Congresswoman-elect Cheri Bustos can condense her priorities as she prepares to take office into one word: jobs.
The East Moline Democrat, who will be sworn in Jan. 3 to take the 17th Congressional District reins from Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, reflected on her new position during a Wednesday morning interview over coffee in downtown Moline.
She said she'll continue the hunt for funding for a new Interstate 74 bridge, will work to secure funding to open Thomson Correctional Center as a federal prison and will continue to nurse the plan for an Amtrak service to the Quad-Cities.
She'll discuss funding for the I-74 bridge when she meets with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood today and also hopes the former Republican congressman for Peoria can give her some tips on how to work across the aisle.
On the economy, Ms. Bustos is organizing an "economic summit" at Western Illinois University that "will get the best minds from this region sitting around a table" to discuss ways to create jobs.
"Our hope is that we will have legislative ideas that come out of that economic summit," she said.
On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Ms. Bustos bumped into Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, working out at the congressional gym.
Sen. Brown sponsored the proposed21stCentury Trade and Market Access Act, an effort to regulate free trade agreements in ways that would offer more protection to U.S. workers from low-wage competition overseas.
Ms. Bustos said the proposed law contains some good ideas on an issue she highlighted throughout her campaign and Sen. Brown has offered to meet with her to talk about ways the pair could work together.
"The race to the bottom in wages, that's a problem," Ms. Bustos said.
The federal deficit and debt and the need to find a long-term solution to those problems are likely to dominate much of the next two years.
"The way we are performing in Congress with our budget is not sustainable," Ms. Bustos said. "We cannot keep spending money that we don't have, but, at the same time, I am not in favor of across-the-board cuts, I think that's irresponsible."
Early in the new Congress, a vote on some form of gun control spurred by the school shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., is likely.
Ms. Bustos said any legislation must be comprehensive and look at school safety and access to mental health services.
Leading Democrats are calling for the ban on assault weapons to be restored. Ms. Bustos would not comment on whether she would support an outright ban before she sees specific legislation.
"We have to make sure that these kind of guns aren't getting in the wrong hands," she said. "I'll take a look at the legislation."
Before her swearing-in, Ms. Bustos has been busy hiring staff and preparing to open offices in the Quad-Cities, Peoria and Rockford to serve her constituents across the 17th District.
"It's kind of like starting a small business," she said.
She's one of 84 freshmen who will join the 113th Congress and said she already has spoken to 70 of the incoming class and is working on crossing the remaining 14 off her list.
By building relationships with her fellow freshmen now, she hopes to be part of a Congress with less of the partisanship that paralyzed much of the last session.
"I hope with the new session of Congress it'll be a new day," she said."I do think there's a genuine desire to try to work together."
Today is Monday, Dec. 9, the 343rd day of 2013. There are 22 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: All last week were favored with the most delightful Indian summer weather. The mercury ranged from 40 to 65 degrees and the ice is entirely gone out of the river. 1888 — 125 years ago: W.D. Reimers was given charge of the Weyerhaeuser-Denkmann mill in Davenport. 1913 — 100 years ago: Eight hundred or more tons of earth in six landslides, covered 38th Street for a distance of 200 feet near 7th Avenue and destroyed much property. 1938 — 75 years ago: Patrolman Joseph H. Schnelder, of Moline, has been awarded four medals for proficiency in marksmanship. He is the crack pistol shot of the Rock Island district. 1963 — 50 years ago: For the 83rd year, George Frederic Handel's "Messiah" was performed at Augustana College ushering in the spiritual aspect of the Christmas season. 1988 — 25 years ago: A water main break Thursday night, the fourth this week, affected 35 homes near the 2200 block of 39th Street, Rock Island, city officials said today.