Illinois congressmen react to Obama's jobs speech

September 9, 2011

by Tony Arnold and Alex Keefe

(AP/Kevin Lamarque)

Parts of President Barack Obama's proposed $450 billion jobs plan are getting bipartisan support from the Illinois congressional delegation. But several lawmakers are expressing concern over the details of the plan and how it will be funded.

Here's what congressmen from around the Chicago region are saying about the proposal Friday morning:

Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren, from the far west suburbs, said he likes the president's plans to encourage small business growth and hire more veterans. But he said he does not like Mr. Obama's plan to pay for the measure.

"You know, spend this now, and then we'll figure out over the next ten years, you know, where we could make cuts to pay for it. I think people are tired of that. They've seen through that game of 'Trust us - we're gonna pay it now, and then we'll find it somewhere else, you know, 10 years down the line.'"

Representative Danny Davis, D-Chicago, said he doesn't see much room for debate in the proposal. He said the speech was designed to bring politicians together, not draw partisan lines in the sand.

"When you consider that it focuses around rebuilding our infrastructure - roads and bridges and highways, things you can't really do without - it's pretty often difficult to argue about that."

Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who represents parts of the far southwest suburbs, said he agrees with Mr. Obama's plan to reduce taxes, but he, too, is skeptical about how the president wants to pay for it.

"The president made a mistake in saying, you know, for forty minutes, "This is paid for, let me tell you how." And then when he finally reveals it, it's just by adding $400 billion on to the target of the super committee - so in essence, spending the money up front, with the promise of cuts later."

Representative Dan Lipinski, a Democrat representing the south and southwest suburbs, said he thinks the president should have focused on jobs earlier. He's most interested in seeing how much money the president wants to devote to transportation infrastructure.

"I think that the president took his eye off the ball on jobs, but now we look forward and hopefully we can  come together and get something done."

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said the president's call for free trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and South Korea would help some major Illinois businesses, such as Boeing and Caterpillar. But he said he's been told the bill is at least a week away from being ready.

"If I had counseled the president, I would've said that, 'If you're going to do a big, high-profile speech before a joint session of Congress, the bill should be on the podium.'"

Meanwhile, Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in his chamber, said the plan should stimulate economic growth without adding to the country's deficit. But Durbin said he doesn't like how Republicans acted cool to the president's $450 billion proposal.

"If (Republicans) don't believe that we need to be serious, focused and make a substantial investment in America, then this economy is not going to get back on its feet."