John Yarmuth | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

John Yarmuth

Political party: 
Question 1: 

What’s your vision for Kentucky? How will the lives of Kentuckians be improved as a result of your time in office? What Congressional committees will you request to serve on once elected?

Representing my hometown in Congress is one of the greatest honors of my life, and I hope to spend the next two years building on the progress we've seen since I've been in office. While I am proud of what we have accomplished, there is more we need to be doing to invest in Kentucky's future, especially since the onset of the pandemic. I have worked tirelessly, in coordination with our partners in Frankfort, Metro Hall, and the private sector to ensure that the federal government is doing everything possible to keep Louisvillians safe, work to flatten the curve, and minimize long-term complications to our community, public health, and economy.

            It is my hope that diligent safety measures, a well-managed testing and contact tracing strategy, and data-driven action on the part of leaders across our country will not only continue to save lives, but allow us to continue working on issues like ensuring access to comprehensive health care, reducing gun violence, addressing racial inequality and injustice, supporting equal pay for equal work, and getting money out of politics, which are my top priorities for this election and the next Congressional session, while serving as Chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Question 2: 

Federal aid efforts to buffer us from the impacts of COVID were late, inadequate, and often most helpful to those of us who needed the least support, highlighting the inequity embedded in our safety net systems, our economy, and our tax structure. How would you create a more equitable economy – with a federal tax where everyone pays their fair share and that delivers support to under-resourced communities, and allows everyone to thrive?

I voted against the Republican tax cut bills because they overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of everyone else. The new tax law has done little to benefit middle class and struggling families, fueling corporate stock buybacks instead of wage increases. As a result of the tax cuts, our debt and deficits our skyrocketing, leading Congressional Republicans to call for massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare, education, infrastructure, research and development, and other national priorities. I support responsible tax reform efforts that will close loopholes, help hard-working Americans families get ahead, and allow us to invest in a strong economic future.

Question 3: 

What would you do to make sure that every Kentuckian has quality, affordable health care so that they can get and stay healthy? What are your health-related legislative priorities, and what approaches to health care coverage do you support? Do you support Medicare For All?

I believe that health care is a right, and I believe the government has a responsibility to guarantee that people have access to affordable, quality care. I am willing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make our health care system stronger and will oppose any attempts to end coverage, weaken protections for those with pre-existing conditions, or destabilize the health insurance market, needlessly raising rates for working families. I have been a proponent of single payer health care since entering politics, and I am more convinced than ever that we need to move decisively in that direction. That is why I am a sponsor of Medicare for All. I believe we need to be doing all that we can to achieve universal coverage and ensure access to quality, affordable health care.

Question 4: 

Many undocumented and mixed immigration status families here in Kentucky do not have access to government aid, stimulus payments, and other resources offered during this pandemic, while they’re simultaneously more likely to be essential workers and are at the highest risk for COVID-19 infection. What would you do to expand support and resources to Kentucky’s immigrant families, undocumented or otherwise, in the time of a global pandemic and beyond? Do you support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for young people and adults?

I believe that our nation’s immigration system is broken, and Congress should enact comprehensive immigration reform. Our immigration laws ought to reflect both our interest and values as Americans by expanding legal immigration, creating pathways to citizenship, and keeping families together. I have consistently supported legislative efforts that provide protections for Dreamers, ensure safety for asylum seekers, remove threats of deportation, and prevent the Trump Administration from enacting their cruel, inhumane policies. I know that the vast majority of Louisvillians care about equality, inclusivity, and fairness under the law, and I am committed to advancing these principles. I will continue fighting to maintain the integrity of our democratic institutions and while working with my colleagues to enact solutions to our immigration system that ensure human rights and basic decency for those who come to our country and become valuable members of our communities.

Question 5: 

Is dealing with the climate crisis a high priority for you, and if so, do you support a Green New Deal? How would you ensure that solutions to the climate crisis benefit all Kentuckians – no matter the color of our skin, income, immigration status, or zip code?

Like you, I believe we have an obligation to protect our environment for current and future generations. As the consequences of global climate change become increasingly evident, I recognize the particular urgency we must take in reforming our systems of energy production. In order to avert global crisis, we must implement comprehensive change, and I am committed to supporting the mobilization efforts necessary to accomplish this task. I will continue to support legislative efforts that invest in new science and technology innovation, safeguard the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and strengthen environmental protections.

Question 6: 

People from across the state are coming together to say Black Lives Matter and to demand that all Kentuckians can move through our communities without fearing for our lives or our loved ones. What is the role of the U.S. Congress in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color in our state? Do you support the BREATHE Act, a modern-day civil rights bill that would move federal funding from policing and mass incarceration to non-punitive systems of community safety and build healthy and equitable communities? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities. 

While a national conversation on ways to improve policing in America has certainly begun, it is increasingly clear that the change we need is not happening nearly fast enough. We must immediately begin the difficult work of eliminating excessive, deadly force and improving the racial attitudes of both our law enforcement and the communities they police. It's long past time for our nation to acknowledge, through word and deed, that Black Lives Matter.

            I am a cosponsor of H.R. 7120, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Among the many reforms found within the package, the legislation includes an end to no-knock warrants in drug cases, bans the use of chokeholds, reforms qualified immunity, and incentivizes states to create independent investigative processes for police-involved deaths. This bill is a building block to constructing a society based on equality for all people. Without structural change, our justice system will sadly continue to unfairly steal the lives and livelihoods of Black Americans.

Question 7: 

Kentucky has the ninth highest incarceration rate in the nation, is second for incarcerating women, and has the second-highest rate of children separated from a parent due to incarceration. In addition, Black Kentuckians face disproportionate arrest, conviction, and incarceration, and a heightened risk of police brutality. And people in many parts of our state face racial profiling, intimidation and unjust detainment and detention by federal and local authorities due to immigration status or perceived status. Many Kentuckians are calling for various measures to stem the tide of racialized criminalization, police brutality, mass incarceration, and detention and deportation – from police reform, to increased community investment, to a complete defunding and abolition of the police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Are you committed to ending mass incarceration in Kentucky and in the United States as a whole? Why or why not? If elected, what will you do to make strides toward ending mass incarceration and reinvesting resources into the communities most impacted by this system? 

I believe our government has a responsibility to protect all Americans from discrimination and we should be doing more to ensure racial equality. Action is needed in several areas, including within our criminal justice system. It is my hope we can continue working together and support efforts to reduce recidivism and our growing prison population, while ensuring that when individuals are sentenced the punishment is fair and fits the crime. This is an issue that impacts people across the country and can only be solved if everyone comes together to promote peace and safety.

Question 8: 

Do you support restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with felonies in their past?  Specifically, do you support the Democracy Restoration Act to restore voting rights to people upon release from prison for purposes of voting in federal elections? Do you support restoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure strong federal oversight of state and local governments with a history of voter suppression aimed at communities of color? Please explain.

The right to vote is an empowering tool for citizens to help individuals become engaged in their community and nation and believe that the Voting Rights Advancement Act will help ensure that everyone is able to have access to voting. I also believe that people who have completed their sentences and have proven themselves rehabilitated should regain the right to vote, which is why I sponsored the Democracy Restoration Act. By strengthening social ties and providing a means for positive community engagement, reinstating this right will help reintegrate ex-offenders into free society.

Question 9: 

Do you support proposed Just Transition bills in Congress to take care of coal miners and communities by investing in abandoned mine land reclamation (H.R. 2156, H.R. 4248, and H.R. 2) and extending current funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for another 10 years (H.R. 3876 and S.3171)? Why or why not?

While in Congress, I have committed my time to ensuring a healthy and diverse economy across the state. I will continue to pursue policies that will grow our economy, specifically by investing in education, job training, infrastructure, and health care. Additionally, communities whose economies are dependent on coal have experienced difficulties as cheaper and more abundant sources of energy have emerged. We must invest in those communities to help transition their economies, which is why I have sponsored these bills that will provide federal assistance to help revitalize and diversify the coal country economies while providing benefits to those who need it most. I will continue to support these proposals and work with my colleagues to grow Kentucky’s economy.

Question 10: 

What will you do to support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) Kentuckians? What will you do to protect people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity? 

I believe it's unacceptable that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer individuals still lack protections from being discriminated against in many facets of life, such as housing and employment. I do remain hopeful that the growing groundswell of American people demanding action on anti-discrimination measures will ultimately force Congress to act. It is no longer a question of whether LGBTQ Americans will receive equal rights and equal protection under the law – it's a question of when. And while it may take far longer than we want, we will get there.

            That is why I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 5, the Equality Act. This important legislation would extend protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by adding "sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity" to the list of protected classes in public accommodations, public education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and federal jury service. While the House approved this legislation last year, the Senate has failed to take any action to protect our vulnerable populations. I will continue to work with my colleagues and advocate for legislative efforts that ensure equality for all Americans.