SPRINGFIELD – Some local legislators are hopeful after hearing President Obama’s address to the General Assembly Wednesday, but others don’t feel the same way.
WSOY caught up with State Senator Andy Manar, State Rep. Bill Mitchell, and State Rep. Sue Scherer once the President concluded his comments. Republican State Senator Chapin Rose was not available for comment.
Democratic Senator Manar says he thought the speech was “overly bipartisan.”
“I think there were measures that gave me hope, there was some criticism applied to both sides of the aisle, and I think his speech will give perspective to members of the General Assembly to fix the budget impasse,” Manar says. “I’m hopeful that after today there can be a new approach so we can find some compromise between the legislature and Gov. Rauner.”
Democratic State Representative Sue Scherer felt very similar.
“He was so personable, funny, and hopeful for a better and brighter future,” Scherer says. “I also liked that he talked about what a gift it is to be an American citizen. To think the President gave up an hour of his time to meet and speak with us – that just speaks volumes.”
Republican Representative Bill Mitchell says it was an honor to have a visit from the President, but he doesn’t agree with everything the President said.
“I probably differ on nine out of ten things with the President, but he is still a very well-regarded man,” Mitchell says. “Still, anytime you get a visit from the President of the United States, it is an honor.”
The President’s visit comes as the State of Illinois continues its eighth-month long budget impasse. Mitchell says it was an honor, but he isn’t sure that his visit will make the legislature move along any faster.
“I’m hopeful, but I’m a realist – I would love to be optimistic and say this is going to push the ball forward in terms of getting a budget, but the Speaker is going to have to pass a balanced budget,” he says. “Maybe the President did inspire Speaker Madigan.”
Still, the President mentioned redistricting reform, which is something Mitchell and many other Republicans are supportive of. President Obama also directly mentioned Manar and his voter registration bill, which, of course pleased Manar.
“I was surprised by that, but I do think my bill is a pretty good piece of public policy,” he says. “It will save the state millions of dollars, makes good fiscal sense, and it removes every barrier between voters and the ballot box. Without a doubt, I was glad to hear the President mention it.”
Rep. Scherer says there were several things that resonated with her.
“I appreciated how he kept saying ‘I believe…in education, in helping the most vulnerable, in how great America is,’ and that really stuck with me,” Scherer says. “He focused on starting with building commonalities. We can’t just jump right in with the differences – we all have to understand we have things in common.”
Republican Congressman Rodney Davis issued this reaction to Obama’s speech.
“I appreciate the president traveling to my district and his message of bipartisanship but actions speak louder than words and I hope he takes this advice back to Washington as well,” Davis wrote. “Unfortunately, I have not seen a lot of bipartisanship from this president since I came to Congress.”
Each of our local legislators mentioned that they were humbled to visit with the President. It has been nearly 40 years since a President has visited Illinois with the last being Jimmy Carter.