Illinois may lose some clout in the U.S. House as the new session of congress starts. This year Illinois has 18 representatives, the smallest Illinois delegation in the last hundred years, thanks to new Census numbers.
With Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat up for grabs, Illinois also has the largest percentage of freshmen in the last 40 years, about one third.
But newly elected U.S. Representative Brad Schneider isn’t worried.
“It’s an impressive group of people,” he said. “I think you are going to see the full caucus very well representing the state of Illinois.”
But seniority can mean clout. Especially when it comes to committee appointments.
U.S. Representative Bill Foster knows that first hand. He is newly elected, but has served previously in the house.
“There was a large amount of concern in the Illinois delegation that we were going to lose the seat on appropriations that Jesse Jackson Jr. had occupied," Foster said.
Foster says Illinois lawmakers are hoping to regain that appropriations seat for the state. If they don’t, it would be the first time in a century that Illinois doesn’t have a seat on that committee.
Working across the aisle
Schneider said that at freshman orientation, bipartisanship was discussed as an important value and major goal of the incoming group of representatives.
Foster said most of his colleagues viewed last session as one of the most gridlocked in history. But he’s also hopeful today marks a fresh start.
"The session of Congress always starts with warm words about bipartisan cooperation. And it doesn’t always evolve that way," Foster said. "So I am really hopeful that will be followed up by the sort of thing we saw at the very end of the previous Congress, where the fiscal cliff went through with votes on both sides of the aisle."
Foster said fixing the economy will require the most compromise. He said he personally hopes to work across the aisle to simplify the tax code, cut farm bill spending and reform mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.