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US POLITICS

We asked, they answered: Where R.I.'s congressional delegation stands on key issues

Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, spoke during a House Judiciary Committee markup of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in December.
Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, spoke during a House Judiciary Committee markup of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in December.Jonathan Newton/Associated Press

PROVIDENCE – One of the things people love about Rhode Island is their easy access to the state’s power brokers. It’s not uncommon to see a member of the congressional delegation shopping at a grocery store or dining in a restaurant.

But do you know where they stand on the key issues?

For the past several months, the Globe has been asking US Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and US Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline -- all Democrats -- for their opinions on a wide range of topics, from Medicare for All to the legalization of marijuana.

Their full responses are below. If you have a question for the delegation, e-mail dan.mcgowan@globe.com and we’ll consider it for future editions.

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SENATOR JACK REED

Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke during a recent committee hearing.
Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke during a recent committee hearing.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Do you support Medicare for All?

“Senator Reed has long supported the public option as a way to give every American the kind of care that Medicare successfully provides to over 200,000 Rhode Islanders already,” spokesman Chip Unruh wrote in an e-mail.

Do you support getting rid of the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote?

“Yes. One of the historical precedents for this type of change is the direct election of US Senators in 1913 - prior to that they were chosen by state legislatures instead of directly by voters,” Unruh said in a prepared statement. “A popular vote might also mean presidential candidates will make an appeal to all Americans rather than focus their message on a few states.”

Should Iowa and New Hampshire get to vote first in presidential primary races?

“He would like to see other states have a chance to play a major role in the early presidential primary process,” Unruh said.

Do you believe the US Supreme Court should be restructured?

“In the wake of Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell blocking President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and then eliminating the 60-vote threshold for nominees for President Trump, it’s very understandable why many Rhode Islanders might be interested in altering the court,” Reed said in a prepared statement. “If there are ways to better ensure every justice is highly qualified and impartial, I think the Senate should consider them. American justice is supposed to be impartial and work for everyone.”

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Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour?

“Senator Reed is an original cosponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years,” Unruh said in an e-mail.

Do you support abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

“Senator Reed supports ending President Trump’s failed immigration policies and finding better ways to humanely enforce our immigration laws with transparency, accountability, and real oversight,” Unruh wrote in an e-mail.

Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“Marijuana legislation at the federal level should be built on a deliberate and evidence-based process, and crafted in a way that protects public health and safety,” Unruh said. “Moreover, the experiences of states that have legalized marijuana should be analyzed and incorporated in any future federal legislation to ensure appropriate protections and a workable regulation framework.”

There’s a big push in Rhode Island to add high-speed rail between Providence and Boston. What are you doing to make that happen?

“Senator Reed will support the state’s plans for rail and looks forward to seeing their proposal,” Unruh said. “He delivered a significant increase of federal transportation dollars in the latest transportation appropriations package.”

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SENATOR SHELDON WHITEHOUSE

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island spoke on the Senate floor earlier this month about the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island spoke on the Senate floor earlier this month about the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.Associated Press

Do you support Medicare for All?

“The path to Medicare for All has to be warm and welcoming, with no one feeling pushed or shoved,” Whitehouse said in a prepared statement. “That requires important conversations with veterans to assure them their VA benefits are safe; with Medicare Advantage recipients about protecting Medicare Advantage; with union members about honoring their health and welfare plans; with folks who like getting their health insurance through work; and with advocates who’ve won state Medicaid coverage for specific conditions. Rushing into this without these conversations would be a big mistake.”

Do you support getting rid of the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote?

“I’d love to get rid of the Electoral College, which has twice in recent years resulted in the election of a president who did not win the majority of the popular vote, and which causes Rhode Island to be overlooked for ‘battleground states,’” Whitehouse said. “Every state should be a battleground in a fair election.”

Should Iowa and New Hampshire get to vote first in presidential primary races?

“I don’t really care, so long as our process moves us toward a winning candidate,” Whitehouse said.

Do you believe the US Supreme Court should be restructured?

“The [John] Roberts court’s long record of partisan 5-4 decisions that discard bedrock judicial principles to deliver wins for corporate special interests flags an institution that is badly in need of reform,” Whitehouse said in a prepared statement. “The best way to do that is to require more transparency, both from the justices and from the outside groups seeking to influence them. Because I have not recommended changing the number of justices, I do not have a recommendation for what to change it to.”

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Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour?

“Yes, every working Rhode Islander should be able to earn enough to meet basic expenses,” Whitehouse said in a statement. “Higher wages would boost our economy by putting more money in the pockets of working people to spend at local businesses. An increase is long overdue – the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has significantly eroded since it was last updated more than a decade ago.”

Do you support abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

"We need a comprehensive reform of our immigration system - a reform that protects legal immigration and refugees, strengthens border security, and provides a fair path to citizenship for people already here,” Whitehouse said. “I would look for such a reform to make significant changes to ICE, including an overhaul of how they work with immigrant children and families, without abolishing it."

Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“I don’t think this is the time to legalize recreational marijuana at the federal level,” Whitehouse said. “I would like to know more about the long-term effects, particularly on young people, in states where marijuana has been legalized.”

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There’s a big push in Rhode Island to add high-speed rail between Providence and Boston. What are you doing to make that happen?

“When we see a proposal, we’ll be eager to be helpful,” Whitehouse said.

REPRESENTATIVE JAMES LANGEVIN

US Representative James Langevin of Rhode Island spoke onstage during the 34th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to Benefit the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis in New York City last October.
US Representative James Langevin of Rhode Island spoke onstage during the 34th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to Benefit the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis in New York City last October.Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis

Do you support Medicare for All?

“Congressman Langevin joined his colleagues in introducing the Medicare for All Act of 2019,” spokesman Victor Morente said in a prepared statement. “He is an original cosponsor of the bill and values the prioritization of long-term services and supports for people with disabilities. He has heard directly from constituents in his district of the need and remains committed to reform that will expand access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

Do you support getting rid of the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote?

“Making changes to the United States Constitution should never be done lightly and requires careful assessment of potential unintended consequence,” Langevin said. “However, since two of the last five presidential contests have gone to the individual who did not win the popular vote, the issue does merit serious study and consideration for change.”

Should Iowa and New Hampshire get to vote first in presidential primary races?

“Electoral participation is fundamental to our democracy,” Morente said. “There are valid concerns with the current process, but the potential impacts must be examined and fully considered before implementing systemic changes.”

Do you believe the US Supreme Court should be restructured?

“I am concerned with the politicization of the court, particularly in the wake of the Senate ending the filibuster for Supreme Court justices,” Langevin said. “However, I do not believe the court should be restructured at this time.”

Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour?

“Congressman Langevin believes that workers deserve to be paid enough to live with dignity, support their families and contribute to their communities,” Morente said in an e-mail. “He supports raising the minimum wage and voted in favor of the Raise the Wage Act that would increase it to $15 per hour by 2025.”

Do you support abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

“Congressman Langevin believes that the agency performs important functions for homeland security, but there is a need for significant cultural and structural reform to ensure the humane treatment of migrants,” Morente said.

Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“Congressman Langevin has expressed his support for states that have implemented local laws for medical marijuana use and has voted for legislation that safeguards these policies from federal interference,” Morente wrote in an e-mail. “With limited research on the health and social impacts of recreational use, the congressman is not in support of federally legalizing marijuana for non-medical uses at this time.”

There’s a big push in Rhode Island to add high-speed rail between Providence and Boston. What are you doing to make that happen?

“Improving infrastructure and enhancing public transportation are priorities for Congressman Langevin,” Morente said. “The congressman is open to supporting this kind of effort once there is consensus on a proposal.”

REPRESENTATIVE DAVID CICILLINE

Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island spoke during the House of Representatives' debate about the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in December.
Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island spoke during the House of Representatives' debate about the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in December.Associated Press

Do you support Medicare for All?

“There are a number of proposals pending in Congress introduced by House Democrats that expand coverage and build upon the success of the Affordable Care Act, including a proposal for a public option, allowing folks to buy into Medicare, lowering the age for eligibility for Medicare, and Medicare for All,” spokesman Richard Luchette said in a prepared statement. “As these ideas are developed and considered, Congressman will support any effort that expands access and reduces costs for Rhode Island families.“

Do you support getting rid of the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote?

“Yes. He co-sponsored legislation last Congress to do this,” Luchette wrote in an e-mail.

Should Iowa and New Hampshire get to vote first in presidential primary races?

“No. It should start in Rhode Island,” Luchette said. “There’s no better place we could start the primaries than the first state to declare its independence. And we need to get rid of caucuses. It’s a ridiculous process that makes no sense.”

Do you believe the US Supreme Court should be restructured?

“We need to restore public confidence in the Supreme Court. Our nation’s highest court is supposed to work for the people,” Cicilline said in prepared statement. “Unfortunately, thanks to Mitch McConnell, it’s now working overtime for corporate special interests and billionaires. We have to do better. Senator Whitehouse and I introduced the Judicial Travel Accountability Act last year to shine a light on the outside groups that are paying for Supreme Court justices and federal judges to go on trips around the world. Before we look at changing the number of justices, let’s start by making sure that they are held to the highest ethical standards.”

Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour?

“The House voted to do this last year and the congressman supported it,” Luchette said in an e-mail.

Do you support abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

“No, but ICE is in desperate need of major reform,” Cicilline said in a prepared statement. “We need to remain focused on ending the president’s horrific family separation policy. This president has demonized immigrants and refugees fleeing violence since before he took office. It’s going to take a long time to repair the damage he’s done."

Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“The congressman supports decriminalization and descheduling marijuana at the federal level so that individual states can set policies as they see fit,” Luchette wrote in an e-mail. “He is a cosponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act that achieves those objectives and helps folks who have been convicted of minor marijuana offenses get a fresh start.”

There’s a big push in Rhode Island to add high-speed rail between Providence and Boston. What are you doing to make that happen?

“Last month, Congressman Cicilline introduced legislation to establish a Southern New England Regional Commission that would generate millions of dollars in federal funds for projects like this one,” Luchette said. “He also advocated for funding for the Amtrak Northeast Corridor in the appropriations bill the House passed this week.”


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.