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Column

Lawmakers sound off on shutdown

Bustos recruiting for 2020 races

Bernard Schoenburg
Bernard Schoenburg

There's no love of the idea of a government shutdown among central Illinois members of Congress.

In a contentious meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump sparred with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer of the Senate and Nancy Pelosi of the House over budget issues, including the president's request for significant funding for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has been requesting $5 billion for the wall, while legislation being pushed by Schumer and Pelosi would include $1.3 billion for fencing and other security measures at the border

If no budget agreement is reached, a partial government shutdown could hit on Dec. 21. Departments affected without a deal would be Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks – the agency that runs the Abraham Lincoln home area in Springfield.

"I believe properly securing our southern border in order to deter criminals and illegal drugs from entering the country is a bipartisan issue," U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, said in a statement, "and I appreciate the president's advocacy and hard work on this topic. However, shutting down the federal government should be a last resort because it could cause real consequences to our economy."

LaHood's 18th Congressional District includes part of Springfield, with the rest of the city in the 13th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.

"Congressman Davis supports funding for border security, but has never supported shutting down the government," said Ashley Phelps, spokeswoman for Davis. "Republicans put forth a compromise bill, which Davis voted for in July, to provide certainty for DACA (Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals) recipients and immediate funding for border security, but zero Democrats and not enough Republicans voted for it. Leaders of both parties are going to have to figure out a way to work together."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who lives in Springfield and has a congressional office in the Lincoln Home area, discussed the border wall issue in a campaign email.

"This isn't governing – this is a temper tantrum," Durbin said. "The president has failed to earn support for a border wall in Congress, so now he's resorting to threats of a government shutdown. ... Democrats want to secure our border, but we won't support the Trump administration's radical anti-immigrant policies, like building a wall or separating children from their parents. We are willing to work across the aisle on comprehensive immigration reform, but no amount of bullying or threats from President Trump will cause us to support his anti-immigrant agenda. The American people don't support President Trump's border wall."

The government announced the family separations at the border – where children were taken from parents – on May 7. But, as reported in the Washington Post, an international outcry prompted the president to end the practice on June 20.

Durbin also discussed the potential shutdown on MSNBC on Wednesday. He said that if a shutdown happens, "essential personnel, such as those involved in security at airports, are expected to show up for work without pay. ... If the interest of the United States is in security at the border, security at our airports, why would we compromise or even slow down the effort that's underway – and that's what we face with a government shutdown."

On it goes

It seems like there is a perpetual campaign, so perhaps it is no surprise that before members of Congress elected in November begin new terms in January, there's already some talk about 2020 races.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, a Springfield native elected by colleagues to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the next 2 years, told Talking Points Memo that a couple of Democrats who came close to winning House seats in 2018 should run in 2020. One seat was in Minnesota, were Democrat Dan Feehan lost a close race to Rep.-elect Jim Hagedorn. But the other was in Illinois 13, where Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield got 49.6 percent of the vote, losing to Davis, who had 50.4 percent.

"They'll be great candidates, and they'll just continue to grow," Bustos was quoted as saying.

Asked about this Wednesday, Londrigan said she's not made any decisions about 2020.

"It was great to see our race recognized," she said. "So many people put in so much work and ... it's an important race." She also said she is "really proud of Democrats for recognizing the value of Cheri Bustos and what she brings to leadership."

Bustos said in her interview that her late father – Gene Callahan – and Londrigan's father, Lenny Dirksen, who died after the November election, were "very close friends."

Thoughtful, capable, considerate

Condolences to friends and family of former state Sen. Tom Johnson, R-West Chicago, who died Dec. 3, after a 4-month battle with cancer. He was 73.

He was elected to the Illinois House in 1992, and served a decade there. He was also appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate, and served there from 2011-2013.

He was a Vietnam veteran and a lawyer who before co-founding his own firm was chief of the white collar crime division in the DuPage County state's attorney's office.

He was on the advisory board of Illinois Citizens for Life, and was active in criminal justice reform, including as a vocal advocate of the state's move to abolish the death penalty. He was an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, and served 14 years on the Prisoner Review Board.

He and his wife, Ginger, also welcomed refugees to their home from Ukraine, Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, often for years at a time.

Craig Findley of Jacksonville chairs the Prisoner Review Board.

"Tom was an extraordinarily thoughtful and capable and considerate board member," Findley said, adding that Johnson's Vietnam experience gave him "particular empathy" for veterans who ended up in the prison system and suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

"He had a very deep religious faith, and that certainly showed itself as he dealt with some of the more difficult cases," Findley added.

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