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November 08, 2018 06:00 AM UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO
Illinois Dem congressmen eyeing bigger jobs after midterms
Now back in the majority, local representatives are in a position to chair key subcommittees and more in a Democratic-run House.

On Politics

Chicago congressman Mike Quigley

The Illinois congressional delegation looks like it’s going to regain some of the clout it lost when President Barack Obama left office and Republicans took control of both houses of Congress.

With Democrats back in the House majority, several veteran congressmen here appear poised to grab a cardinalship (more in that in a minute) and move into majority leadership position or serve as chairman of a committee or subcommittee.

The only Republican left from the Chicago area, Channahon’s Adam Kinzinger, will at best be a minority spokesman on a subcommittee.

Possibly best positioned to move up is Chicago Democrat Mike Quigley, who’s a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Appropriations has 13 subcommittees, and their chairs are known as cardinals, because they’re at the center of Washington wheeling and dealing and in a position to trade favors.

Quigley is now the ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on Financial Services, which sets spending levels for the courts, the Internal Revenue Service and election security—the latter a particular interest of Quigley’s. But if one other member steps aside for another gig, Quigley probably will go for the subcommittee for transportation and urban development, a nice slot for a Chicago rep.

Quigley also serves on the Intelligence Committee. But the ranking Democrat there, California’s Adam Schiff, has given no indication he’d like to step aside amid continuing probes into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Deerfield Democrat Brad Schneider is eyeing the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, which will lack an Illinois presence because of the defeat of Wheaton Republican Peter Roskam in this week’s election.

Schneider says he especially wants to work on stabilizing the health care insurance market, which falls under the panel’s purview. Whether he gets the slot may depend on who he ends up backing for speaker: Nancy Pelosi or one of several others who have talked about opposing her. Schneider says he’s not now committed to anyone.

Schaumburg’s Raja Krishnamoorthi now is the ranking member of the Health Care Subcommittee and in a position to become its chairman. But its parent, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, may be reorganized in an effort to make it more effective.
Under current management, “I think of it as the lack of oversight committee,” Krishnamoorthi puts it. “We need to get into gear and do the job,” probing the conduct of officials such as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who has been accused of personally profiting from his official actions.

More likely to get a subcommittee chairmanship is Chicago’s Dan Lipinski, now the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, and on the Subcommittee on Research & Technology of the Science Committee The first slot would give Lipinski a position to boost funding for the Create freight-rail decongestion plan here. The science job would give him heavy influence over the budgets of the Chicago area’s Argonne and Fermi National Laboratories.

Lipinski has voted against Pelosi in the past. This time, he says, “Let’s see how things develop.”

Potentially the most influential House member is Evanston’s Jan Schakowsky, a member of Pelosi’s inner circle.

She now serves as chief deputy whip and a member of the Democratic Steering Committee, which gives her influence on all sorts of things, and would like to keep those positions. Schakowsky told me Pelosi will have the votes to win as House speaker, and that Schakowsky may seek a chairmanship, perhaps that of the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, on which she is the ranking member.

Matteson Democrat Robin Kelly is the ranking member of the IT subcommittee of the government oversight panel. She said she could have that subcommittee’s chairmanship, but would prefer to move to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which deals with many consumer protection issues. She said she also feels that given the changes, she’ll have a better shot at passing gun-safety legislation.

Newcomer Sean Casten, who unseated Roskam, probably can’t count on too much as an incoming freshman, but House leadership may try to improve his re-election prospects by giving him a good gig.

Casten said he’d like to focus on energy efficiency and restoring what Republicans removed from Obamacare. He says he won’t decide who to support for speaker until he finds out who’s running.


The office of Rep. Danny Davis reports that he now is ranking member of the Ways & Means Committee’s human resources subcommittee, which deals with public assistance, food stamps, unemployment aid and other items that impact lots of Chicagoans. Davis would appear to be in line to take over as that panel’s chairman.