Don Young

U.S. Congressman Don Young, R-Alaska, 2012. Sam Harrel/News-Miner 

Don Young

Republican

Anchorage

Q: The federal deficit has increased each year since 2016, according to government data, after declining from the high in response to the 2008-09 Great Recession. The government last had a surplus in 2001. Beginning in 2016, increases in spending on Social Security, health care, and interest on the federal debt have outpaced the growth of federal revenue, according to the government’s tracking website. What do you propose for reducing the deficit?

A: The ballooning national debt is one of the greatest long-term challenges that our country faces. I have long supported and voted in favor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting outlays for the year from exceeding total receipts for the year unless Congress authorizes the excess by a three-fifths vote in each chamber. Importantly, Congress could waive these requirements when a declaration of war is in effect or if the United States is engaged in a military conflict that causes a threat to national security. I remain committed to seeking ways to address our out-of-control debt in a responsible manner.

Q: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with President Trump’s COVID-19 response? Explain

A: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tremendous challenge to our country. President Trump and Congress have worked to combat it through multiple legislative packages, and that remains an ongoing process. No government response to emergencies is perfect as we have seen in previous administrations. However, we have made incredible investments in our health infrastructure as well as supported individuals and small businesses to see us through these difficult times.

Q: Explain your view on climate change. Is it a problem and what, if anything, should Congress do to address the issue?

A: I believe the United States should continue working to reduce emissions in a way that allows for improvements and technological innovations over time to adapt to changing conditions. At the same time we must work to ensure American energy independence more broadly. America is what it is today because of our ability to innovate, which was often supported by federal research and development, not forced into existence by regulation.

Q: President Trump has made clear he wants to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Do you support DACA or do you share President Trump’s desire to eliminate the “Dreamers” program? Explain. 

A: The United States must secure its borders and implement measures to ensure they remain secure. Similarly, I have and continue to witness firsthand the value immigrants provide to our country. Congress needs to address the status of DACA recipients who were brought to this country by no fault of their own. Any legislative solution should include a pathway to citizenship for employable DACA recipients who do not have criminal records.

Q: The Supreme Court recently ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s protections against sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBTQ individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Do you agree with this ruling? Explain.

A: I support equal protection under the law. America’s promise is one of equality, and this should be upheld. This is especially important in the workplace where people should be judged on their knowledge and skills and not on their race, gender, color, sexual orientation, or other classification. The recent Supreme Court ruling granting protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is another important step.

Q: In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the end of May, large-scale reforms in law enforcement and policing are being called for across the country. What changes, if any, would you like to see? Does Congress have a role in the subject?

A: The demonstrations seeking justice for George Floyd were a wake-up call illustrating the need for comprehensive reform of law enforcement. I would like to see positive steps to develop policies that encourage proactive police strategies to address concerns and strengthen the relationships that ensure the safety of all communities. I have cosponsored the JUSTICE Act, which incentivizes local and state jurisdictions to better prepare and protect the communities they serve.

Q: Nearly one-third of the Interior rural communities represented by Tanana Chiefs Conference have no running water village-wide. This is the case for many rural villages across the state. What steps would you take to improve village sanitation?  

A: I’m a longtime supporter of programs that provide water infrastructure in Alaska. This includes securing yearly funding for the Rural Alaska Village Grant program, which is exclusively dedicated to sanitation infrastructure in Alaska villages. I protect the Denali Commission, which also enhances village infrastructure. Improving village water is particularly important given COVID-19. I recently introduced a bill which would provide $2.67 billion for water and infrastructure projects in Native communities.

Q: While drilling projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska are moving forward, Alaska is seeing a drop in oil company activity in the state. What, if anything, should Congress do to incentivize oil development in Alaska?

A: It is important we do what we can in Congress to cut burdensome bureaucratic red tape. Reforming the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act are major priorities we can pursue to ensure projects are able to begin and move forward at an appropriate rate instead of taking many years to complete. We must also facilitate land access to promote energy development and codify regulations that streamline federal polices.

Q: Alaska faces some of the worst rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in the country, particularly in the state’s Indigenous population. What, if anything, should Congress do to address the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and missing and murdered Indigenous women? 

A: I’m particularly concerned about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Alaska Native women and girls are disproportionately affected by kidnapping, trafficking, and violent crimes such as murder. Last year, I voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. During consideration, I offered an amendment that enhanced a pilot program to expand the jurisdiction of tribal law enforcement to areas throughout Native villages. My amendment passed unanimously. 

Q: Do you support the Affordable Care Act or do you think the program should be repealed? If you support repealing it, what, if anything, should replace it?

A: First and foremost, protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions must be preserved. A fundamental problem with the ACA was the individual mandate, where the government forced people to purchase insurance or face a financial penalty. With my support, Congress has since eliminated that mandate. Any future reform should focus on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship in a bipartisan manner, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all government approach we’ve experienced under the ACA.

Q: The percentage of Alaska’s total population that is age 65 and older is increasing. The Social Security trust fund is projected to be depleted in 2035 because the cost of providing benefits has been exceeding income. Without any change, the depletion would lead to a reduction in benefits to match the income. What is your suggested solution, if any?

A: I strongly believe we must work together to protect and preserve Social Security for current and future generations. I have and will continue to oppose any reform that deprives people of the benefits that they have already paid into. Long term, we need to consider reforming Social Security for those further from retirement as well as higher income individuals that may not have to rely on it later in life.

Q: The University of Alaska has one of the smallest federal land grants among public universities in the 50 states. For a variety of reasons it has never received all of the land it is supposed to have received, thereby limiting the amount of money it can raise through land ownership. Several attempts in Congress to provide additional land have failed since the mid-1990s. What will you do about this?

A: I’m working with UA to finalize conveyances and bring their land grants in line with Lower 48 universities.  This is important given their current budget difficulties. UA must have sufficient land to support their mission. This involves coordinating with other stakeholders to help finalize conveyances. I’m glad that BLM has made completion of conveyances a priority and will continue to pursue strategies to assist UA in securing a land base.

Q: More Russian military activity near Alaska Air Defense Zones and U.S. waters has recently been reported than is typical. Does this concern you? What, if anything, should the U.S. do in response? Explain.

A: The increase in activities from adversarial nations near Alaska and in the Arctic concerns me. When the recent Russian activity was reported I was briefed by the Coast Guard and the Air Force to get a full assessment of the situation at hand and the activities taking place. Moving forward, I think we must continue our Arctic military and infrastructure investments that I have secured and continue to champion.

Q: Would you support the free distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to all U.S. residents? How would this be paid for? Explain.

A: I voted to fund the development of the vaccine and support making it available to all U.S. residents in order to eliminate the virus. Operation Warp Speed has received about $10 billion in funding and is designed to develop, produce, and distribute 300 million initial doses of a coronavirus vaccine by January. Of course more vulnerable groups should get preferred access to the vaccine as they are most at risk.

Q: In what ways, if any, should the country decrease reliance on oil and gas in favor of more renewable sources of energy? Explain.

A: We should continue working to reduce emissions, but I believe we should do so in a way that allows for incremental improvements and technological innovations over time. We must continue to promote increased development of wind power, hydropower, natural gas, as well as other alternative energies. Alaska, in particular, has diverse renewable energy sources. Bristol Bay and the Aleutians utilize wind and geothermal energy, while Southeast has tremendous hydropower capabilities.

Q: The Trump administration recently announced a plan to open the full 1.65 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, sparking a series of lawsuits from environmental protection groups and the Gwich’in Nation over alleged violations of Indigenous land rights. Do you feel the Gwich’in people should have been directly consulted by the Bureau of Land Management on this issue? Explain.

A: I appreciate the passion of the Gwich’in, however they do not live in ANWR. The nearest Gwich’in village is over 130 miles away from the Coastal Plain. The Native Village of Kaktovik is in the Coastal Plain area and they overwhelmingly support its responsible development. The majority of Alaskans support development, and the majority of Alaska Natives who live in ANWR support development.