West Orlando News endorses Darren Soto for U.S. Congress.
- What are three top national legislative priorities for the country?
My top priority in Congress is to increase the employment rate in my district and in our country by bringing better paying and high tech jobs to Central Florida. We must also fix our broken immigration system by passing comprehensive immigration reform. Finally, we must ensure that all citizens have access to high quality affordable healthcare by protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act.
- In your district specifically, what are the three most important issues on which you believe the federal government needs to act? If elected to Congress, how would you take action on one of those issues?
The most important issues my district faces are largely the same as the issues our country faces. We face unemployment and a lack of high paying jobs. We also have a large number of senior citizens and under-served populations that need greater access to healthcare so ensuring the solvency of Medicare and Medicaid and protecting the Affordable Care Act would be a priority for me in Congress. Finally, we are continuously facing a problem with access to affordable higher education. If elected, I would work to lessen the mounting debt that students face from student loans by allowing federal student loans to be refinanced at lower interest rates and expanding federal loan forgiveness programs for students who choose public service careers.
- What is one thing that distinguishes you most from the other candidates in this race?
I have the most legislative experience and knowledge of our community. I have also gotten the job done over my nearly 10 years representing the majority of District 9 in the Florida Legislature bringing back millions in projects such as the Advance Sensors Manufacturing Center, New Poinciana Valencia College, SunRail and Northern Everglades Restoration. In addition, I have passed landmark bills providing benefits to families of fallen firefighters, admitting DREAMers to the Florida Bar, and protecting families in foreclosure as well as leading the charge to stop fracking in Florida.
- What are the most important actions Congress can take to reduce the threat of ISIS abroad and at home?
Congress should continue to authorize the President to work with our Allies in the region to drive ISIS out of major cities and eventually defeat them entirely. The U.S. should play a supportive role with artillery, military training and limited special forces engagement where appropriate. However, I would oppose authorization for full scale U.S. invasion or U.S. occupying force.
- Would you support legislation seeking to make it harder for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the US? Are there any “bans” you would support in the name of national security?
I would not support legislation creating a ban or making it harder for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the country. These are people who have faced incredible hardships and unimaginable tragedy and the majority are women and children. Under existing law, they already face sufficient and intensive scrutiny by immigration officials.
- What do you believe is the best strategic course for the United States to take in the Syrian conflict? Do you support a Syrian no-fly zone or the U.S. enforcement of Syrian humanitarian safe zones? Why or Why not?
I support our Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton’s call for a no fly zone. However, I will remain vigilant in assessing its effectiveness to determine if long term support for this policy is appropriate. I support US enforcement of Syrian humanitarian safe zones provided it is being done in conjunction with UN Peacekeepers or other allies in the region. We should not be policing these zones on our own.
- Would you support legislation giving U.S. authorities more access to encrypted or “dark web” communications about potential terrorist plots? What measures, if any, would you support?
I draw a distinction between encrypted or “dark web” communications by citizens versus non-citizens. Our citizens have a Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure and thus no searches of citizen communications should occur without a warrant. I am open-minded to greater access to encrypted or “dark web” communications of non-citizens and other foreign agents as the need may arise in the interest of national security.
- What is the single most important action Congress can take to reduce U.S. gun violence?
Require universal background checks regardless of the type firearm sale.
- Do you support or oppose the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act?”
- Do you believe there is scientific evidence of climate change, and it is caused by human activity? What is your position on the Paris climate change agreement?
Yes, I believe there is scientific evidence of climate change and that it is caused by human activity. The Paris climate change agreement is a step in the right direction although the contract is non-binding. The U.S. must take a more aggressive role in leading the charge to reduce carbon emissions through developing innovative technologies and conservation and then sharing them with the world.
- What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?
I support our Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton’s business tax plan which cracks down on corporate inversions, requires an exit tax for domestic companies moving abroad and foreign corporate profits schemes. I also support scrapping the cap on Social Security withholdings to assure its long term viability.
- What are the most important actions Congress can take to ensure the solvency of Social Security?
As stated above, I support scrapping the $118,500 cap on Social Security withholdings. I am open-minded to phasing out benefits or eliminating them altogether to assure long term solvency.
- Do you support raising the minimum wage, and to what amount and by when?
I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour immediately.
- Should Obamacare be overturned, left intact, or changed? Please explain.
I support Obamacare. Like any federal program, we must continue to be shape the Affordable Care Act to meet the needs of the American people. I support reversing the Rubio amendment which eliminated profit-pooling among participating health plans to stabilize the exchanges. I also will continue to fight to expand Medicaid in Florida.
- Do you support federal funding of health care services provided by Planned Parenthood? Why or Why not?
Yes, absolutely. Planned Parenthood provides quality, affordable health services, like: STD testing,contraception, pregnancy tests, and cancer screening and prevention. They also provide vital sex education to millions of people.
- What are the most important actions Congress can take on immigration reform?
We must pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. If we are unable to pass a comprehensive plan, we must at least codify President Obama’s DAPA and DACA programs through legislation, remove the arbitrary immigration quotas on highly skilled students attending our universities, and reform the agriculture guest worker program to make it more workable.
- President Obama used his executive powers to prevent the deportation of “Dreamers” – youth who came to the U.S. illegally as children with their parents. Would you support legislation to prevent Dreamer deportations? Do you support putting Dreamers on a path to citizenship?
Yes, I would support legislation to prevent DREAMer deportations by codifying the DACA program. I also support putting DREAMers on a path to citizenship.
- Would you support building a wall across the southern border?
No, we merely need Congress to fund President Obama’s existing requests for border patrols to provide security along the southern border.
- What congressional reform do you favor to address America’s student loan crisis?
We need to make the first two (2) years of community college free for all Americans. In addition, I support increasing tax credits for loan interest and principal payments as well as scrapping the current income cap of $80,000. I would also support more aggressive principal reduction program for those serving in critical need professions, those who pay on time, and/or those who work in non-profit or government jobs. Lastly, I would support giving more robust tax credits to companies who payoff in part or in full their employees’ student loans.
- Any closing remarks or other issues you would like to address?