The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago welcomed U.S. congressmen Rep. Mike Quigley and Rep. Peter Roskam as guest speakers at Monday’s Government Affairs Committee meeting.
Considered among colleagues a more junior congressman, Quigley is quickly making his mark in Washington D.C. He was tapped to serve on the Democratic leadership team as assistant whip after only four years in the House. Now that a budget has passed and the debt ceiling issue is resolved, Quigley is eager to get back to regular order and “get onto the other issues as to why we were elected.”
Last year, Quigley joined the appropriations committee and said this committee has opportunities to make real change, but it is “the perfect place to help you at the worst possible time.” Quigley spoke to the committee on the importance of fiscal responsibility, his long-standing commitment to Israel, and the urgency for bi-partisanship efforts in Congress.
“We want to pass legislation and need more than one reason to pass legislation other than a vote against the other party,” he said. Quigley believes that the immigration reform debate will truly push both sides of the aisle to work together to change and ultimately pass the bill.
Although new to Washington, Quigley is no newcomer to the Chicago political landscape. Prior to taking office in 2009, Quigley served as Cook County Commissioner for 11 years in the very same district he currently represents.
Roskam, current chief deputy whip serving in his fourth term in the House, opened by reminding committee members that “we are a nation of 300 million people, with over 400 representatives trying to find common ground.” He suggested Congress adapt Thomas Jefferson’s approach to working in government by articulating a large vision and recognizing incremental change as moving forward. Roskam expressed that we have become an instant gratification culture, and need to accept small steps as progress.
“We cannot tolerate avoidance behavior, as it presents fewer choices to government,” Roskam said. He illustrated the pension crisis in Illinois as a way not to do business in Washington and noted that entitlement programs, such as the public pension systems in Illinois, are at risk. “To put off a problem, such as this, is to be involved in generational theft,” he said.
Although the government is currently operating on a $3 trillion budget, two-thirds of that budget is entitlement programs. Medicare, for example, is expected to become insolvent in 13 years.
“The challenge is that we all grew up in an economy that assumes if you work hard and make good choices, you will be successful,” Roskam said. “Now, with increased debt and capital harder to form, this is no longer the case.”
Roskam suggested that everyone needs to work together to solve this crisis and we need to get over the all-or-nothing attitude. “We need to start focusing on incremental change, and over time, we will all be in a better place.”