By Bob Bong
As the 116th Congress gets underway in Washington, D.C., Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) said he will push for an infrastructure bill that would impact the southwest suburbs and Chicago’s Southwest Side.
“The biggest thing I will be doing is pushing for an infrastructure bill to get money to do something about grade separations in our area,” he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
One crossing he has been pushing for years for federal funds to improve is near 65th Street and Harlem Avenue in Bedford Park, which is notorious for causing massive traffic tie-ups.
He believes he has the support of President Donald Trump toward that end.
“(President) Trump continues to talk about infrastructure. I think he means it. I hope he will mention it in the State of the Union address on Jan. 29,” Lipinski said.
Thanks to the Democratic takeover of the House, Lipinski is hopeful he will be named chairman of the Transportation Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.
“I hope to use the chairmanship of that subcommittee to push the infrastructure bill,” he said.
He said he would know in about two weeks about the chairmanship.
Another committee he would like to be named to is the newly created Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. It was approved 418-12 by the House.
“This would be a short-term committee to look at ways to modernize how the House works,” he said.
A former American Government professor, Lipinski said the way Congress operates today is nowhere near what our framers envisioned.
“When I taught American Government, I was always pointing out that the Constitution established Congress in Article I, before the executive and judicial branches, because the drafters understood the critical importance of Congress leading in our representative democracy.
“Congressional dysfunction increasingly turns more power over to the president and to the courts, which takes power away from the people. Congress needs reform so it can function as it was intended. I thank my friend and colleague Rep. Darrin LaHood for leading this charge with me to return power to the American people and look forward to helping the committee meet its goals.”
Creation of the committee was one of the rules changes Lipinski sought as part of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which had threatened to oppose Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker unless she agreed to some new rules.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we got enough to vote for Nancy for Speaker,” he said.
“The change with the most impact from my perspective is one that gives any amendment priority on the House floor as long as it has 20 Republican and 20 Democratic sponsors.
“Another rules change says any bill with 290 co-sponsors will be guaranteed to be brought to the floor for a vote.
“Really, for the first time in 40 years, there is a move away from power for the speaker. The new rule will empower individual congressmen.”
Another project Lipinski will be pushing is more commuter trains for the Metra Heritage Corridor Line, which runs through Willow Springs and Summit.
“I was able to get a fourth outbound train added,” he said. “I’ll keep working with the CN railroad on adding commuter service.”
He hopes cooler heads will prevail and end the government shutdown soon.
“I just hope congressional leaders and the president will get serious about solving the shutdown,” he said. “Both sides seem to be dug in.”
He also lamented that government shutdowns are increasing.
“We have become all too used to government shutdowns. This has happened so many times in the last six to eight years.”
As for immigration reform, which is part of the cause behind the shutdown, Lipinski does not believe anything is going to happen in the next two years.
“I had thought it might, but I don’t think so now. (The president) does not seem interested in compromise.”
He believes a possible solution would be more money for border security in exchange for giving those in the Dreamers category options to stay.
“Border security is important, but it would be best for our country if the Dreamers are given a path to citizenship. This is another area that the Problem Solvers Caucus has been working on.”