Five members of Illinois Congressional delegation spoke on Feb. 25 to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Government Affairs Committee. U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, D-5th, Brad Schneider, D-10th, Rodney Davis, R-13th, Tammy Duckworth, D-8th, and Bill Foster, D-11th, touched on a variety of issues, and expressed concern that the ongoing budget process will prevent important government business from being accomplished.
"We're not getting to all the other things we need to get to," said Quigley during the keynote address. A new member of Congressional Appropriations Committee, he said he is concerned about sequestration--automatic, comprehensive 30-percent government budget cuts that will occur at the end of the week if the President, Congress, and Senate do not reach an agreement. "No company would say, 'We're going to cut across the board.' We're pitting one group against another, and that's not the way."
"We have to prioritize," Quigley said. "I hope we come up with something in the interim."
Davis said, "It frustrates me that what we've seen is a bunch of partisan bickering on both sides." Still, he said he hopes to be part of the change, noting that he has formed relationships with members of both parties.
Schneider said, "These are issues we face as a country…We can't do everything all at once." The budget needs prioritization, he said. "We can't do everything all at once."
Duckworth said that behind the scenes, she has "seen a lot of willingness to cooperate between freshman members (of Congress)…The dialogue that comes out does not always reflect what we are trying to do." She is concerned about the effects of sequestration on the military, education and social services in particular.
Foster commented on Medicare, noting that it is an "unsustainably large part of the GDP," with people paying in roughly $140,000 in the average lifetime, but taking out nearly $400,000. He said, "You can cut the program or you can lower the cost," noting that he favors lowering costs.
Sid Mathias recognized
Wendy Abrams, Vice Chair of Government Affairs and State Chair, presented a Tzedakah box to Mathias for his 13 years of "distinguished service to the State of Illinois, your district, and to the Jewish community, here and overseas."
"You have been an integral partner in Springfield, helping to pass important legislation that resulted in the divestment of State pension funds of more than $130 million from Iran-linked companies," Abrams said.
Mathias and his wife, Rita, have hosted annual JUF Missions to Springfield. He spoke at the Statewide Yam Hashoah service several years ago, and has served on the JUF Board of Directors.
"Please accept this as a token of our appreciation for all that you do and will continue to do for our community. We look forward to you joining us on our Springfield Mission on April 17 and 18," Abrams said.
"It's always been an honor and a privilege for me to serve in the General Assembly…and to serve this community," Mathias said. "Thank you very much for this honor. Rita and I will certainly remain part of this Jewish community and JUF," he said.