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Bacon and Eastman vy again for District Two House seat

Catholics have a duty to participate in the political process and to be well informed about issues and the candidates running for public office. To that end, the Catholic Voice is again featuring profiles of key races, along with candidate positions on issues of concern to Catholic voters. In addition to this coverage in both this issue and the Oct. 16 issue, the Catholic Voice will print a two-page voter guide in the Oct. 16 issue, provided by the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

In a replay of the 2018 race in Nebraska’s second congressional district, Democrat Kara Eastman once again tries to unseat Republican Congressman Don Bacon as he seeks a third term. The second district includes Douglas County and a portion of Sarpy County.

Bacon, who narrowly defeated Eastman in 2018, is a retired Air Force brigadier general raised in Illinois. He is a Christian and a member of a nondenominational church in Bellevue.

Eastman, a Florida native, is founder and former executive director of Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to educate people about the dangers of lead poisoning. She also was elected to a term on the Metropolitan Community College board of governors in 2014. She now operates Kara Eastman Partners, a consulting business serving nonprofits.

Bacon spoke by phone with the Catholic Voice to discuss his positions, proposals and votes on key issues. Eastman’s campaign responded too late for an interview.

HEALTH CARE

Health care is taking center stage in this race, including the goal of reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says “affordable health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. … Health care coverage remains an urgent national priority” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” (FCFC) no. 80).

An April 18, 2020, Omaha World-Herald article said Eastman favors a government-run health insurance system, commonly referred to as Medicare for All, that would eliminate private health insurance.

“I believe that healthcare is a human right and that no one in the United States should have to choose between seeking medical care and putting food on the table,” Eastman says on her campaign website. Reducing prescription drug costs is also a key focus of her campaign, which she says would be facilitated by the system she proposes.

Several sources estimate the government costs alone of such a plan to be more than $30 trillion over 10 years. In the World-Herald article, Eastman said her plan would reduce the costs Americans, their employers and the government collectively would pay for health care – which are projected to be between $34 trillion and $54 trillion – by $2 trillion over the same period.

Bacon takes a free-market approach on the issue. He favors association health insurance pools for groups such as farmers and small business owners, expanded health savings accounts and allowing insurance providers to compete across state lines.

“I think we want to improve our current health care system and fix what’s broken,” he said. “I don’t think the right answer is to throw the current system under the bus, and that’s what Medicare for All would do.”

In 2017 Congress attempted to modify the Affordable Care Act with the American Health Care Act, for which Bacon voted. Eastman’s campaign ads say that vote showed Bacon’s support for reducing coverage for pre-existing conditions and creating higher costs for seniors.

Bacon told the Catholic Voice, “I wholeheartedly, 100%, support protecting pre-existing conditions. And the bill I voted on provided taxpayer, federal and state money combined, to people with high risk conditions (paying) higher premiums normally, and lowered those premiums down to what a healthy person would pay. And by doing that, the pool, the entire pool, has less expenses and the premiums go down.”

ABORTION

Although Eastman’s issue statements on her campaign website do not use the word “abortion,” she says on her website, “I trust women to make decisions about their own health and about their families, and I support the ideal of reproductive justice.”

A June 21, 2018, Omaha World-Herald article said she favors no government restrictions on abortion.

Eastman was endorsed in 2018 by NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily’s List, the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood. This year’s endorsements include Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Emily’s List and #voteprochoice.

She also says, “I believe that access to birth control is a fundamental right of privacy in the United States.”

Bacon said that, as a Christian, he is pro-life. “I believe God created us in his image. … That means we’re special. We have value.

“You do an ultrasound, you see a baby… . It’s a human being, and it’s alive and it should be protected, so I literally am on every pro-life bill,” including the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, he said.

“I totally oppose taxpayer funding of abortion,” he added.

Bacon is endorsed by National Right to Life.

IMMIGRATION

Bacon and Eastman stand closer to one another on the issue of immigration in their support of more humane treatment of immigrants at the southern border. They also support establishing a path to citizenship for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, also called “Dreamers.” They are currently protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Such stands are in concert with Church teaching. As the U.S. bishops state: “The Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylum-seekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking” (FCFC, no 81).

“We must make law-abiding Dreamers citizens and ensure that immigrants who follow the law can earn a lawful presence in our country,” Eastman says on her website. She also condemns separation of families detained at the border and deportation of “hard-working immigrants.”

She proposes “hiring more immigration judges and fully staffing ports of entry” as well as increasing foreign aid.

“I voted for the dreamers act,” Bacon said. “I also support TPS (Temporary Protected Status),” a program that offers temporary legal status to certain immigrants who cannot return to their own country because of ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster or other extraordinary reasons.

“These people have been here legally, … they’re working here, they’re good neighbors, they are law abiding, so I support TPS,” he said.

Bacon also supports expansion of the H-1B and H-2B visa programs, which provide temporary status for immigrants to enter the U.S. to fill high-skill and low-skill jobs.

He wrote a letter to President Donald Trump pressing for more humane treatment of immigrants at the southern border.

Today, children are separated from their adult caregivers only “if, through DNA, they find out the people who are claiming to be the parents are not the parents – because there’s concern about child trafficking … or if the parents have a felony,” he said.

RACIAL JUSTICE

Following the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by Minneapolis police during his May 25 arrest, the issue of racial justice has risen to a prominent place in the national discourse. Protests, which at times have escalated into violence, have since taken place in cities around the country.

In their 2018 pastoral letter on racism,” Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” the U.S. bishops have called racism sinful and evil, and call for the Christian community to combat racism in all its forms.

They write: “Racism can only end if we contend with the policies and institutional barriers that perpetuate and preserve the inequality – economic and social – that we still see all around us. With renewed vigor, we call on the members of the Body of Christ to join others in advocating and promoting policies at all levels that will combat racism and its effects in our civic and social institutions.”

On her website, Eastman says she will “work to repair the systemic inequalities people of color face in our district. This includes focusing on economic inequality, access to reliable transportation, healthy, affordable housing, debt-free education, and workforce development.”

She also calls for police reform, including demilitarization of local police forces and “federal guidelines that emphasize de-escalation, non-lethal force and culturally competent policing.”

In a June 6 World-Herald story she is quoted as saying during a June 5 Black Lives Matter rally at Omaha’s Memorial Park: “It is time for us to exert the political will to actually have equity in our system,” and urged people to use their voices to vote, because it can make a difference.

Bacon also supports peaceful protest as the constitutional right of all Americans, but calls for violent protestors to be held accountable.

He voiced support for a police reform bill authored by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, which ultimately failed to advance in the Senate. The bill would have required body cameras on police, increased training, a registry for abusive officers and restrictions on certain types of choke holds, he said.

Bacon also supported the First Step Act criminal justice bill, juvenile justice reforms, and is the lead Republican in efforts to rename military bases named after Confederate generals.

“I fully acknowledge inequality in our country – economic inequality, employment inequality, education differences, incarceration differences, health differences,” Bacon said. “I do believe we live in the greatest country in the world, but we can’t ignore that there is inequality.”

He said focused efforts are needed to close the gaps, such as opportunity zones to bring capital investment into economically-distressed communities to help create businesses and jobs.

ENVIRONMENTAL CARE

In his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home,” Pope Francis said: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue. It is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”

Eastman calls climate change “the number one moral and security threat our nation faces.” She proposes transitioning to 100% clean and renewable energy sources by 2040 through “investments in wind, solar and geothermal energy and upgrading buildings, homes, and public transportation systems,” according to her website.

Eastman also advocates rejoining international agreements such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, updating it to more aggressively reduce carbon emissions.

“I want us to be energy independent, and I support renewables,” Bacon said. He supports wind energy and is one of 16 senators, congressional representatives and governors given this year’s U.S. Wind Champion Award by the American Wind Energy Association for their efforts to promote clean energy and their continued support for the economic and environmental benefits of wind energy.

He also is co-sponsoring a bill to incentivize farmers, through tax credits, to use renewable farming techniques involving their use of irrigation, crop rotation and tillage.

But he is opposed to a carbon tax, which he said would increase gas prices, air fares and utility costs, and hurt poor people the most.