The Hour - Himes Talks Issues with The Hour Editorial Board
By ROBERT KOCH
Ask Democrat Jim Himes why he's running for Congress, and he'll talk about energy, education, the economy, transportation and health care.
"It's inconceivable to me that in the wealthiest country in the world, we've got working families that don't have access to a family doctor," Himes said. "It's just not right. It's also just bad business. Our corporations are staggering under the weight of health care liabilities."
On Tuesday afternoon, Himes spoke with The Hour editorial board about his campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Christopher R. Shays, a Republican, and represent the 4th Congressional District in Washington, D.C. During a press conference Thursday, he elaborated on his ideas for the economy (see related story).
Himes traces his candidacy to having helped Diane Farrell, the former Westport first selectwoman who ran unsuccessfully against Shays twice, and to his dissatisfaction with the Bush presidency.
"I sensed when this president got elected that we were going to go in some directions that were a little different from the old Democratic-Republican fight that I've always enjoyed and embraced," Himes said. "I saw religion creeping into the public sphere. I saw a set of economic policies that I didn't agree with and I thought were structurally unsound."
On health care, Himes said he supports a "hybrid public-private system," where the government would create a public insurance pool into which anyone could buy. Those with pre-existing conditions could not be turned down; those with private insurance could retain that insurance. Emphasis would be placed on preventative medicine, according to Himes.
On energy, the Democrat said he is "not religiously opposed" to offshore oil drilling, but added that such drilling, if done, must be in "an environmentally intelligent way." At the same time, Himes described the case for offshore drilling as a "dishonest political argument" that would not solve energy needs.
"What we really need to be talking about is getting
a (carbon) cap-and-trade regime passed," Himes said. "We cap the amount of carbon we're going to put into the atmosphere, and we auction permits to polluters. Over time, it will correctly price carbon-based energy. When you begin to correctly price carbon-based energy, alternatives are more economically attractive."
Himes said the underlying ideas of No Child Left Behind Act are "exactly right," but added that the concept was rolled out incorrectly.
"It's really a blunt instrument," he said. "Schools in New Canaan are evaluated with the same metrics (as) a school that is largely kids that aren't speaking English in Norwalk or Bridgeport."
On transportation, Himes said building the New York Harbor Rail Tunnel would take freight traffic off Interstate 95 in Connecticut and alleviate traffic congestion.