STERLING – U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos has been in office a little more than a week, but says she already is on the path to accomplish some of her goals.
The East Moline Democrat unseated former U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, in the 17th District, which includes all of Whiteside County. She was sworn in Jan. 3.
One of the highlights of the ceremony was posing for a photo with all the congresswomen on the steps of the Capitol, she said.
“It’s great to be a part of history. If I’m to express my emotion, I’m proud to be here, honored to be able to serve the people of our region.”
Bustos was appointed to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Among the projects she said she will focus on is the expansion of U.S. Route 30.
Last year, three congressmen sent a letter to the new district engineer at the regional state Department of Transportation office in Dixon, urging the widening of the busy road from Rock Falls to Fulton.
Asked her thoughts on the project, Bustos said she still needs to collect more information. Her goal, she said, is to make sure she is “listening to the people of the Whiteside County region who have been closely aligned with the project.”
The first meeting of the Transportation Committee will be later this month.
Serving on the committee is important for many reasons. Infrastructure projects also result in economic development and help the economic strength of the region, she said.
“When you look at infrastructure, it’s a way to put people to work,” she said. “Building a bridge, building a highway, [provides] jobs that are local.”
Bustos said she will work to build relationships within the entire region to get an understanding of important projects in all 14 counties she serves.
She was also appointed to the House Committee on Agriculture.
In a recent news release, Bustos said she will “advocate for rural development by fighting for value-added agricultural products and the biotech industry, and work to keep the agricultural industry healthy and strong in the coming years.”
With a battle on the debt ceiling looming, Bustos said she wants to avoid what happened with the so-called fiscal cliff vote. Contentious negotiations pushed a final agreement to the last minute to avert tax hikes and program cuts.
“It’s no way to govern,” she said. “We can’t keep getting down to the wire on these solutions. We have to get longer-term solutions.”
Bustos also said the country cannot keep spending more than it has coming in.
“I hope we’ll be in a position to look at longer-term solutions, where we make smart decisions about budgeting,” she said. “What programs are we funding that don’t make sense?”
During her campaign, Bustos said she would work to organize a bipartisan summit for freshman members of Congress. Tuesday, she said she spent the weekend with 50 freshmen members of Congress, and they had “substantive conversations about policy.”
“We’re all coming in at the same time, all optimistic that we can try to work together, find areas where we can move [the] country forward.”
Bustos said she has been spending time building relationships “on both sides of the aisle.”
“That is a very high priority for me personally,” she said. “It’s critical that Democrats and Republicans are able to work together to do the nation’s work.”