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Freshman lawmaker Nikki Budzinski begins work representing Illinois’ 13th Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski of Springfield (D-13).

Nikki Budzinski is starting her first term in Congress as a member of the minority party. But, despite that, and despite qualms about expected changes to House rules, the Springfield Democrat says she still hopes to work with Republicans on legislation that helps working people.

Budzinski represents Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, which includes Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Springfield and a piece of the Metro East St. Louis suburbs. It is a Democratic-friendly district by design. But Budzinski is joining a House of Representatives where Republicans hold a slim majority

“I do very much believe that there are still places where we can find common ground across, (the) party aisle, no matter who’s in the minority or who’s in the majority,” said Budzinski. “And I’m going to seeking out those opportunities that are going to help working people in the district.”

Budzinski’s comments came between the 12th and 13th of what would become 15 votes to choose a House Speaker. House members were sworn in late Friday night after electing California Republican Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy’s election as Speaker came only after he granted several concessions to a group of about 20 Republican holdouts, including Illinois Representative Mary Miller (R-15). Budzinski says she is concerned about the ability of the House of Representatives to pass legislation under the rules changes.

“Are we going to be able to get a farm bill?” said Budzinski. “Are we going to be to tackle the debt ceiling? These are really important issues to face our country, and impact working people throughout the 13th district. These rules changes are very concerning.”

One of those changes is a possible end to proxy voting, which McCarthy has long opposed. The practice, which started in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, allows an absent House member to delegate voting power to another.

“Proxy voting during COVID allowed for expert witness to participate in committee hearings, ensure that there was full participation in important votes,” said Budzinski. “We want to make sure that people and representatives like myself will have the information we need to make informed decisions, by making sure these rules don’t hamstring that process.”

Despite the four-day delay in choosing a Speaker and swearing in House members, Budzinski says she has assembled a congressional office staff, opened a district office in Springfield, and plans to open others in the new 13th District. She says she is also working with her predecessor, former Congressman Rodney Davis, in taking over ongoing cases assisting constituents in the district.

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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