By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
One of the newest members of Congress sees an opportunity for federal lawmakers to work together on important issues.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, has been in office about 90 days and still feels humbled when he walks onto the House floor. But Davis worked for 16 years in the office of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and he remembers a time when Congress managed to set politics aside and do the work of the nation.
Davis was the keynote speaker at state Rep. Jil Tracy's annual Community Leaders Breakfast on Friday at the Ambiance.
"I think with the rank-and-file (congressional) membership, there's an opportunity to work together," Davis said.
He saw a bitterly divided Congress do that when the 1997 Balanced Budget Act was passed. Davis said that was accomplished at a time when President Bill Clinton and Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich were enemies.
Davis has seen that same kind of ill will between President Barack Obama and top Republicans, but there have been too few breakthrough agreements on important matters.
"What we've seen over the last four years is nothing but partisan roll calls and polarization," he said.
As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Davis wants to see a new farm bill and a long-term transportation infrastructure plan. He said those issues are so important that they should not be derailed by gamesmanship and political considerations.
Tracy said Davis knows Central Illinois from his years working for Shimkus. His congressional district stretches from Calhoun County to near Bloomington, but many of the issues in those counties also are issues in the Quincy area.
Davis returned the compliment and said he's optimistic "that leaders like Jil" can heal the state.
"Frankly, Illinois is a disaster," he said.
Davis blamed the Democrats who hold the governor's office and majority status in the Illinois House and Senate for "bringing our state to the brink of bankruptcy."
Tracy said the Illinois House has passed some improvements to the pension program in recent days. She also pledged to keep working to fix state spending and other problems that have led to the worst pension deficit in the nation and $9 billion in overdue bills.
"That's why we put lemons on the tables. We're going to make lemonade," Tracy said.