Re-elect Dan Lipinski Congressman

State lawmakers disappointed with shutdown wrangling


By Katherine Skiba
Chicago Tribune
Rep. Randy Hultgren, an Illinois Republican backed by the tea party, said Wednesday that the confrontation leading to a partial government shutdown had left him with "disappointment and frustration" because Congress could have acted to tame the national debt "and the reality is, we didn't do anything."
Hultgren, 47, a Republican from DuPage County, spoke with the Tribune before casting the only "no" vote in the Illinois delegation on a bipartisan deal to reopen the government and avert default.
"Overall, I had no desire to see the government shut down, no desire to see our debts not paid, but I am very concerned about the larger picture: $17 trillion in debt and significant increases in new entitlement programs and debt that will only increase taxes on my constituents," the second-term congressman said.
Did he agree with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who said Republicans had fought the good fight but just didn't win? "I would give our leaders a lot of credit. I think they stayed strong on this," Hultgren said. "But yeah, we didn't achieve all that I hoped we'd achieve."
An Illinois Democrat who supported the deal, Rep. Dan Lipinski of Western Springs, also expressed a lack of satisfaction with the results of more than two weeks of bitter wrangling.
"It's certainly not the perfect solution, but it's a common-sense approach to end the shutdown, raise the debt ceiling and start the process for a budget agreement," Lipinski said.
He acknowledged that the deal "only kicked the can down the road" but said he was hopeful that a budget conference could lead to a long-term solution.
The shutdown began over a Republican bid to eliminate funding for the Affordable Care Act. Hultgren said he spent August in Illinois and heard repeatedly from people who feared they would lose health care options and that their costs would grow.
"This isn't ready yet," he said of Obamacare.
The effort by Hultgren and other conservatives to block Obamacare appeared to have a political cost. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed a positive approval rating of 39 percent for the Democratic Party, 24 percent for the Republican Party and 21 percent for the tea party.
Wayne Steger, chairman of DePaul University's political science department, said many Americans remain mystified about what the tea party supports, but the shutdown has brought new attention to the group. Steger described the tea party as a diverse group of populists: libertarians and social conservatives, people who are either anti-Washington or anti-corporation but unified by a disdain for President Barack Obama.
Hultgren disagreed with Steger's characterization, saying tea party adherents were often people who had been successful in careers, raised families, paid taxes and weren't active in politics before but grew alarmed at the "out-of-control growth" of federal and state governments. He said he did not feel disdain for Obama but simply opposed his policies.
Steger said Hultgren's 14th District seat seemed "pretty safe" next fall and noted that when Democrats redrew the congressional map, they "gerrymandered that district to make it very conservative" while making others around it more Democratic. The 14th District, which includes parts of Lake, McHenry, Kane, Kendall, DuPage, DeKalb and Will counties, backed Mitt Romney 55 percent in 2012, compared with 44 percent for Obama.
Hultgren, a lawyer from Winfield, was asked about his re-election chances and said: "I feel confident that if I listen to my constituents and am responsible and accessible and available to them, then good things will happen."
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, an investment manager and dairy magnate from Sugar Grove, is the GOP state central committeeman for the 14th District. He said Hultgren had "done a good job," and he would be surprised if a Republican challenged the two-term congressman in 2014.
Oberweis said that contrary to what national polls reflect, his constituents blame Democrats and Republicans equally for the shutdown. He said he wished Congress had acted sooner but thinks that won't hurt Hultgren's chances.
"First of all, that's a year from now," he said, "and people tend to focus on what's happened most recently and not what happened a year earlier."
Lipinski said many Republicans — "even those who are not themselves hard-core tea party members" —fear that they could face a challenge from a more conservative Republican if they move toward compromise.
"There are just those in the public who don't want anyone to stray towards the middle," Lipinski said. "They just want them to hold a hard line, and that's not good for America."

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