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Candidates for 7th Congressional district talk healthcare, COVID-19 relief, clean energy

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 6:51 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Republican Congressman Tom Tiffany is running to keep the 7th Congressional seat he won earlier this year and is challenged for the second time by Democrat Tricia Zunker, Wausau School Board President and Justice of the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court.

Newschannel 7 asked the candidates about healthcare, a COVID-19 relief bill and clean energy. The following are excerpts of their responses.

HEALTHCARE

The future of healthcare could be uncertain as the Supreme Court takes up the Affordable Care Act next month.

Zunker says she worries for the thousands of people who would be without insurance in the 7th District if the ACA is overturned.

She says it’s especially important to preserve protections for pre-existing conditions after the pandemic.

“We can see even with COVID-19 how critical it is that people with preexisting conditions have affordable, accessible healthcare, and that people with pre-existing conditions stay protected because if someone gets Coronavirus and then they recover, they’re going to be deemed to have a pre-existing condition for the rest of their lives,” she said.

Zunker also supports a public healthcare option like Medicare for All, but for those who want it, according to her website.

Congressman Tom Tiffany says he, too, supports protecting people with preexisting conditions, but he believes Medicare for All is not the right way forward on healthcare.

“Medicare for All eliminates private health insurance for those that like their health insurance plans. We should not be taking people off from health insurance plans that they like. I just think that there’s a better approach we can take from the federal level,” he said.

Tiffany believes in a plan to use federal money for states' high-risk plans like Badgercare.

COVID-19 RELIEF

The Senate is set to vote on a $500 billion Republican-crafted COVID-19 relief bill this week.

Republicans say Democrats are holding up the relief, and Democrats say the bill doesn’t include enough money—they had proposed a $2.2 trillion bill.

Congressman Tiffany says the relief plan the Democrats want is too broad. He disagrees with putting money toward bailing out states like Illinois. He believes money needs to be more narrowly spent on hurting industries.

“The hospitality industry. Hotels and restaurants have really been hit hard during this pandemic and we should really be targeting the relief rather than a $2.2 trillion bill like Speaker Pelosi had us vote on,” he said.

Congressman Tiffany introduced a bill last summer that would cut federal funding to schools that did not have in-person learning due to COVID-19, which was criticized by Zunker, who believes schools need more funding.

Zunker says we need a wide array of relief from Congress.

She believes in hazard pay for essential workers and help for family farmers on top of direct relief to healthcare systems.

“We need to make sure that there is enough PPE for the frontline workers that they have the protection that they need, we need to increase testing, because we know that increased testing is critical to halting the spread of this virus,” she said.

Zunker also believes Congress should extend unemployment benefits for people who lost their job due to the pandemic.

CLEAN ENERGY

Tricia Zunker did not express her direct support for the Green New Deal, backed by members of the Democratic Party. She believes we need sources of clean energy, but hints it should be a more graduated approach.

“We absolutely need to work towards clean energy. We need to have people who make decisions not just thinking about the here and now, but thinking about future generations. And we know that we are on the brink of an existential crisis here. That said, we do have to acknowledge that we have energy sources that we need to rely on in the here and now, and so it is a balance,” she said.

Congressman Tiffany celebrated what he called energy independence, though the U.S. does still import some crude oil from the Middle East, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Peace is breaking out in the Middle East. Why is that? It’s because we’re no longer dependent on those Middle Eastern countries that sometimes treat us as a foe. It’s created jobs, a stronger economy, and it’s given us national security. The Green New Deal will wipe that out. All you need to do is look at California, because they don’t manage their natural resources properly,” he said, attributing rolling blackouts and high energy costs to the fact that the state got rid of some of its natural gas and nuclear plants.

At least six local governments in California have banned the use of natural gas. The reliance on solar power is widely acknowledged to have contributed to blackouts.

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