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The candidates respond

Candidates in District  5: Rep. Scott Garrett (R) and Roy Cho (D
Candidates in District  5: Rep. Scott Garrett (R) and Roy Cho (D

When NJ voters go to the polls on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, they will be casting votes for members of the U.S. House of Representatives in every district. To further voter education, the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and New Jersey Jewish News sent incumbents and challengers seven questions.

The answers from the candidates who responded to the questionnaire are below: Candidates in District 5, Rep. Scott Garrett (R) and Roy Cho (D);  District 7, Rep. Leonard Lance (R) and Janice Kovach (D); and District 11, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) and Mark Dunec (D).

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Congressman Scott Garrett (R) Dist. 5

The Jewish community views Iran as an existential threat to the United States, Europe, and Israel. Do you share this concern? What do you think the U.S. and the international community should be doing additionally to deter Iran from increasing its nuclear capacity and developing a nuclear weapon?

We need to support Israel, our strongest democratic ally in the Middle East, and ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. I was an outspoken member of the Iran Sanctions Conference Committee, calling for full implementation of strong sanctions against the Iranian regime. We need to keep all options on the table when it comes to Iran, because allowing Iran nuclear weapons capability is simply unacceptable.

President Obama is again trailing from behind when it comes to a nuclear Iran. His strategy has put the United States and our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel, in a dangerous position. President Obama needs to answer bipartisan calls for stronger sanctions on Iran. He needs to put pressure on Iran so that Iran grants full access to the IAEA so it can inspect all of Iran’s facilities. Unlike past precedent, it’s time that President Obama take the November 24th deadline seriously to ensure our safety and the safety of our ally Israel.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

I have a strong record in support of Israel. I have sponsored or cosponsored numerous pieces of legislation supporting Israel’s right to defend its sovereignty, recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, and condemning Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. This year has been a particularly difficult and trying time for the people of Israel. Hamas has launched more than 1,500 rockets at Israeli civilian centers. That is why I supported $225 million of emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

In addition, I introduced the Jerusalem Embassy Recognition Act at the beginning of this Congress, as well as cosponsored the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act.

I urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the Obama administration to oppose UN resolutions condemning Israel. I even wrote to Secretary Clinton to clarify the administration’s position on the capital of Israel. I was an outspoken member of the Iran Sanctions Conference Committee, calling for full implementation of strong sanctions against the Iranian regime. While the U.S. cannot solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its own, we can certainly take steps to show Israel that we fully support them, our closest democratic ally in the Middle East.

The GMW federation understands that all solutions to the debt crisis require shared sacrifice but believe they should not unfairly target the most vulnerable. What is your approach to entitlement reform that will protect those who need income security and health coverage? Do you think it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground moving forward?

I absolutely believe that Republicans and Democrats can work together. I know this because I have been a part of a number of bipartisan efforts. The key to fighting poverty is improving economic growth. The reason I first ran for Congress was to protect the family budget. Unfortunately, because of Washington’s burdensome taxes and crushing debt — which I consistently opposed — many families are struggling these days.

In fact, the House Budget Committee, of which I am a member, has held a series of hearings on poverty and economic opportunity. And the takeaway from these hearings was clear. The best thing we can do to help families in poverty and those who are struggling is to get our economy back on track and create an environment in which small businesses start hiring again. I believe President Kennedy got it right when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” We need to get people back to work and we need to allow them to keep more of their hard-earned paycheck.

With the recently increased instability of governments in the Middle East and the rise of ISIL, what do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. in the region and in relations between Israel and its neighbors?

It is very unfortunate that we are in this position — with strong leadership, America would have been in a better position. I was pleased to see that President Obama finally recanted his previous dismissal of ISIL as a “JV team.” The reality is that ISIL is a serious threat to the Middle Eastern region presently and to our nation. That being said, one thing President Obama continues to ignore is that the power to declare war rests solely with the people's representatives in Congress.

The Founders were very clear on this point — the president, as the executive, is to come to Congress on matters like these. The president should not engage in military action without receiving authorization from the people's representatives in Congress as prescribed in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution. If the president believes military action is needed to address ISIL, he must come to Congress for approval.

Polls say that Americans feel less safe than even after 9/11. A year ago Obama was advocating for military force against Assad, and now he advocating for military force against some of the forces fighting against Assad. The president must lead to protect our nation.

Last year Congress decreased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) making New Jersey one of the 15 hardest-hit states. Do you support reinstating SNAP funding to its previous levels? Why or why not? What is your bipartisan solution to hunger?

I believe that we must protect the social safety net for those who are most in need. The SNAP program is in dire need of reform. There are a number of states that have used gimmicks to obtain more SNAP funding. These actions have diverted precious funds from vulnerable individuals and families. We need to give New Jersey more flexibility to tailor the SNAP programs to meet the needs of its residents. The federal government should give those closest to the people — the states — better tools so state administrators can root out waste, fraud, and abuse within the program and make sure program dollars go to those who need help the most.

Our health and social services providers rely on many programs funded through annual appropriations. Neither they nor the federal agencies that administer these programs can adequately and responsibly plan for and ensure services when annual appropriations bills are delayed for many months. What would you do to ensure that this responsibility is carried out in a more timely fashion?

As I have long said, the House of Representatives and the Senate need to get back to the basics: passing a budget blueprint and appropriations bills based on that blueprint. The challenge lies not with the House but with the Senate. The House has passed budgets as well as appropriations bills year after year. However, the House cannot complete the process on its own; the process requires the participation of the Senate. Unfortunately, over the last five years, the Senate has not bothered to take up budgets or appropriations bills, forcing Congress to pass last-minute funding bills.

The GMW federation supports the charitable contribution deduction and supports the IRA Charitable Rollover. Both provisions help us maximize the funds available to help the vulnerable. Do you have ideas or modifications on using the tax code to support charitable giving?

I strongly believe that the tax code should do three things, namely, encourage savings, investment, and charitable giving. Unfortunately, we have a tax code in dire need of reform. The tax code is littered with special interest carve-outs. These carve-outs mean that tax dollars are going to propping up bankrupt companies on the backs of taxpayers, rather than going toward more generous deductions for charitable organizations. This needs to be fixed, and I look forward to addressing this issue when Congress takes up comprehensive tax reform. 

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Roy Cho (D) Dist. 5

The Jewish community views Iran as an existential threat to the United States, Europe, and Israel. Do you share this concern? What do you think the U.S. and the international community should be doing additionally to deter Iran from increasing its nuclear capacity and developing a nuclear weapon?

The biggest problem facing not only Israel but the world is the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran. Iran has been a major source of funding to organizations on the terrorist watch list, including Hamas and Hizbullah. Not only do these organizations not recognize Israel’s right to exist, they have also demonstrated with words and actions a desire to attack Israel. I believe Congress must impress upon the administration that, like Israel, we agree Iran has demonstrated they should not have the ability to enrich uranium at any level.

In addition, I not only support enacting strong economic sanctions by the United States — a component of our policy to varying degrees in recent decades — but also broader and more comprehensive sanctions by the international community as well.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

In order to bring about a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, both sides must be committed to peace. Concessions on both sides will obviously have to be made as a precursor for any negotiations. In my mind, the most important thing is that Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist. Until that happens, peace will remain beyond our grasp. As such, the United States should apply political and economic pressure to the nations and organizations that provide funding for terrorist activities.

The GMW federation understands that all solutions to the debt crisis require shared sacrifice but believe they should not unfairly target the most vulnerable. What is your approach to entitlement reform that will protect those who need income security and health coverage? Do you think it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground moving forward?

Programs that provide a safety net to the least fortunate among us should not be among those considered for discontinuation. To do so would, in truth, be the height of fiscal irresponsibility, as abandoning large segments of our population would have catastrophic long-term economic impacts. And while Democrats and Republicans currently appear to stand at opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue, I believe that if there are enough moderate voices in Congress it will be possible to bridge this gap. This is among the central reasons I’m running. I believe that I am a moderate voice that can help make Congress work.

With the recently increased instability of governments in the Middle East and the rise of ISIL, what do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. in the region and in relations between Israel and its neighbors?

First and foremost, the primary focus of the United States in the region must be to continue counterterrorism activities. The most important of these include protecting our allies in the Levant (most significantly Israel) from the impending threat of ISIL, deterring attacks on American soil from al Qaida and its affiliates (such as al-Nusra and Ansar al-Sharia), and safeguarding Israel from aggressive neighboring states and groups. I am deeply concerned that the House of Representatives has abdicated its responsibility to even debate a use-of-force agreement, let alone cast a single vote on this important issue.

In my mind, it’s not a choice between arming rebels to fight ISIL or doing nothing. The real choice here is to arm the rebels to fight ISIL or do it ourselves. I support American air support against ISIL wherever necessary in the region and seek to minimize the possibility that the United States would be forced to put “boots on the ground.”

Last year Congress decreased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) making New Jersey one of the 15 hardest-hit states. Do you support reinstating SNAP funding to its previous levels? Why or why not? What is your bipartisan solution to hunger?

Increasing funding to SNAP is important for both the well-being of New Jerseyans and the rest of the nation as well. As stated in the response to the previous question, it is irresponsible to ask those citizens least able to give to sacrifice more. Taking away the only means through which many people are able to feed themselves and their children is unacceptable for any country, let alone one with the resources of the United States.

Some bipartisan courses of action that can be taken to solve the issue of hunger in America are better subsidies for farmers that would incentivize the production of food items other than corn and increased funding for programs that support the ability of those who are economically distressed to feed themselves.

Our health and social services providers rely on many programs funded through annual appropriations. Neither they nor the federal agencies that administer these programs can adequately and responsibly plan for and ensure services when annual appropriations bills are delayed for many months. What would you do to ensure that this responsibility is carried out in a more timely fashion?

For almost two decades, the federal government has not been able to pass its annual appropriations bills on a timely basis, without the use of Continuing Resolutions. In recent years, this has been largely due to the unwillingness of some in Congress, including Scott Garrett, to raise the debt ceiling in order allow proper funding for the government’s programs. This was done, not with a concern for best governance, but rather to hold the economy hostage with the hope for gains that could not otherwise be achieved through the normal legislative process. The use of the debt ceiling as a wedge issue when determining the federal budget has not only hampered the ability of Congress to pass appropriations bills on a timely basis, but has resulted in a downgrading of our credit risk by the ratings agencies. As a result, the United States government pays a higher interest rate to borrow money world-wide than ever before.

As a Member of Congress, I will push for upholding Congress’s responsibility to pass annual appropriations bills and not put the full faith and credit of the United States in peril in an attempt to score political points.

The GMW federation supports the charitable contribution deduction and supports the IRA Charitable Rollover. Both provisions help us maximize the funds available to help the vulnerable. Do you have ideas or modifications on using the tax code to support charitable giving?

Given the current issues that the federal government is facing with regard to its debt, I am unable to support expanding deductions available for charitable donations, beyond restoring them to pre-sequestration levels. I realize that many social, medical, and progressive causes are advanced through charitable donations and often make up for a lack of funding at all levels of government. It is my hope that once America’s economic outlook improves, we can revisit this matter and expand the economic incentives to the many worthy charitable organizations doing great work at home and abroad. 

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Congressman Leonard Lance (R) Dist. 7

The Jewish community views Iran as an existential threat to the United States, Europe, and Israel. Do you share this concern? What do you think the U.S. and the international community should be doing additionally to deter Iran from increasing its nuclear capacity and developing a nuclear weapon?

There is bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill about Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, its sponsorship of terrorism, its promotion of instability throughout the region, and its appalling human rights record. Whether in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, or Yemen, Iran’s support for terrorism and its destabilizing activities threaten the interests and security of the United States, Israel, and their key allies and partners in Europe.

It has been reported that President Obama “will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote” on any comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. I oppose any attempt by the president to use pen and phone to take unilateral executive action, circumventing Congress and usurping its authority.

Having voted in favor of Iran sanctions legislation, including the strictest set of sanctions against Iran currently on the books, I will oppose any effort to weaken these highly effective tools to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

There can be no further lifting or easing of sanctions on Iran unless it is part of a deal that eliminates, not just pushes back, the threat of a nuclear Iran.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The U.S. must encourage bilateral negotiations between the two sides. That is the only viable path to a true peace accord. Israel, however, must never be coerced into any moves that could endanger its security. 

Past history has repeatedly shown that outside pressure — however well intended — is a proven recipe for failure.

That’s why I was critical of the president when earlier this year it was reported that the Obama administration was applying pressure on Israel in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Moreover, my concern over the administration’s strong-handed tactics was only heightened by the fact that this misguided and misplaced pressure came at a time of unprecedented regional turmoil and the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

I also support the “Palestinian Accountability Act” (HR 1337), which would prevent further aid to the Palestinian Authority until it acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, renounces violence against Israel, and excludes Hamas from government unless Hamas is publicly held to the requirements of this bill.

America should be putting pressure on our enemies, not on our friends.

The GMW federation understands that all solutions to the debt crisis require shared sacrifice but believe they should not unfairly target the most vulnerable. What is your approach to entitlement reform that will protect those who need income security and health coverage? Do you think it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground moving forward?

Despite falling deficits, the nation’s debt is rapidly increasing. The Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2039 our debt will exceed 100 percent of GDP.

This rapidly increasing debt is driven by unsustainable entitlement programs. CBO notes that more than 10,000 baby boomers retire each day. Over the next 25 years, the number of people who receive Social Security benefits will increase by more than 77 percent. Projections show that the Social Security Disability Insurance and Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance trust funds will run out by 2016 and 2033, respectively.

Medicare is another picture of unsustainability. For example, a married couple — both 66, both with average earnings — will receive more than double the amount of benefits than they contribute in Medicare payroll taxes over their lifetimes.

Absent legislation, beneficiaries of these programs will face deep and immediate cuts.

Earlier this year I supported a budget resolution that contains solutions to strengthen our entitlement programs. The budget protects and strengthens Medicare for current and future generations. It also requires the president and Congress to work together to develop a solution for Social Security.

The House-passed budget recognizes that the federal government must keep its word to current and future seniors.

With the recently increased instability of governments in the Middle East and the rise of ISIL, what do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. in the region and in relations between Israel and its neighbors?

For 66 years Israel has flourished to become the preeminent democracy in the Middle East and a steadfast partner of the United States. Together our nations have worked collaboratively toward common interests and goals including the safety, security, and freedom of all people around the world.

However, enemies such as Hamas, Hizbullah, and ISIS threaten to extinguish the Jewish state. These terrorist organizations have one goal: the destruction of the State of Israel.

Congress has worked together in a bipartisan fashion to support Israel. An example is the Iron Dome capability at the center of Israel’s current defense apparatus. Iron Dome constructed with the help of American expertise, American technology, and American funds.

Countless other measures have been designed to assist Israel, including legislation I supported recently to disrupt to the greatest extent possible the international financing capabilities of terror networks. 

As cochair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, I will continue to be a forceful advocate for Israel’s fundamental right to defend itself against terrorists' attacks. The U.S. must always continue to protect, strengthen, and promote our close friend and ally Israel as we have done for more than six decades.

Last year Congress decreased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) making New Jersey one of the 15 hardest-hit states. Do you support reinstating SNAP funding to its previous levels? Why or why not? What is your bipartisan solution to hunger?

There is mutual agreement in Congress that we must reform the food stamps program — where funding has doubled under both Presidents Bush and Obama. This rate of growth is unsustainable.

I, however, opposed the 2014 Farm Bill that cut federal food stamp funding. I believe we need to work together in a bipartisan capacity to enact intelligent reforms that make the federal nutrition programs more accountable, efficient, and effective for those individuals and families who need them.

Finally, a solution to ending poverty and hunger is through job creation and economic growth.

The House has passed more than 40 bipartisan jobs bills awaiting action in the U.S. Senate that would spur small business investment, reduce burdensome regulations, and create jobs.

We have passed measures that would help make energy less expensive and education more affordable and accessible for middle-class families. But more needs to be done.

We need to fix our tax code and enact spending restraints, including a balanced budget amendment, to address the record debt and deficit that are harmful to the economy.

Working together we can create jobs, reduce energy prices, and provide more take-home pay for middle-class working families struggling with putting food on their tables.

Our health and social services providers rely on many programs funded through annual appropriations. Neither they nor the federal agencies that administer these programs can adequately and responsibly plan for and ensure services when annual appropriations bills are delayed for many months. What would you do to ensure that this responsibility is carried out in a more timely fashion?

It has been almost two decades since Congress met its statutory Oct. 1 deadline for approving all of the bills before the start of the new fiscal year.

In recent years, the Senate has rarely considered individual appropriations bills at all, and the entire process has been reduced to what The New York Times called, “an ugly combination of missed deadlines, spending standoffs, stopgaps, omnibuses, minibuses, continuing funding resolutions, and even a government shutdown.”

Congress should enact reforms in order to more effectively respond to the needs of the hard-working Americans we represent. One such fundamental change is a switch from annual to biennial budgeting and appropriations.

By budgeting and appropriating money in two-year cycles, Congress can focus the first year of the session on establishing budget priorities and passing appropriations bills and the second year of the session on oversight and authorizing legislation. 

This change would give the House and Senate more time to work out a budget, pass individual bills, and work out the differences in order to avoid the never-ending cycle of continuing resolutions and omnibus appropriations bills.

Adopting a biennial budgeting process will allow Congress to better respond to our national priorities. 

The GMW federation supports the charitable contribution deduction and supports the IRA Charitable Rollover. Both provisions help us maximize the funds available to help the vulnerable. Do you have ideas or modifications on using the tax code to support charitable giving?

The House approved legislation in July with my support that extends several contribution deductions, including the IRA Charitable rollover. H.R. 4719, the America Gives More Act of 2014 was approved by a bipartisan vote of 277-130.

The bill included a number of important provisions that support charitable giving:

The Fighting Hunger Incentive Act — would make permanent the tax deduction for charitable contributions of food inventory by farmers, restaurants and grocery stores;

The Conservation Easement Incentive Act — would make permanent the tax deduction for charitable contributions by individuals and corporations of real property interests for conservation purposes;

The Permanent IRA Contribution Act — would allow seniors to contribute annually from their Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to charitable organizations without a tax penalty;

The Charitable Giving Extension Act — would encourage increased charitable giving by allowing taxpayers to claim dedications until April 15 of the following year;

The Private Excise Tax Simplification Act — would reduce administrative and compliance costs for private foundations by decreasing the investment income excise tax rate in order to encourage greater giving.

The bipartisan America Gives More Act deserves to be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Obama.

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Janice Kovach (D) Dist. 7

The Jewish community views Iran as an existential threat to the United States, Europe, and Israel. Do you share this concern? What do you think the U.S. and the international community should be doing additionally to deter Iran from increasing its nuclear capacity and developing a nuclear weapon?

The U.S. must do all that is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities. Washington must work together and gain agreement on sanctions against any country supporting radicals who have carried out attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The U.S. must maintain close relations with Israel as a way to increase the security of both countries, continue foreign aid to Israel, government partnerships, and joint anti-terrorism efforts. We also must ensure that that there is a negotiated two-state solution for peace in the region enabling a Jewish State of Israel and a demilitarized Palestine state.

The GMW federation understands that all solutions to the debt crisis require shared sacrifice but believe they should not unfairly target the most vulnerable. What is your approach to entitlement reform that will protect those who need income security and health coverage? Do you think it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground moving forward?

We must do all we can to protect the most vulnerable. The extension of unemployment benefits must be re-instated, and job training/re-training opportunities for the unemployed, additional education, money coming back to New Jersey for infrastructure will create job opportunities. As the director for the NJ Division on Women I worked with programs that provided services to New Jersey’s women and their families. We need to ensure our seniors have access to healthcare and are economically self-sufficient. The Affordable Care Act, while not perfect, is an important step in healthcare for our residents. The party rhetoric to repeal has not worked, and we have wasted valuable time, resources, and money on an effort that after 66 votes is still in place. If the effort were focused on the fixes that would improve the ACA, we could be much further along in the healthcare debate.

Do I believe that Republicans and Democrats can find common ground? Yes I do — when they are willing to put aside partisan politics and focus on the health and public safety of their constituents. I don’t believe that either party is inherently bad but that bad policies are driving decisions.

With the recently increased instability of governments in the Middle East and the rise of ISIL, what do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. in the region and in relations between Israel and its neighbors?

The U.S. must do all it can to protect itself and its allies. That being said, the only information available is what comes from news sources and political rhetoric. Washington (D’s, R’s, and I’s) must ensure that all decisions are made with all pertinent information, that all questions are asked — we must ensure that if a decision is made to send troops we understand that it is our only option, because it is someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, or father that we are sending to defend this country and its allies.

Last year Congress decreased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) making New Jersey one of the 15 hardest-hit states. Do you support reinstating SNAP funding to its previous levels? Why or why not? What is your bipartisan solution to hunger?

Yes I support reinstating to previous levels because New Jersey has not yet completely recovered from the economic downturn, and many residents who had never before relied on public assistance were forced to in order to provide for their families. Unfortunately I believe that the cuts hit our single-parent households much harder, many of which are headed by women, who also still earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Hunger is an epidemic much larger than for those who are on public assistance. So many families fall through the cracks because they are just above that income eligibility guideline; however they are still unable to earn enough to provide healthy balanced meals for their families.

We as a nation first have to admit that this is an epidemic and are willing put the resources needed to attempt to end hunger. It is also working public/private partnerships to encourage businesses to participate, it is educating our children on the need for proper nutrition, and it is also offering economic incentives to businesses that become part of the partnership.

Our health and social services providers rely on many programs funded through annual appropriations. Neither they nor the federal agencies that administer these programs can adequately and responsibly plan for and ensure services when annual appropriations bills are delayed for many months. What would you do to ensure that this responsibility is carried out in a more timely fashion?

If possible (similar to NJ law), if no action is taken within a required period of time, the appropriations are automatically in place. It would definitely only take this happening one time for Washington to focus on the work that must be done. Now I don’t know if this can happen, but it would take the filibustering out of play.

The GMW federation supports the charitable contribution deduction and supports the IRA Charitable Rollover. Both provisions help us maximize the funds available to help the vulnerable. Do you have ideas or modifications on using the tax code to support charitable giving?

I don’t have specific answers but believe that there are many individuals much more knowledgeable on this opportunity who could provide direction and insight. If we can move to a system of open discussion — opportunities to address the needs will happen.

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Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) Dist. 11

The Jewish community views Iran as an existential threat to the United States, Europe, and Israel. Do you share this concern? What do you think the U.S. and the international community should be doing additionally to deter Iran from increasing its nuclear capacity and developing a nuclear weapon?

As the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense, my objective is straightforward: The Iranian regime, which spews the most extreme anti-American rhetoric, can never become a nuclear weapons-capable state. Such a capability would be a “game-changer” in one of the most volatile regions of the world.

Of course, there is no shortage of options for the United States. In this regard, I have supported tougher economic sanctions, military pressure, and support for opposition leaders and movements. Included in that list of options is continued diplomatic efforts pursued in the context of a strong sanctions regime against the Iranian government, its financial institutions and businesses.

Frankly, unlike others, I have not seen any evidence to convince me that the “new” president, Hassan Rouhani, is a “moderate” with whom we can do business. He was actively involved in the founding of the murderous Iranian regime in 1979 and is alleged to have been involved in the planning of terrorist attacks in Argentina and Saudi Arabia. Further, his views are decidedly anti-American and anti-Semitic.

I have been a strong supporter of tough sanctions on the Iranian economy and believe that now is not the time to ease them, even temporarily.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The United States has served in the past as an honest broker between Israel and its neighbors in the effort to achieve a just peace in the Middle East. I have long been a supporter of Israel’s efforts to forge a lasting agreement with the Palestinians through direct negotiations and without the threat of violence. To this end, the Palestinian Authority should return to the negotiating table and join the Israelis in direct discussions to end this decades-long conflict. Furthermore, I have consistently supported a call on the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to renounce the violence Hamas condones and teaches to its followers. A true and lasting peace must be negotiated, not imposed from the outside. And Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

The GMW federation understands that all solutions to the debt crisis require shared sacrifice but believe they should not unfairly target the most vulnerable. What is your approach to entitlement reform that will protect those who need income security and health coverage? Do you think it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground moving forward?

According to President Obama’s top military adviser, the most serious threat to our national security is our growing national debt. We must act now to change course by cutting unnecessary federal spending. Shared sacrifice and a growing economy are mandatory requirements for success.

Forty-six million Americans live in poverty today; the status quo is unacceptable. The president’s policies have slowed the recovery and brought us closer to a debt crisis, which would hurt the poor the first and worst.

The plan I have voted for twice strengthens the safety net for vulnerable Americans. Under this approach, spending continues to grow, but states have more flexibility to tailor government programs to their people’s needs.

Our long-term solution is to preserve, protect, and strengthen Medicare and make no changes for those in or near retirement. For future generations, we can offer them a range of plans — including traditional Medicare — from which they can choose. No senior should be denied coverage. Every senior will have the support they need to get the care they deserve. The program’s trustees say that without reforms, Medicare will go bankrupt just as current seniors are in the heart of their retirements.

With the recently increased instability of governments in the Middle East and the rise of ISIL, what do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. in the region and in relations between Israel and its neighbors?

America's military strength and global leadership helped spread the promise of democracy to the oppressed and the blessings of security to the weak. In doing so, we have earned new allies, vanquished old foes, and further secured our own nation. But today, that formula that has served this nation and the world so well is very much in doubt, especially in the Middle East.

I have heard firsthand that America’s friends worry we have lost our way, that we have lost the will to live up to our values or stand up to aggressors.

Today, al Qaida prospers. The Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL) is gaining ground. And Iran continues its march to a nuclear weapons capability. Syria is a humanitarian disaster and a slow-motion strategic catastrophe that poses significant threats to America and its allies.

As chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, I supported the recent replenishment of the Iron Dome program and have assured its future needs in the FY2015 Appropriations bills.

We must renew and strengthen our partnership with our strongest ally, Israel. We must honor the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that will keep Israel’s capabilities qualitatively superior to its foes and friends.

Last year Congress decreased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) making New Jersey one of the 15 hardest-hit states. Do you support reinstating SNAP funding to its previous levels? Why or why not? What is your bipartisan solution to hunger?

The 2014 Farm Bill was the legislation that contained an $8.6 billion reduction over 10 years to the SNAP program. I did not vote for this bill.

With that said, it is important to note that the cost of the SNAP program has doubled since 2008 — totaling nearly $80 billion last year, with a significant portion of that growth coming from able-bodied adults without dependents.

Certainly the federal government should provide a sturdy safety net for Americans who find themselves in genuine need. I support the food stamp program (SNAP) as an important part of that net. Within the SNAP program, however, we should enact commonsense reforms that require work participation, from able-bodied recipients; encourage job training; close loopholes; and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse so that every dollar we spend gets to those who truly need it.

Our health and social services providers rely on many programs funded through annual appropriations. Neither they nor the federal agencies that administer these programs can adequately and responsibly plan for and ensure services when annual appropriations bills are delayed for many months. What would you do to ensure that this responsibility is carried out in a more timely fashion?

I understand the uncertainty and damage caused by seemingly regular delays in enacting our annual appropriation bills.

It is a sad fact that Congress has not completed the complete appropriations process in over a decade, despite the best bipartisan effort of the House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve.

However, there is no reason that the House, Senate, and president cannot persevere and fulfill their duties under the Constitution and do their jobs by enacting all 12 appropriations bill each year. The House has passed seven appropriations bills and the Senate NONE! It will take willpower and courage to vote on politically difficult issues.

The GMW federation supports the charitable contribution deduction and supports the IRA Charitable Rollover. Both provisions help us maximize the funds available to help the vulnerable. Do you have ideas or modifications on using the tax code to support charitable giving?

I have long supported the Charitable Contribution tax deduction and believe that it is important for many sectors in our economy. This is especially true considering the very low and uneven “recovery” that has impacted many people and institutions that serve them.

Unfortunately, H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, also known as the “Fiscal Cliff” compromise, included the reinstatement of the “Pease” limitation on total tax deductions, including the charitable tax deduction. This provision was originally enacted in 1990 and later phased out between 2001 and 2010 to encourage charitable giving. I am strongly opposed to the Pease language and am an original cosponsor of legislation that seeks to exempt the charitable tax deduction from the Pease limitations. This will allow individuals and families to continue to donate to worthy causes without worrying that such actions would have negative tax effects.

As the next Congress works to create jobs and reduce spending, I will always support the highest possible amount of charitable contributions.

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 Mark Dunec (D) Dist. 11

The Jewish community views Iran as an existential threat to the United States, Europe, and Israel. Do you share this concern? What do you think the U.S. and the international community should be doing additionally to deter Iran from increasing its nuclear capacity and developing a nuclear weapon?

Yes! Iran stands at a crossroads, the likes of which we have not seen since the revolution of 1979. Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has spoken with more caution and reserve than any of his predecessors. This may prove short-lived, and we must be prepared to maintain a hard line. At the same time, we must remember how our relations evolved with Soviet Russia and Communist China. We need to consider and reflect on the importance and role of diplomatic engagement in the process of easing our relations with hostile parties.

Sanctions can be an effective tool, but they can work against us as well. Study after study has demonstrated that those who are hit hardest by sanctions are the common people, and, given this, sustained sanctions can increase U.S. enmity. Sanctions can also be undermined if other nations are unwilling to stand with us. Given the current stance of China and Russia regarding Iran, our sanctions may not have the teeth we need.

To be clear, I support existing sanctions and stronger sanctions if necessary to avoid military confrontation so long as they serve the ultimate goal — Iran must never become a nuclear power.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Israel is the strongest ally of the United States in the Middle East. Israel faces a broad spectrum of threats, from a nuclear Iran, Hizbullah missiles in Lebanon, Hamas rockets in Gaza, and uncertainty in Egypt, Syria, and across the Middle East.

I am committed to protecting Israel’s qualitative military advantage because it is not only in America’s national interest but also in America’s national security interest.

The United States’ commitment to Israel and its security is based on mutual strategic interests and shared values of democracy, freedom, and liberty for our citizens. Strategically, the United States and Israel share a disproportionate role in combating global terrorism and a nuclear Iran. The continued strong U.S.-Israel relationship is crucial for our efforts to combat radical extremism and address the rapidly-changing security dynamics in the Middle East. I am committed to ensuring that the U.S.-Israel relationship remain strong and secure.

As a humanitarian, I want a lasting peace which speaks to everybody. I don’t believe in imposing my ideas on the parties. Israel has a longstanding peace treaty with Egypt and with Jordan. The remaining 20 Arab governments and Israel need to come to an agreement to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, and any agreement they come to I will support.

The GMW federation understands that all solutions to the debt crisis require shared sacrifice but believe they should not unfairly target the most vulnerable. What is your approach to entitlement reform that will protect those who need income security and health coverage? Do you think it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground moving forward?

Yes! I am running on a platform of solutions that are reasonable, balanced, and passable. I am all about helping the many and moving our country forward.

My team compared our healthcare costs and longevity to the other G20 countries, and the results were startling: In 2013, the U.S. spent on average $8,600 per person and we had an average life expectancy of 76/81 years for men and women, respectively. Compare this to Canada’s $4,500 per person for healthcare, but Canadians live to 80/84 years for men and women respectively.

So, we are spending twice as much on healthcare as other countries and getting less in return. Not a good return on investment by any set of metrics.

Therefore, I am championing universal healthcare and encouraging everyone to have a living will.

However, if this country is going to get serious about reducing healthcare costs, a conversation on lifestyle and personal responsibility, i.e. smoking, eating right, exercise, and sleeping, is in order. I will use the platform of the office to support healthy lifestyles and smart health choices. There can be creative ways to make this happen and I welcome your feedback and ideas.

With the recently increased instability of governments in the Middle East and the rise of ISIL, what do you feel is the appropriate role for the U.S. in the region and in relations between Israel and its neighbors?

The U.S. needs to continue to take a strong leadership role as the world’s sole superpower. I support the president’s recent collaborative military airstrikes in Syria.

Ultimately, however, the United States can only serve as an aid and arbiter, and we should only serve as arbiter if both parties wish for us to act as such. I pledge to stand for and support an honest path toward peace.

Last year Congress decreased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) making New Jersey one of the 15 hardest-hit states. Do you support reinstating SNAP funding to its previous levels? Why or why not? What is your bipartisan solution to hunger?

Yes! Solution to our nation’s wage crisis: The Stepping Stone Wage. I strongly support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Unfortunately, the $10.10 proposal will not gain traction with the Republican Party in Congress. Only truly bipartisan bills will pass in Congress. Yet, we must act. I have devised a unique compromise that will gain bipartisan support and serve as a remedy to this dire situation.

I propose a two-tiered minimum wage. The first tier will pay workers at either $7.25 an hour or the state minimum wage if it is higher. This tier is for high school and college students with limited to no experience who are working to give themselves spending money rather than sustain a family or financially support themselves. The second tier will pay workers $10.10 per hour. This tier is for families and experienced workers as well as single parents. This system will ensure that those who truly need a wage increase get it while those who don’t still earn a fair wage.

I know that this system is not perfect. I do want more. But this will move the conversation forward. The status quo isn’t working. I’m prepared to compromise to get our nation moving again.

Our health and social services providers rely on many programs funded through annual appropriations. Neither they nor the federal agencies that administer these programs can adequately and responsibly plan for and ensure services when annual appropriations bills are delayed for many months. What would you do to ensure that this responsibility is carried out in a more timely fashion?

In the business world where I come from, I have always worked in a collaborative approach with colleagues, third-party professionals and sometimes even our competitors to solve complex problems. My plan is to bring my education, skillset, and experience of problem solving to Washington. In a bipartisan approach we will ensure that annual appropriation bills are paid out in a timely fashion.

The GMW federation supports the charitable contribution deduction and supports the IRA Charitable Rollover. Both provisions help us maximize the funds available to help the vulnerable. Do you have ideas or modifications on using the tax code to support charitable giving?

I support the charitable contribution deduction and support the IRA Charitable Rollover. 

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