“Every state’s economy is different and the job creators from state to state are also different. State-to-state organizations … could really hone in on programs that align to specific industries.”
Karen Handel is running for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, vacated by retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss. Handel served as Georgia Secretary of State from 2007 to 2010, then ran a competitive primary campaign against Nathan Deal. In 2003, she was elected chairwoman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Her experience expands into the private sector, where she worked for major companies including KPMG and the non-profit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE‘s Tucker Boyce chatted with Ms. Handel about the Senate race, health care and other issues of the day. Though a capitol outsider, Ms. Handel emphasizes her ability to get results for her constituents. This is the second part of a two-part interview.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE: Would you ever vote to raise the debt ceiling and under what conditions would you do so?
Karen Handel: What happens here is that we have repeatedly voted to raise the debt ceiling without doing anything to rein in spending. On the trajectory that we’re currently looking at, bankruptcy is on the horizon for our country. $17 trillion in debt today — Congress gave the president basically a credit card with no limit and has done absolutely nothing in return in terms of 1:1 spending cuts. I believe it is imperative that we deal with the debt and the spending.
TAC: Would you vote to raise the debt ceiling if the rise was accompanied by spending cuts?
Handel: I would vote for it if there were 1:1 reductions and also a real plan to address the spending and debt beyond just a one-year scenario. That’s one of the challenges that I see. We keep moving from crisis to crisis on this fiscal side, and there are no long-term solutions.
TAC: Do you see the [Balanced Budget Amendment] as part of the long term solution?
Handel: Yes, it’s a very important step. I think also that there are a number of solutions that have been offered to move toward a balanced budget. I talk about the One Cent Solution that Connie Mack has supported — that’s a one percent real cut each year [until 2020]. The majority of families and companies have already had to take [a one percent cut] if not a lot more.
TAC: Where do you think those cuts can come from and how can we create sustainable cuts?
Handel: That’s the reason I have proposed Zero-Based Budgeting, so we go through every department and agency to realize the spending at the federal level. There are things that can be rolled back to the states. One of those are the workforce training programs. Those should not exist at the federal level. Every state’s economy is different and the job creators from state to state are also different. Consequently, if state-to-state organizations drive those programs, they could really hone in on programs that align to specific industries.
There’s obviously larger parts of the budget from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and hopefully by the time I get there in 2015 we will be on the road to repealing and replacing Obamacare, because that’s another policy that will crush the federal government. To get to those large programs we have to show the American people that we’re willing to make other reductions.
TAC: Transitioning to immigration reform, which has been discussed in depth in the Senate in the past year, how much border security is sufficient to move on to other types of reform? Do you support piecemeal reform or broader reform?
Handel: The first thing that has to be done is to enhance border security, and right now one of the big challenges that we have is a lack of meaningful measurement to really quantify whether or not security measures are working. The second piece is the visa process. About 45 percent of illegals came here on a legal visa and overstayed. There’s no mechanism to deal with that even though several years ago Congress passed legislation requiring that there be a tracking mechanism for entry and exit. It hasn’t been implemented.
I’d like to see us be much more focused on developing the skills within the U.S.A. to meet the workforce need. I understand that there are certain jobs where we have a real deficit, but it is good for America if we start to have programs at the state level to bring in those skill sets in STEM areas. That makes far more sense for Amercian workers and our economy than to keep looking overseas.
TAC: We do have 10 to 11 million illegals. Once there is a solution to things like border security, would you ever support a path to citizenship under certain conditions?
Handel: No, no amnesty period. We’ve been down this road before and it did not solve the problem. We need to have rigorous and uniform enforcement of immigration laws in this country so those individuals are held accountable. On the worker side, [I support] a workable E-Verify program so businesses who continue to knowingly hire illegals are held accountable. When America gets serious about enforcing immigration law it will work as a deterrent for people coming here illegally.
TAC: Before foreign policy, I do want to ask a question because all of the media coverage regarding the Arizona law that Republican Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed. In November the Senate approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) 61-30 but it failed in the House — would you support another vote on this bill?
Handel: I do not support ENDA, and here’s why — first of all, we want to have a country in which no one is discriminated against, but several statutes already prohibit workplace discrimination.
TAC: What laws protect those rights in states like Georgia?
Handel: I think there is law in Georgia that says you cannot have workplace discrimination.
TAC: On the basis of sexual orientation?
Handel: Well I’d have to go and look for Georgia, but the bottom line is that I don’t see where we need to have additional laws on the books.
We want to make sure there is no discrimination, but most of these laws are written so broadly that there is going to be more of a legal risk to employers who would be perceived as discriminating, and there would be so many unintended consequences. What is disturbing in all of this — you brought up Georgia and Arizona law, etc. — the GA law that was proposed is not the same as the AZ law. It is virtually identical to a federal law that was not only signed but was also aggressively advocated by President Bill Clinton.
TAC: Moving to foreign issues, offshore drilling is a big part of the plan — what is the first step to helping that become feasible?
Handel: It’s repealing the moratorium, and I also think there are many other elements that contribute to the overall energy policy: The Keystone Pipeline, overregulation and the administration that has made the coal industry a specific target. It’s not just offshore drilling; it’s a broader energy independence approach. And it’s a job creator also.
TAC: The last question I want to ask is about the Iran sanctions bill — are sanctions something you’d support? What is the best way to deal with Iran?
Handel: The president with his foreign policy approach has undermined our relationship with Israel and has weakened us in our posture on this issue and others. I think the sanctions need to stay in place and I do support diplomacy, but [it must be] diplomacy that is buttressed by strong sanctions — especially when we are trying to work through an agreement with a country like Iran, which has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted.
Whatever we come up with in the end, we need to partner with Israel as well. The last piece on this is that we don’t even know what was agreed to by this administration — the Iranian government said concessions we claimed weren’t true. There’s definitely a piece of this on the outside that we are missing. We have to do everything we can to ensure that they do not move forward with nuclear weapons.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE would like to thank Ms. Handel for taking time to conduct this interview.
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