RACINE — For the first time in 20 years, House Speaker Paul Ryan will not be on the ballot for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, and candidate Bryan Steil is hoping to keep the seat in Republican hands.
Steil, a Janesville resident, corporate attorney and member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, got into the race after Ryan announced in April he was not going to seek re-election. Ryan has since endorsed Steil, his former staffer, for the seat.
Steil will square off against Democratic opponent Randy Bryce, a Caledonia resident, labor activist and ironworker, in the Nov. 6 midterm election.
The Journal Times met with Steil on Tuesday to talk about some of the issues. A similar interview with Bryce appeared in the Aug. 31 edition of The Journal Times.
Two things that Steil wants to change, and which he believes he has bipartisan support, is how the federal budget is created and what happens when the deadline for a budget is passed.
Currently the federal government passes a budget every year, but Steil said that makes the process “a non-stop spending cycle” and, if elected, he will advocate for a two-year budget cycle like the State of Wisconsin’s.
“It’s a much more deliberate process as to how to spend taxpayer dollars,” Steil said. “That’s a process change that will result in a more thoughtful and better product for the American people.”
When the federal elected officials can’t agree on the budget, and the deadline is passed, the government is shutdown, which Steil calls “a terrible option.”
Steil advocates for a continuing resolution with a 0 percent spending increase, which is done in Wisconsin, as a better option.
“In Washington, we should shift the default rule from a government shutdown to a continuous resolution, keep the government operating at 0 percent growth as your default,” Steil said. “That’ll bring people to the table to have a thoughtful discussion.”
Stance on health care
Aside from how federal government processes, Steil said the No. 1 issue in this race is health care.
“Philosophically, we need a patient-central and doctor-central approach to health care,” Steil said. “I think you look at HSAs (health care savings accounts) as an example of how you bring those decisions to patients and doctors which will allow us to improve quality and reduce costs.”
Steil said there needs to be more price transparency for patients so they could compare prices.
“I wouldn’t fly to Denver and ask what the price of the flight was after the end of the flight, I’d want to know before I purchased the ticket,” Steil said.
However, Steil admits that the price-transparency approach would not apply in every situation.
“That doesn’t mean in a catastrophic scenario, a heart attack, car accident, that that cost benefit analysis works and is always appropriate,” Steil said. “There is not a silver bullet that’s out there that’s also a reasonable solution.”
Steil said his views on health care is a stark contrast to Bryce, who is an advocate for “Medicare for all.”
“I think it’s disingenuous to offer something like that and then not explain how he plans to pay for that,” Steil said. “He’s advocating for a Washington take over (of health care) at a significant cost.”
Bryce issued a statement in response to Steil saying, “Of course I believe health care is a right and not a privilege and I do believe that the government needs to be involved.”
Bryce goes on to say government is already involved in health care when it comes to the Medicare and veterans care.
“Time and time again, the GOP has tried to repeal our health care, but they have no better replacement. That’s the problem — the GOP has no good solution to ensure everyone has access to good and affordable health care,” Bryce said. “He doesn’t know what it is like to have to take 20 medications and only be able to afford four of them…He doesn’t know, because he is completely out of touch with working people right here in the district.”
Stance on taxes
One of Ryan’s major accomplishments as house speaker has been to pass tax reform, which Steil has partly contributed to the current strong economy.
“We’re starting to see the beginning of increased wages,” Steil said.
Like on health care, Steil’s views on taxes are very different from those of Bryce, who is in favor of repealing the tax reform. Steil says that would raise taxes.
“(Bryce) wants to raise taxes and send more money to Washington,” Steil said. “I think people should have more money in their pocket right here in southeastern Wisconsin.”
Bryce said in a statement that Steil has “spoken like a true 1 percenter,” and is trying to “protect his donor’s and his own tax breaks, but I know there are better ways to use the money from the tax scam.
“I know we could protect Medicare, Social Security and pensions with the money we handed out to millionaires and billionaires,” Bryce said. “I don’t want tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy happening on the backs of working people here in southeast Wisconsin or anywhere else.”
Stance on immigration
After several high profile cases of illegal immigrants being arrested in Racine, residents have become increasingly interested in the issue of immigration.
“I think we’ve been let down by Democrats and Republicans alike,” Steil said on immigration.
Steil said he is in favor of a two-step approach solving some of the current immigration issues, which includes increased border security “and the wall is part of that,” and immigration reform that address “workforce needs.”
“Our immigration system doesn’t take (workforce needs) into account,” Steil said, adding, for example, that there is a shortage of welders in Wisconsin. “If we’re short of welders in our country, we should be able to identify that as one of our priorities in a legal immigration system, so that if there’s a welder in Italy or Mexico or Timbuktu, and that matches our workforce needs, that individual should be prioritized in a legal immigration system.”
When it comes to the issue of those with Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Steil said those individuals are the most deserving of compassion in the immigration debate.
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order, DACA, which gave deportation protections to those who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents and allowed them certain privileges like driving and the ability to get a job. In 2017, President Donald Trump rescinded DACA and the program has been in court ever since.
“I look at the DACA children in particular and think that we need to get to a spot where we reach a pathway to legal status,” Steil said.
Both border security and immigration reform could be done simultaneously, but Steil emphasized that border security has to be done.