BLOOMINGTON — An infrastructure bill is the issue most likely to find bipartisan agreement with Democrats gaining control of the House in Tuesday's election, the area's congressmen, all Republicans, said Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Dunlap, who was elected to his second full term Tuesday, said, “I think we made a mistake as House Republicans two years ago when we didn't start with infrastructure” and instead focused on health care.
Noting that President Donald Trump has made infrastructure a priority, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon said: “The Democrats are interested in that, too. I think an infrastructure bill would be a real possibility.”
While U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville agreed that infrastructure improvements nationwide would be one of the easiest efforts to push through, he said, “The big challenge is paying for it. It always has been.”
Shimkus, who has served in the House since 1997, said he has been in the minority before and work will get done.
The president is Republican and the Senate is still in Republican hands, Shimkus said, so Democrats “will need to work with us, hopefully, to move legislation that is going to be acceptable to Republicans based on our own ideology.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville said he was eager to return to Washington, D.C.
“I'm very confident going back to Washington that we can work in a bipartisan way to actually get a lot of things done,” said Davis. “I'm going to continue to do what I have done over the past 5½ years to put good ideas into law.”
LaHood said he wasn't surprised by Republicans losing seats in the House because in every midterm election since World War II, the party of the president loses seats.
“That's part of the checks and balances we have in our democracy,” he said.
“Clearly there was a realignment,” with independents, young people and women in suburbs supporting more Democratic candidates, he said. But LaHood added: “There was not a blue wave. I would say there was a blue tornado” in some areas.
Kinzinger thinks voters were sending a message about the tone in politics.
“I think they're saying they're sick of the tone and they want government to function,” he said.
As an example of the wrong tone, Kinzinger pointed to Trump's clashes with the news media.
If the president or anyone else perceives bias in news coverage, they should call it out, said Kinzinger. “What I don't like is calling the media the enemy of the state, the enemy of the people,” he said.
Republicans will retain control of both houses of Congress until newly elected representatives take their seats in January. However, the congressmen interviewed Wednesday did not anticipate any move during the lame-duck session to push through thoroughly partisan bills.
Instead, said Kinzinger, it will be “a lot of housekeeping,” with agriculture and spending getting priority.
LaHood said, “The first thing we have to do is pass a farm bill. … That's top of the list for me.” The farm bill expired Sept. 30.
Both LaHood and Shimkus think immigration reform is another area where bipartisan agreement can be found, especially in regards to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain people who came to the United States illegally as children to defer action on their immigration status.
Kinzinger said both parties are interested in “fixing health care” but he admits, “I'm a little less hopeful about that. … We have to put our pitchforks down and fix it.”
Being in the minority will be new to Kinzinger, who was elected to the House in 2010, the year Republicans took control.
“It's really going to rest on the Democrats,” he said. “Are they going to work with us on some things or not?”
Kinzinger said his approach is to "be passionate without anger and communicate what I think is best for our country."
LaHood, whose party was in the minority when he served in the Illinois Senate, said, “The way I look at it, politics ended yesterday. Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and work together.”
Jarad Jarmon and Ryan Voyles contributed to this report.