2 surviving GOP freshmen congressmen face sophomore challenges

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 9:28 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

(MCT) — Rep. Adam Kinzinger dubbed the five GOP freshmen elected in 2010 the "Boys from Illinois."

Only two won re-election: Kinzinger, 34, from Channahon, and Rep. Randy Hultgren, 46, from west suburban Winfield.

Sophomores now, they said in interviews that their priorities included orienting themselves to redrawn congressional districts and new committee responsibilities.

Both were frustrated during their first term by the ironclad partisanship they witnessed and the inability to move major legislation. "We all get along as people," Kinzinger said, "but when it comes to negotiating and getting things done, we've been unable to do it."

Hultgren was disappointed by "how political everything was" and singled out the failure to pass a farm bill and a longer-term transportation bill.

He'd like to resume the monthly bipartisan lunches for Illinois' senators and representatives, both Democrats and Republicans. The meals were popular in 2011, but he could recall only one in 2012.

Kinzinger moves from the 11th to the 16th Congressional District, which takes in parts of Rockford and stretches from the Wisconsin line through north-central Illinois, turning east to the Indiana border. Already he's closed his Joliet office and opened one in Ottawa.

A pilot, Kinzinger was promoted last summer to major in the Air National Guard His engagement in December 2011 to Air Force pilot Riki Meyers was called off a few months ago by mutual agreement, he said.

Hultgren holds on to the 14th Congressional District, which takes in parts of Lake, McHenry, Kane, Kendall, DuPage, DeKalb and Will counties. The turf is more suburban — and less urban and rural — than before. He's keeping an office in Geneva, closing the ones he had in Dixon and Geneseo, and opening another one in McHenry or Lake counties.

Hultgren will join the Financial Services Committee, a top panel where one focus will be the rule-making for the Dodd-Frank Act, the regulatory overhaul enacted in 2010 to help repair the financial system.

A low point for Hultgren was his failure to hike federal funding for Fermilab, which is near his home. He's not giving up the fight and will co-chair a new entity, the House Science & National Labs Caucus, to try to reap federal dollars for research institutions.

He counts as a victory a measure he introduced to ease the path for veterans with driving experience in the military to qualify for a commercial driver's license.

Kinzinger, who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, cites as a win a House measure requiring the president to detail a strategy to bolster the manufacturing sector, though the bill stalled in the Senate.

Talking about the incoming freshmen, Hultgren advised they should not become overwhelmed, should surround themselves with good staffs and do their work in Washington, but "never lose sight of the people who elected you."

Kinzinger sounded a simple precept: Always do the right thing. "There's 700,000 people who put their trust in you to take their voice to Washington," he said. "That's the most amazing and humbling part."

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