Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is one of the Republican Party’s rising stars. In today’s Congressional Corner, Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb tells WAMC’s Alan Chartock about her plans to defeat Stefanik.
Alan Chartock: So let me start out again. Tedra Cobb, former St. Lawrence County legislator who is running against the third term, New York 21. Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. What has Stefanik done wrong during her tenure so far?
Tedra Cobb: Well, first and foremost, I'm in this race, as we've talked about because of health care. So Elise Stefanik, has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have kicked 64,000 people off their health care, and would have eliminated protections for people with preexisting conditions. And as you probably know, she has supported the president in bringing that to the Supreme Court and supported basically a tax funded lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a time where 5.5, 5.4 million people have lost their insurance. So that's one thing. You might not know this, but Elise Stefanik wrote the plan to privatize social security and Medicare. You know, I will never gamble people's social security on the stock market. This is an earned benefit, people have paid into Social Security throughout their life, and now they need it. And I will never gamble that on the on the stock market. And, you know, to follow on that, Elise Stefanik has voted to cut social security and Medicare by trillions of dollars. She's voted against our environment, which is important to our health and wellbeing and our economic vitality here. She voted against the Clean Power Plan and now we're seeing blue green algae in our rivers and lakes. She supports this president who is repealing protections from the EPA. Now these are, you know, the list goes on, but I'm going to end there.
So Tedra Cobb, I see that least Stefanik is now in a rather unpleasant fight with the editor of the Albany Times Union, and she keeps accusing him of being anti-women. Does she play that card a lot?
Here's what's wrong with Washington. This divisiveness, this name calling, picking fights. You know, to me, the goal and the job of a representative is to work with the press. You and I are having a conversation now. If I'm elected, we will continue to have conversations. That's what's important. I don't know what's going on for Stefanik and why she has all of this time to pick fights with the press and to go on Twitter. But she's not here. She's not fighting for our families. She's not getting us the health care that we need. She's not working with us day in and day out. You know, folks, I've been one of them where I've had three jobs, three jobs just to make ends meet in my family. I know what that's like. So if Elise Stefanik wants to pick fights with the press that's on her watch, but it's time for her to go then because her priority is her, not us.
So the Stefanik campaign labeled you Taxin Tedra. What do you think about taxes? Should we raise taxes on the rich to help get through the pandemic and its financial struggles?
So first and foremost, let's get to name calling, because that is the worst of Washington. Unfortunately, Elise Stefanik has brought that sort of divisiveness, that name calling, you know, into what I think is, you know, the North Country, and we talked about good representatives, right. We talked about thoughtful leadership. That's not what we're seeing in Elise Stefanik. So I'm gonna respond to that. First and foremost, you know, we need to think about the priorities in this country to get to the second part, or the priorities in this case. To protect people who are working so hard to put food on the table, or the wealthy among us who already have their needs met, my priorities will always be fighting for the people.
Yeah, but what about the taxes?
Yeah, I think, you know, I was a county legislator. And I understand what it's like to have to make sure that the roads and bridges are funded, and to make sure that the health services are funded. So I look at every tax, as you know, does it help us in our communities? And or does it harm us in our pocketbook? And that's always how I'll think about it.
So, Andrew Cuomo is who I speak to quite frequently, says that New York State is down in its budget $16 billion. He may have to find some money. If the if the Congress doesn't come back In past the heroes act and do what it needs to do, he may have to replace that $16 billion. You could either have 20% less teachers, or you could say, okay, the rich should pay some more. Where are you? I'm not trying to trap you. But it's a fair question, I think.
Yeah, I mean, I think the answer to that is, the rich should pay some more. I mean, if it's a question before education, or the rich paying their fair share, that's the side I'll come down on. But this actually brings us to the fundamental question and New York State is often is what we call a donor state, right? We give more than we get. And so we need a federal response to help us through and all of the states through this pandemic.
Who do you think Joe Biden should pick as his vice presidential nominee?
Oh, I again, I'm going to leave that to the pundits and to his team.
Why I mean, you're citizen. You've been watching all these people. I don't wish to take offense, but if not you, who?
Yeah, no, actually, that's a great question. But I don't know all the ins and outs, you know, to choose a running mate, you have to choose not only their background, but also your relationship with that person. It's sort of like being the CEO of a company, right? Your right hand person, you want to make sure you've got a relationship with that person that you, you communicate in different ways. So I think at the end of the day, whoever he chooses must put people first. And that's important. I just, again, I don't know all of those people personally. That's what he's doing. But I will say this, you know, Joe Biden, I think puts people first and I hope that he will choose a person who puts people first and I look forward to working with them to do that.
Okay, you mentioned medical care a couple of times. The Affordable Care Act is important to you. But if you get into Congress, what plan will you push for? Would it be Medicare for all? Would it be, you know, continue building on the Obamacare? What would you do?
Yeah. So I support a Medicare public option, which is this, in short, that people who have Medicare, you ask them, do you like it? Yes. So, if we could expand that by offering a public option so that people who want to buy into Medicare can and those people who want to keep their insurance can. That I think is the best way to move forward quickly and ensure and increase access to care quickly. It leaves the choice up to the individual.
How about HR3? You know, drug prices in this country are obscene. And the Senate might flip. There are some signs, you're gonna get a Democratic Senate, you'd have a Democratic house, you might even have a Democratic president. So if that happens, what would your position be on the drug companies?
Okay, so first and foremost, I want to remind you that Elise Stefanik, voted against that prescription drug plan. So she voted against capping out-of-pocket costs for seniors and against allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. So I will support that. I also will support that when we as taxpayers invest in research and development, that we are not gouged by those pharmaceutical companies. And there are lots of examples of that.
Give me one.
Prep. Prep is for HIV and AIDS. We have invested in that research and development. And, unfortunately it's priced often so high that people cannot get that medication. Another example, I have a friend who has cancer, and he is taking a drug you might remember this drug it's called Thalidomide.
Okay, we know Thalidomide. It's been on the market forever. It's cheap to produce, get make a wild guess I'm going to throw this to you guess how much he has to pay. Now he's lucky because of course, he wasn't on Medicare. But now he's old enough for Medicare. But, but guess how much he pays a month for that new cancer medication? Just make a wild one. I'm gonna throw it to you.
Thanks Tedra, but I have no idea.
Fifteen thousand dollars a month.
Wow. Where does he get that kind of money? Does he have it?
Now, here's that's where we're getting to right that we have. We had the opportunity to negotiate prescription drug prices. We have to hold these pharmaceutical companies accountable for really at the end of the day for extortion, for price gouging, you know. We should not be making a choice between putting food on the table or getting those prescription drugs.
Tedra Cobb is a former St. Lawrence County legislator, a Democrat running against third term NY-21 Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. Tedra, you are terrific. Thank you so much for spending this time with us. When we come back for the next conversation, I got lots more for you.