Tom Kacich: Veteran congressman on a legislative roll

Tom Kacich: Veteran congressman on a legislative roll

After more than 20 years in Congress, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus said that the promise of major legislative successes this year have him fired up to run again in 2018.

Three major pieces of legislation the Collinsville Republican is sponsoring in the House have a chance to pass on their own or be incorporated into a mammoth infrastructure bill.

The biggest would resume work at Nevada's Yucca Mountain as the permanent storage site for spent fuel from the nuclear power plants.

Another would reauthorize the "brownfields" program that allocates federal grants for the cleanup of contaminated sites.

The third would reauthorize the federal drinking-water program under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

"I've just had a pretty good legislative year. We've got our stuff ready to move," he said. "Now we've just got to get them to the floor, and we'll see how the magic works.

"I've got three bills that could pass and get signed into law separately, I believe. They're bipartisan, or they could be lumped together into a big bill like the infrastructure bill."

Shimkus, whose district includes all of Vermilion County, parts of Champaign and Ford counties and much of the southern third of Illinois, at one time pledged to limit his time in Congress to six terms.

Now he contends the time he has spent in Washington and the relationships he has developed help him get things done.

"People really don't believe that we like each other as much as we do or respect our colleagues as much as we do. We're friends. We talk. We work together," the 59-year-old Shimkus said. "I think that most of us, 95 percent of us, respect the individual representative who has been chosen by their constituents to go to D.C.

"And as much as they look at us when they think we say crazy things, or we look at them as they say crazy things, they're empowered by the people who sent them there, and we respect that."

Some days are tiring, he said, "but I think you can tell in my voice that I'm still pretty enthusiastic. It's really fun to be in the legislative process where you're a doer.

"And these bills, I think two of the three, I don't think there's any way people thought we'd get a bipartisan agreement. But it's relationships, it's trust, it's giving a little bit. So these bills, which could have been very contentious, we're doing our best to get them on the suspension calendar which means they're agreed on beforehand with limited debate, no amendment offered and you've got to pass them by a two-thirds majority."

The nuclear waste repository bill is something the nuclear power industry has wanted for decades. It had been blocked by Harry Reid of Nevada, who at one time was the Senate majority leader.

"When I was fighting with Harry Reid, I just pledged to myself that I was going to outlast him. I thought to myself, the guy is 20 years older than me, I'll just outlast him," Shimkus said. "He's retired, and now the door is open to get this done.

"I can't leave now. I've got to get these things done."

Shimkus said his goals have changed since he was first elected in 1996.

"When you're younger, you think you can change the world and reduce the debt and deficit, and you make proclamations of how you can personally change things. And when you've been around for a while, you realize it takes more than you to do it. And then you gravitate toward what you can do," he said.

"I think I've found a niche of things I can do that will be good policy for the country, and by golly, I think we're going to get them done."

Harold makes it official

Urbana attorney Erika Harold on Monday filed a statement of organization with the Illinois State Board of Elections, making it official that she is a Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general.

She reported having $100 in her campaign fund.

Rebecca Wade, who like Harold is an attorney at the Meyer Capel firm in Champaign, is listed as chairman of Harold's campaign fund. Paul Kilgore of Atlanta, who owns a firm that handles fundraising compliance for a number of U.S. Senate and House members, is the treasurer.

Coming in at No. 5

University of Illinois Professor Jonathan Ebel says he doesn't think he's late to the party, being the fifth Democrat to file in the 13th Congressional District.

"It doesn't feel that especially late to me," the Urbana resident said. "I'm thinking in terms of the community here in Champaign-Urbana where a large percentage of the community, the people who matter deeply to me, are just not home right now. So getting them home and getting them moved in and then making the announcement seemed like the right way to progress."

And just because he's announcing now doesn't mean he wasn't working earlier, he said.

"We have been working since the early summer to get the campaign together and to meet people and introduce myself around the district," said Ebel, noting he had met with Democratic groups in Springfield, Decatur, Clinton and Champaign-Urbana.

Incidentally, Ebel is the third Champaign County Democrat to seek the 13th District seat since Illinois' congressional districts were redrawn in 2011. The others were David Green and George Gollin, both of whom ran in 2014 against eventual winner Ann Callis of Madison County. Gollin got 31 percent and Green 14 percent in that race.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

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STM wrote on August 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

This is the same John Shimkus who co-sponsored and voted to allow internet providers to sell your browsing history.