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    Senate Issues: Cardin, Steele and Zeese
    Senate candidates, from left: Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin, Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and Green candidate Kevin Zeese during an October debate. (CNS-TV)

    By Melissa Pachikara
    Maryland Newsline
    Monday, Oct. 30, 2006

    In Maryland's race for U.S. Senate, Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin faces  Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a Republican, and Kevin Zeese, the  Green Party nominee, on the Nov. 7 ballot. Find out how your positions match up with theirs by clicking on the responses that are most like yours. At the end, click on the “get score” button to see what percentage of your responses align with each candidate’s. Click on "party lines" to see each candidate's responses encircled (blue for Cardin, red for Steele, green for Zeese).

      1. Should the U.S. withdraw troops from Iraq?  If so, how soon?
    Yes. Announce an immediate withdrawal and complete it within four months. We should withdraw not just our military but also our corporate interests.    The U.S. should withdraw as soon as the job is complete. The situation is not good. And the candidate has called for a course correction. He believes that the administration has to put firm goals in place that call and demand the Iraqi government to step up its role in government, in the military, and in policing, so that the Iraqi government stands for itself.   Yes. On Iraq, he’s called on the president to bring forward a plan to bring our troops home now in a phased withdrawal. He voted against the war and has been critical of the president’s management of the war throughout the war.

      2. Do you support federal agencies’ funding and conducting embryonic stem cell research to find cures to diseases?
    Yes. [The candidate] fully supports expanding and increasing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He voted to override the president’s veto of the stem cell bill last session. 

    Yes. However, embryonic stem cells won’t be an issue in the future because they won’t be embryonic; they’ll be mature stem cells. It would make the embryonic part a non-issue.  At the same time, [the candidate] says that the government should not go overboard on funding for this because it is an unproven area of medicine. He said it was important to proceed cautiously so that the government is not throwing a lot of money at this kind of research, which might make corporations rich but might not result in finding any cures.  Yes, as long as it does not destroy the embryo.


      3.  Should the federal government play a role in making sure that every American has health care insurance?  If so, what should that role be?  If not, why not? 
     Absolutely. The government should expand health savings accounts. It should also expand association health plans. The latter would increase small business owners’ purchasing power to give them what big corporations and even the federal government have.

    Medicare part D prescription drug plan is a good first step, but it’s not a panacea. The candidate has called on the president to extend the deadline so more of our seniors can sign up for it.

    Yes. He supports universal health care; he voted for the Clinton plan. He tends to prefer an individual mandate model [such as the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Plan signed into law in April]; however, he is open to different models as long as it gets us to universal care so every American has insurance. Yes. It should be a national health care plan with a single payor system with the government paying, so it’s no longer a private insurance. (Essentially, it’s Medicare for all.)

      4. Do you support an increase in the minimum wage, which is now $5.15 an hour? If so, by how much?
    Yes. [The candidate] has consistently voted to increase the minimum wage. He believes it’s wrong that a person who works at minimum wage for 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year with no vacation would still be living in poverty. He voted for the House version of the Kennedy bill. [That bill would provide for an increase of the minimum wage to $5.85 an hour 60 days after the bill is enacted, and to $6.55 an hour one year after that 60th day, with another increase to $7.25 an hour two years after that 60th day.]  Yes. I support a living wage, which is more than a minimum wage. Depends on what part of part of the country you’re in. In Maryland, I would say it’s about $10.50 an hour for a living wage. 
     Yes. [The candidate] is one of the few in the . . . party who supports this. He has said repeatedly that it is overdue. He also supports incentives for small businesses to be able to meet an increase.

      5. Do you support legislation that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants by requiring them to meet certain requirements, since there is no path that would allow them to obtain citizenship now?    
    First and foremost, the U.S. must secure the border. The candidate analogizes this to plugging a leak in a boat that has sprung a leak before dealing with the water in the boat. He does not support amnesty.  Yes. The immigration debate is missing the major point, which is workers both south and north of the border are being hurt by trade agreements like NAFTA. The economics forces workers south of the border to come north. NAFTA is a major cause of the problem. But neither party will mention it, because they’re both guilty of creating it. 

    The economics trumps enforcement. We need to deal with the underlying economics. Renegotiating NAFTA is a big part of that. 

    Yes. [The candidate] supports the McCain-Kennedy legislation in the Senate and the formula for granting citizenship within that legislation. He’s opposed to amnesty (i.e. granting citizenship without penalty). He believes nobody should cut in line; if a person is an otherwise law-abiding member of society, he or she should be able to wait their turn and earn citizenship. He supports comprehensive immigration reform starting with border security. 

      6. Do you support a Social Security reform plan that lets individuals put some of their payroll tax contributions for Social Security into private accounts?  If not, what should be done to keep the system solvent? 
    No. [The candidate] fought President Bush’s privatization plan. He has instead sponsored legislation which is now law to help Americans to build retirement accounts outside of Social Security. 

    The system is solvent for 35 years. But [the candidate] believes that the Social Security money should not be spent on other priorities. Social Security is not in crisis. 

    The candidate looks at it through the eyes of two people. He looks at it through the eyes of a 72-year-old grandmother. He wants to ensure that the system remains solvent and guarantees funds are in place for those in retirement. He also looks at it through the eyes of his 18-year-old son and wants to make sure that there’s flexibility in the system to make sure he will also have Social Security benefits when he retires.  No. [The candidate] said the first thing is to stop borrowing from it. He said the federal government has borrowed 1.5 trillion from the Social Security trust fund. Second, he said to raise the salary cap from $92,500, so that all income earners pay their fair share so that Social Security remains solvent. For example, a CEO who earns $10 million annually pays the same as someone who earns $92,500 annually. If that cap were raised, the U.S. could not only make Social Security solvent, but could create an annuity for all Americans to retire and be secure beyond Social Security.  

      7. Do you support the Freedom of Choice Act (S. 2593) introduced in the Senate this April, which prohibits government interference with a woman’s right to choose whether to bear a child or have an abortion? 
    Yes. I see no hindrance to that.  Choice should not even be an issue addressed by the government; it’s up to the person.     The candidate is a pro-choice . . .  and his voting record reflects that.  The candidate is a pro-life Catholic. 

    Your match with Ben Cardin is:
    Your match with Michael Steele is:
    Your match with Kevin Zeese is:

    Excerpted from Melissa Pachikara's  interviews with the candidates or their press secretaries.

    Copyright 2006 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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