe v. Wade?

My pro-life stance is shaped by my personal experience of having come so close to losing my own life. However, I did not come to Congress to overturn Roe v Wade, and in this time of deep political divisiveness, any court ruling changing that precedent could tear deeply at the fabric of our nation. I believe we should work together to reduce unintended pregnancies by expanding access to reproductive health care, contraception, scientifically-based sexual education, and support services for new mothers.

Is flying unmanned drones in foreign airspace an acceptable method of eliminating terrorists?

I am honored to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees military drone programs. While unmanned aerial vehicles provide the United States with a great number of strategic advantages, we must ensure we use them responsibly and humanely. When drone strikes are carried out in accordance with US and international law, they can be an effective tool for combating terrorist groups like ISIL and stopping their deadly activities before they inflict more damage at home and abroad.

Should the US pull out of the Iran deal?

I was deeply disappointed that the President chose to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The agreement provided for comprehensive monitoring by the international community, and there remains no evidence that Iran violated its commitments. Walking away from the deal abandons our allies, weakens our credibility, harms our ability to foster similar diplomatic agreements in the future, and undermines the central goal of the agreement – to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Withdrawing from this agreement threatens U.S. national security and international stability, and I believe the President should reverse his decision.

Should the US continue to give financial aid to Israel?

Israel is one of our closest allies and exists in a perilous region of the world. It is imperative that we continue to support its security and economy as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. I have visited Israel several times, and I know that many Rhode Islanders also have close ties. I will continue to support efforts in Congress to strengthen these bonds, including my bill to enhance cooperative cybersecurity research and development.