STERLING – Congresswoman-elect Cheri Bustos said that during her short time in Washington, D.C., she has been most surprised by the willingness of members of both parties to work together.
It’s the type of cooperation that will be necessary if members of the newly elected Congress hope to accomplish some of the daunting tasks ahead.
Bustos, a former East Moline alderwoman, beat first-term Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, to win the 17th District Congressional seat on Nov. 6. Since her victory, the Democrat has been busy with orientation in Washington and getting acclimated to the way things work there.
During the past 2 weeks, she has met many of the other new members of Congress.
“Being together and seeing a terrific cross-section of people we have, I think it’s got a great feel to it,” she said. “We have a record number of women; [we have] a majority-minority ... more women, African-Americans, Latinos and Asians than ever in history.”
To follow through on a campaign promise, Bustos has been meeting and speaking with each new member. On Friday, she said she had talked personally with at least 60 of the more than 70 new members.
She also hopes they meet as a group for a retreat before being sworn in Jan. 3.
In addition, she wants to have an economic summit within the first 100 days of being in office to find the “best ideas to help stimulate the economy,” she said.
Bustos said she had talked at length with U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a Republican who represents the 18th District to the south of her district, and Republican Rodney Davis, who represents the 13th District in west-central Illinois.
Throughout Congress, Bustos said, she sees a desire to work together.
“... They are tired of the gridlock,” she said. “I don’t care what district you are from, don’t care if you are Democratic or Republican, [we’ve] heard it for more than a year now.”
After all the campaign barbs were exchanged, Bustos said her office had been in “regular communications” with Schilling’s office to ensure a smooth transition.
“We’re going to work together,” she said. “Mr. Schilling is willing to work with us, make sure it is seamless as far as people who need our help are concerned. We’ve had no problems or issues whatsoever. His job and my job now are to serve the public.
“We’re never going to lose sight of that.”
As current members of Congress deal with the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Bustos said the solution lies in a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts.
“We’re all going to have to give in a little bit on both sides,” she said.
Now that the race is over, Bustos also has lightened her reading material, she said. Before the race, she spent a lot of time reading newspaper articles and materials on issues that dealt with running for Congress. Now, she’s been able to do some leisure reading.
Bustos also plans to see the new historical film “Lincoln” on Saturday night. The holiday season will be spent at home in the Quad Cities with her three sons and two grandchildren, she said.
The first-time congresswoman said she at first didn’t know what to expect from members of both parties about their willingness to work together.
“I’ve met really smart, nice, good people out there,” she said. “I think we’ve got a tremendous freshman class. We’re going to make a tremendous difference in years to come; I look forward to working with people out here as colleagues.”