DeKALB – Washington is familiar territory for U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but the territory back home is more foreign.
Kinzinger, a Manteno Republican who was sworn into office as the representative for the 16th Congressional District this week, is in his second term as a congressman but his first in the new district, which includes DeKalb County. County voters did not give Kinzinger an early gesture of confidence as Democrat Wanda Rohl received more support at the polls, but Kinzinger said he was determined to gain his new constituents’ trust.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Kinzinger said of taking over from his predecessor Don Manzullo. “My door is always open and my staff and I are here to ensure that constituents never walk away feeling that they weren’t able to share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs with me.”
Kinzinger represented the 11th Congressional District in his first term. He said he expects the next two years to pose more challenges than his first two in Washington, but hopes lawmakers can show bipartisanship in the future to address major issues.
Kinzinger said his work across the aisle was a point of pride and pointed to his recent vote to support the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff as an example. The agreement, which prevented a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts, was not perfect, he said, but it was the best deal at the time.
“I didn’t feel that this was a phenomenally negotiated package, but I feared the economy would have spun into recession,” he said. “Voting ‘yes’ on this was the tough vote. I don’t think people sent me out here to make the easy vote.”
DeKalb County’s other congressman, 14th District Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, was one of the Republicans who disagreed with Kinzinger and voted against the plan, which includes a tax increase on households with annual incomes of $450,000 or more. Hultgren said his “no” vote was a tough decision, as he did like parts of the package such as making some lower tax rates permanent, but it did not do enough to address overspending.
“It wasn’t an easy vote ... but I hope we learned from it,” Hultgren said of the contentious negotiations. “It just doesn’t work to do these backroom negotiations. My hope is we will see change and have a more open process,”
Kinzinger said the only way to bring more harmony to Congress is for President Barack Obama to lead and bring people together. He said Obama has failed to act as a strong leader and was more worried about campaigning, but he is hoping to see a change in the president this term.
Although Kinzinger and Hultgren are hoping for less partisan politics, lines already have been drawn for the next fiscal showdown, which is expected to be a decision on the debt ceiling in early March. Kinzinger said he would not support raising the debt ceiling unless there were significant spending cuts, mentioning he would like to see a dollar cut for every dollar the ceiling is raised.
“In the coming months, the Senate and White House must work with the House to tackle serious fiscal reforms including the sequester and the debt ceiling,” he said. “The American people chose a divided government in Washington and they’re counting on us to work together.”