I am very excited to welcome a diverse group of newly-elected Illinois members of Congress to our nation’s capital in the New Year.
I am confident that each will bring new insight into their districts and a willingness to work across the aisle to create jobs and continue to grow our economy.
I look forward to working with each member on important Illinois issues – from protecting Lake Michigan and increasing funding for our national labs to improving veterans services and expanding Amtrak service.
To my new colleagues Cheri Bustos, Rodney Davis, Tammy Duckworth, William Enyart, Bill Foster and Brad Schneider: welcome to Washington!
Fighting for the Middle Class
We are now 19 days from going over the fiscal cliff. There is one easy step Congress could take to eliminate much of the uncertainty: the House of Representatives could call the Senate’s Middle Class Tax Cut Act tax bill for a vote. That bill would prevent taxes from going up on 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses. The middle class would be protected and the richest 2% of Americans would pay a little bit more. If the House fails to pass this bill, it would cause a tax increase of $2,200 for the average family next year.
Unfortunately, in the four months since the Senate passed the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, the House has refused to even bring it up for debate. I will continue to fight for these tax cuts because I know how important that $2,200 can be—it can mean an extra month of groceries or not having to choose between putting gas in the car and making a mortgage payment.
Celebrating the Opening of Wacker Drive
Anyone who has ever been to Chicago – and anyone who has ever seen the Dark Knight or the Blues Brothers – will recognize Wacker Drive.
Fourteen years ago, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley came to me and said: we needed to fund a complete rebuilding of Wacker Drive. He told me this was his number one federal funding priority, and I pledged my support to the project. I knew then how important Wacker Drive is as an economic asset that would bring people and businesses to Chicago.
So I worked with the Illinois delegation from 1998 to 2006 to secure over $81 million dollars for this important project. The biggest chunk of funding came from the transportation bill we passed in 2005 called SAFETEA-LU. That bill brought more federal funding to Illinois than any other transportation bill in history, including a $25 million earmark for the Wacker Drive project.
The new Wacker Drive will improve traffic and pedestrian safety—saving time on the road and making it safer to walk in beautiful downtown Chicago. Just as importantly, the Illinois Department of Transportation estimates the rebuilding of Wacker Drive has helped create or save 3,100 jobs—good paying jobs for hard working Chicagoans to help raise their families.
Two weeks ago, the rebuilt Wacker Drive was finally opened to traffic. I am looking forward to many opportunities in the future to travel that historic roadway.
Protecting Illinois Businesses and Agriculture from the Effects of Drought
This has been a difficult year for our farmers. After a summer of high heat and little rain, farming communities near the Mississippi River must now contend with the possibility that low water levels will force barge traffic on the river to come to a halt.
Two weeks ago, I called a meeting with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, to discuss the increasingly low water level of the Mississippi River and to make certain we are doing all we can to keep traffic on the river moving safely for as long as possible.
The first step is to fast-track removal of the rocks that are a barrier to traffic on the river. The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to move on an expedited basis to remove those outcroppings of rock and to open that navigational channel.
To further respond to this challenge, a bipartisan group of Senators requested that the Army Corps provide a report on the impact that releasing water would have on both the Missouri River and the Mississippi. The Army Corps responded last week, and believes they can maintain navigation on the Mississippi through means other than the release of water from the Missouri River. We must do everything we can to reduce the likelihood of serious disruption to traffic along the river, and I hope they are right. The next step is for the Corps to brief industry leaders and local stakeholders, which is why I will also be convening a meeting with those directly impacted by this challenge, including state and local officials and representatives from industries such as agriculture and shipping.
Severe weather is becoming more frequent and more devastating to people’s lives and our economy. Last year, I held a hearing to examine the federal government’s preparedness for the economic impact of weather events – like drought and hurricanes – which are growing in frequency and severity, and we need to continue to take a hard look at how we plan for these disasters.
Stay informed on what I am doing for Illinois and what is happening in Congress by visiting my website. If you have a question, a comment, or are in need of assistance, please contact my office at one of the phone numbers below or send"me an email.
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Washington, DC: (202) 224-2152
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Sent from the office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin