MONTICELLO — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said that last week's congressional agreement over a $1.1 trillion federal spending plan could be a good sign. The omnibus spending bill was approved by both houses and signed by President Barack Obama.
"This is the first time in the entire Obama administration that we have governed the financial future of our country by our constitutional appropriations process, rather than by continuing resolutions. What that does is it allows individual members of Congress like me to have a say if it goes further and we begin to split it into more manageable appropriations that used to be the process that worked when Washington wasn't broken," Davis said in between stops in Monticello on Wednesday.
He spoke briefly at a Rotary Club meeting and then met with individual citizens at the city's municipal building.
Davis also said he likely would vote for a bill pushed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that would ban taxpayer funding of abortions, including those under President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Cantor predicted Wednesday that the Republican-controlled chamber would approve a proposal stopping taxpayer funding for the procedure next week.
"I'm not aware of Leader Cantor's call for this but when I get back to Washington I'll have a chance to take a look at it," Davis said. "I'm pro-life and I have a 100 percent pro-life voting record and I'm very proud of my voting record and I'm sure it will continue."
Davis said the approval of the omnibus spending measure was "a great first step in showing the American people that the government shutdown was an educational process for both sides, that we don't need to get to the end of the fiscal year and hope for a continuing resolution. We ought to be able to come together like we did, pass a bill that wasn't perfect by any means but it's a bill that saved taxpayers more than $25 billion and it spends at less than fiscal year 2009 levels."
He called it "a great vote," and said he didn't think the agreement, which could lead to 12 votes on separate appropriations bills, would mean more congressional gridlock.
"This is what we need more of. We need more debate on the fiscal matters of this country. I'm not concerned about amendments. That's why we get sent to Washington — to make decisions and vote up or down and then go back to our constituents to explain why it was the best decision at the time," he said.
Davis also said he was hopeful that Congress would approve an unemployment benefit extension bill — but with reforms.
"I've always said I'd be happy to vote for a short-term extension of the emergency unemployment benefits but it has to include some reforms. And it has to be paid for," he said. "I don't think it's too much to ask that we reform a system that sometimes disincentivizes families to choose between getting the unemployment benefits they deserve and going back and getting training for jobs that are available."
Davis said his Opportunity KNOCKS Act, which he introduced last April but has just six cosponsors and has not had a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, would ensure that unemployed persons in an authorized job training program or working toward a degree would remain eligible for unemployment compensation.
"When people are unemployed I want them to have the flexibility to go get training for jobs that are available," he said.
Davis also said he is optimistic that an agreement on a new farm bill will be reached next week. Davis is a member of the House-Senate conference committee on the legislation.
"If something hasn't imploded, by next week we'll be on our way. I got a call that said there may be a conference committee meeting Monday to go over the farm bill," he said. "When you get calls like that, it's usually a good sign that progress has been made and agreements have been reached."