U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, a Republican incumbent initially elected in 2018, faces Democrat Gary Wegman in Nov. 3rd’s general election for Pennsylvania’s 9th congressional district.
A dentist, Wegman has sought to highlight his role as a medical professional in an election dominated by the coronavirus. He defeated Laura Quick to win the Democratic nomination for the district on June 2nd by a small margin.
The 9th district covers Lebanon County as well as Carbon, Columbia, Luzerne, Montour, and Schuylkill, as well as parts of Berks and Northumberland counties.
Each candidate answered nearly a dozen questions on a variety of topics — including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, and police reform — for the Pennsylvania Voters Guide.
Here’s a sample of how the candidates answered some of the questions:
What is the top issue facing our country, and how would you address it?
Meuser: “Under the leadership of President Trump and Congressional Republicans, policies were enacted to reduce taxes and overregulation. Those policies allowed the private sector to create jobs and build the greatest economy Pennsylvania has seen in over 100 years. The Covid-19 pandemic intentionally slowed that growth, but we are already seeing the economy climbing back and I have no doubt we can build an even better economy than we had before. I am committed to supporting our brave law enforcement officers as we must work with them to institute any necessary policing reforms. We must put a stop to the violent riots plaguing many of America’s largest cities. Additionally, we must continue to fully support a strong national defense and enhanced border security. Improving America’s infrastructure is a bipartisan issue and it is critical to every aspect of our country, including public safety and commerce. I have introduced legislation, the America Infrastructure Bank, which would help to advance the creation of public-private partnerships.”
Wegman: “All across America, people find themselves unable to afford the healthcare they need for themselves and their families. This has become even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic as hidden costs for vital services overwhelm even those who thought they had good coverage. Prices for medications and healthcare premiums have risen astronomically. We need to reform the US Healthcare System to make it less expensive, more efficient and more accessible, with better quality of care and better outcomes. In Pennsylvania, almost a quarter of the population has a pre-existing condition. As the jobs have disappeared both before and during the pandemic, unemployed workers in District 9 lost job-linked health insurance, resulting in high COBRA premiums or no insurance. I will sponsor legislation to regulate the prices of critical prescription medications and create a 50-state solution to meet American healthcare needs. You won’t have to stay in a job just for the insurance, and insurance companies won’t be able to deny you coverage for preexisting conditions or dictate which doctors you can visit.”
Should Americans be required to wear masks? Why or why not?
Meuser: “The public should follow all CDC recommendations and guidelines. The most important thing is ensuring we do everything necessary to ensure our schools and businesses remain open in a safe manner. On the same note, individuals have Constitutional rights that should not be infringed upon.”
Wegman: “Public agencies, private think tanks, and health professionals all agree that a nationwide mask mandate would grow our economy, allow us to open schools more quickly, slow the spread of COVID-19, and protect the most vulnerable among us. We need to public facilities and private commercial businesses must require all patrons to wear masks, and must provide masks for all employees.”
If elected, what steps will you take to prevent another pandemic?
Meuser: “The entire world was blindsided by the Covid-19 pandemic. President Donald Trump took action early in January by issuing a travel ban on China. That decision saved hundreds of thousands of American lives. The Trump Administration inherited a nation that was ill-prepared and ill-equipped for a disaster of this magnitude. The nation did not have access to critical health supplies; including PPE supplies, tests, sanitizers, cleaning supplies and respirators. Through quick action, President Trump was able to get supplies and support where it was needed. Thanks to the Trump Administration, we are much more prepared today than we were months, years or even decades ago. In the future, we must continue to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic by increasing our national supply stockpile, continue funding for research and ensure we have the best plans to respond to this type of disaster.”
Wegman: “The effectiveness of a national response to a crisis boils down to one thing: unified messaging and unified leadership from the top down. Congress, Governors, and our health organizations all need to be following the data and listening to science and coming together to project a strong, unified, data-driven message, following the leadership of our White House. We are the United States of America, and we need to act in unison so we will be able to react quickly and efficiently to new challenges. We also need to remember to, as the Scouts say, “be prepared.” We threw away the pandemic blueprint created by the Bush and Obama administrations, and we failed to invest enough in the NIH and CDC. We need to rejoin the WHO, support our research institutions, and work in conjunction with our world neighbors to address future crises.”
The pandemic has cost government agencies billions of dollars. How can the government pay for these services and balance the budget? If a tax increase is needed, whom would you tax?
Meuser: “I am not in favor of increasing taxes on hardworking Pennsylvanians, especially at a time so many are struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I will continue to advocate for positions that will help small businesses get back on their feet and employ additional hardworking Pennsylvanians. We can’t tax our way out of this issue, we must grow our economy to stabilize our nation’s economy. Just as our nation grew out of the deficit from WWII, we can do it again….with the right leadership.”
Wegman: “By fixing how we pay for healthcare, we can save $500 billion annually on a federal level. We can use these savings to pay for these services. We can also get a 4:1 return on investment in shovel-ready infrastructure projects. If we pass an infrastructure bill, we can help the economy recover and help our federal government save money. Additionally, state and local governments will save money on healthcare costs for their employees and for schools, and they can use these savings (along with federal assistance) to balance their budgets.”
How would you ensure affordable, comprehensive health care coverage for Americans?
Meuser: “My goal is to fight to pass a health care reform bill that embraces competition, quality and accessibility in the private market. We need to allow individuals to keep their employer-based health care plan, ensure coverage for those with preexisting conditions and allow those 26 and under to stay on their parent’s health care policy. If we eliminate regulations that limit coverage within state lines and create a more competitive marketplace for consumers. I will not support an extreme leftwing plan that promotes government-run health care.”
Wegman: “We need a 50-state single-payer system where doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers “compete” in the private marketplace for our public dollars. I’m not going to change how our healthcare is provided, I just want to change the way we pay for it. This also means negotiating prices for prescription medications for all Americans, in a manner similar to what we allow our VA to do on behalf of our veterans.”
How should the U.S. address illegal immigration?
Meuser: “The U.S. should continue President Donald Trump’s plans to combat illegal immigration because they are working. I strongly believe that securing the border is critical to fixing our immigration problem. President Trump has been successful in working to get the Mexican government to support our efforts to slow the influx of illegal immigrants. I support building a wall where possible or using the latest technologies to ensure our border security.”
Wegman: “I support giving those charged with securing our border the “tools” to be able to accomplish their mission. If they deem a wall at certain locations is desirable, then I will support their decision. However, leaving one country for another is a complicated and personal journey. For some, it is a matter of life and death. To think that we can have a one size fits all approach to this issue is to ignore the humanity that is at stake in this question. In the near future, we will not have enough workers to support a retired baby boomer generation. We need to admit more legal workers into the United States and provide a path to citizenship for all people already working and paying taxes to support our economy.”
How do you plan to combat gun violence in the country?
Meuser: “I will continue to support our law enforcement officers and speak out against violent protests going on in our cities. I believe the current gun laws on the books are sufficient. What we must do is enforce those laws with strict penalties. We must never infringe upon an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights.”
Wegman: “As a gun owner, I know that guns are important for farmers, hunters, and sportsmen in the 9th District. The overwhelming majority of responsible gun owners supports background checks, red flag laws, and closing the Boyfriend and Charleston Loopholes. I will push for these laws when elected.”
What further police reforms are needed to address issues of racial bias and police brutality?
Meuser: “I will continue to encourage Congress to bring forward Senator Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act, which provided the framework to improve transparency, accountability, training, and communication among law enforcement and the communities they serve. Democrats have shown they prioritize politics over progress. Americans deserve to feel safe in their communities and we can only achieve that feeling of security by working together to identify problems and work towards a solution that will result in justice for all.”
Wegman: “Police officers in the United States are overburdened and insufficiently trained for many situations that they may have to deal with. Police officers shouldn’t have to do the job of social workers, parking enforcers, EMTs, and soldiers. We need to look at public safety strategies and reforms that make the world safer for everyone. We also must find ways to ensure that individual police officers who commit crimes with impunity under the guise of doing their jobs can no longer do so. This can be addressed by passing laws such as the ones recently passed in the PA State Legislature in which police will undergo PTSD evaluations after use of force, making sure that police records follow them from precinct to precinct. These laws will weed out the so-called bad apples of the police force, and help those that are struggling.”
How do you plan to further environmental protection?
Meuser: “The best way to take control of our climate policy is by reshoring the manufacturing and production of goods and energy in the United States. We must continue to pass pro-American worker trade deals. China is one of the largest polluters in the world, yet manufactures many of our goods. We must continue to incentivize companies to bring their manufacturing plants and jobs back to our nation, preferably Pennsylvania. That way we can ensure they are using cleaner fuel sources and other means to protect our environment. We must encourage the use of clean coal technology, natural gas, nuclear and an all of the above and below energy strategy. By having our nation continue to become more energy independent, we will control the production and flow of our energy sources.”
Wegman: “Many people would like to take advantage of green energy, but it is not accessible to all. We need to move towards energy independence–it is a matter of national security. We need to continue research and support for green energy so that it can become competitive in the marketplace. I support a carbon fee-and-dividend structure, where companies pay for the carbon emissions that they release. These funds will be returned to the people in the form of a direct payment.”
What makes you the best candidate for this office?
Meuser: “I am running for re-election for U.S. Congress because I believe in the greatness of our country. I have experience being an effective member of congress as well as a career helping to build a business into a major employer in our Commonwealth. In Congress, I will continue to support issues that reflect the needs and will of our District in Washington. In the District, I will fight to ensure our region is getting the support necessary to help families, small businesses and local communities. Rather than rally around our nation, House Democrat leadership is interested in scoring political points. Now, more than ever, business leaders and non-career politicians who know how to get things done need to step up and run for office so we have a government that works, for the people, not against them.”
Wegman: “I’m a lifelong resident of Berks County, a 37-year practicing dentist, and I own and operate a 5th generation 100-acre working farm in Oley Valley. My experience can’t be simulated. The people of the 9th District are tired of the politics of division. I will work in a nonpartisan manner to bring about real results in healthcare reform, to improve public school systems, and bring funding for infrastructure investment to create living wage jobs for the people of the 9th District. I’ve had a full career, so I can fight for real change without being beholden to the whims of special interest lobbyists and the political elite. I’m in this to support my constituents, and that’s it.”