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Article updated: 1/3/2013 10:11 AM

Suburban Democrats vow bipartisanship in Congress

By Kerry Lester

The swearing in today of U.S. Rep.-elects Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, Bill Foster of Naperville and Brad Schneider of Deerfield represents a 180-degree departure from the "red wave" of 2010, which saw a crop of Tea Party freshmen elected to Congress.

All Democrats, the three weathered staunch opposition in November's election. They vow to be voices of compromise when the 113th Congress convenes after today's ceremonies.

"In this group without exception, there seems to be a sincerer commitment to work together," Schneider said of the new congressional freshmen.

Here are some priorities as the three suburbanites prepare to take office.

Tammy Duckworth

Duckworth, a former assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Barack Obama, said she was driven to make a second bid for Congress after seeing her office nearly shut down by partisan gridlock over 11th-hour debt ceiling negotiations in early 2011.

Duckworth beat Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh of McHenry in November, after losing a close race to Republican Peter Roskam of Wheaton in 2006. The 8th District includes parts of Northwest Cook, eastern Kane and northern DuPage counties.

A double amputee Iraq War veteran, Duckworth will serve on the House Armed Services Committee. "When it comes to veterans or persons with disabilities, it is a place where we can get some compromise," she said.

Despite ties to the Obama administration, Duckworth said she will put her constituents' needs above her own political allegiances.

She plans to focus on ways to support local businesses and has spent recent weeks meeting with local mayors to discuss the need for better transportation and infrastructure funding, including western access to O'Hare International Airport, expansion of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway and creating more Metra stations for communities in the district.

She favors Obama's health care legislation, but worries that it unfairly burdens small businesses like restaurants with high numbers of employees. While she describes Medicare as a "promise," she said she would cut costs by allowing the program to negotiate for cheaper prescription drug prices and cracking down on Medicare fraud -- an approach, she noted, that Roskam also supports.

She favors immigration reform but said there should be a tough path to citizenship.

Bill Foster

Naperville scientist Bill Foster, who served in Congress in 2009 and 2010, said he knows that his support for immigration reform provided a major boost to his campaign against seven-term Congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale.

The new 11th Congressional District includes large swathes of Aurora and Joliet. Both have extensive numbers of minority voters, many of whom showed up to cheer Foster's support of the DREAM Act at a political forum in the final days of the campaign.

Foster pointed to his vote for the DREAM Act in 2010 as a "major factor" in his win, not only in Aurora and Joliet, but also in other parts of the district.

Foster, who will sit on the House Financial Services Committee, has said he's most excited about continuing to push for the DREAM Act, properly implementing Obama's health care program and ensuring the vitality of manufacturers and the transportation network in the 11th District.

In a perfect world, Foster said, he'll also be greeted in his return to Washington, D.C., by Republican colleagues ready to compromise.

"I think there is logic for a possible decision by the Republican Party to moderate some of their extreme stances," Foster said.

Brad Schneider

Brad Schneider's narrow election over Republican Rep. Bob Dold of Kenilworth represents the first time in more than 30 years that a Democrat has held the North suburban 10th District seat.

However, like Republican predecessors Dold, John Porter and now-U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, Schneider promises he'll be a pragmatic moderate and will reach across the aisle to serve the district that runs from the Wisconsin line south to Maine Township and includes the North Shore as well as parts of Libertyville, Vernon, Fremont, Avon, Grant, Warren and Lake Villa townships.

Schneider's deep ties to Israel -- which include many trips, work with local Jewish youth and work in a kibbutz -- will provide insight to the district that's roughly one quarter Jewish and in his role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- a coveted assignment he wasn't sure he'd get.

Like Duckworth, Schneider says he's been visiting with residents and leaders in the district since the election.

Schneider said helping spur job growth will be one of his priorities.

Schneider said he hopes to develop good relationships with Kirk and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, as well as other members of the Illinois delegation.

"I have lived my life working with anyone willing to work with me," the longtime business consultant said.

"It's just people talking to each other. People sitting down for a cup of coffee talking about what we can do, whether it's dealing with job growth or looking forward. A lot of people in the Illinois delegation are keyed in on transportation issues. I've always said if you can build relationships in good times, then when challenges arise, it (helps)."

ŸDaily Herald staff writer Jim Fuller contributed to this report.

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