'A lot of opportunity to get things done': Kinzinger pledges bipartisanship going forward

  • GOP U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger has earned national attention -- and some scorn from fellow Republicans -- for his criticism of former President Donald Trump and vote in favor of impeachment.

    GOP U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger has earned national attention -- and some scorn from fellow Republicans -- for his criticism of former President Donald Trump and vote in favor of impeachment. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, 2019

  • Adam Kinzinger

    Adam Kinzinger

  • Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon speaks as the House debates an objection to confirming the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania last month.

    Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon speaks as the House debates an objection to confirming the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania last month. House Television via AP

 
 
Updated 2/13/2021 5:33 PM

As a Republican in a federal government controlled by Democrats, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger knows he must work across the aisle to pass any meaningful legislation over the next two years.

But Kinzinger -- consistently ranked one of the most bipartisan members of Congress -- doesn't expect that'll be an issue.

 

"We have great bipartisan relationships already," Kinzinger, of Channahon, said last week during a telephone call with reporters. "There's going to be a lot of opportunity to get things done."

Bipartisan coalitions will be good for congressional Democrats, too, political expert Kent Redfield said.

"While most of the attention about the need (or) potential for bipartisanship has focused on the Senate with the 50-50 split, the Democrats' margin in the House is also very thin," said Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield. "This creates opportunities for members of the majority and members of the minority in both chambers to exercise leverage."

'Talk to each other'

Kinzinger's 16th District covers parts or all of 14 counties to the west, northwest, southwest and south of Chicago. Its communities include Rockford, Belvidere, DeKalb and Ottawa.

A congressman since 2011, Kinzinger is one of 211 Republicans in the House and one of only five in the 18-member Illinois delegation. Democrats have majority control with 221 members. Three seats are vacant.

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Kinzinger knows he won't be able to push every project he might fancy through a Congress and White House led by the opposition party.

"You have to realize that every wish-list (item) you want, you can't do," he said. "But there are areas where you can make an impact."

That'll take working with Democrats, something Kinzinger said he is willing to do.

"It doesn't mean you have to sell out what you believe," he said. "It just means you have to talk to each other. And that's maybe a good talent we get back to."

That's not just lip service.

In nonpartisan studies by the Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, Kinzinger regularly is ranked among the most bipartisan members of the House, from either party. The indexes are based on bill sponsorship and cosponsorship data.

In the center's most recent index, compiled in 2019, Kinzinger placed 18th out of 437 representatives ranked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Likewise, according to new data at govtrack.us, Kinzinger ranks highly among his fellow House Republicans and lawmakers from both parties for getting bipartisan co-sponsors for legislation and for joining bills sponsored by lawmakers from the other party.

Kinzinger cited U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, a fellow member of the House's energy and commerce committee, among his Democratic allies.

Doyle called Kinzinger "an important voice on energy issues" and said he has welcomed the opportunity to work with him.

"We need more people like him who are willing to work across the aisle on the important issues facing our nation," Doyle said. "It is my hope that we will find many more areas of bipartisan agreement that Congress can get done for the American people."

Such efforts will make getting legislation through the House and the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden much easier for Kinzinger, Redfield said.

"The Democrats' narrow majorities in the House and Senate and President Biden's stated desire to seek bipartisan solutions to problems create opportunities for forming bipartisan coalitions," he said.

Additionally, given the polarization of American politics, bipartisan policy solutions involving clear compromises will be popular with the public and the mainstream media, Redfield said.

District priorities

Topping Kinzinger's list of legislative priorities for his district is federal aid for the communities that are home to two nuclear power plants Exelon plans to close this year. One is in Ogle County, about a 90-minute drive northwest of Chicago; the other is in Grundy County, about an hour southwest of Chicago.

The financial impact on the communities will be significant.

According to Exelon, the two plants employ more than 1,500 full-time workers and about 2,000 supplemental workers. The plants also pay nearly $63 million in taxes annually to support local schools and governmental services, Exelon said.

In December, Kinzinger and Doyle introduced legislation designed to save those and other plants from closure by offering financial credits to their owners. The bill also sought to provide financial assistance for towns affected by plant closures.

The proposal didn't make it out of committee, however.

Kinzinger said he still supports directing economic development funds to those communities to help offset the anticipated job losses and other financial impacts.

"We're working to try to get this thing done this year," he said.

In the spotlight

Kinzinger has been in the spotlight in recent months because of his outspoken criticism of former President Donald Trump's refusal to accept the results of the 2020 president election and Trump's role in the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. He was one of only 10 Republicans to join the House Democrats in voting to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection.

Two weeks ago, Kinzinger announced he's launched a political action committee to take on Trump loyalists and conspiracy-peddlers within the GOP, including U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Those actions prompted rebukes from Republicans including Gaetz, who in a tweet last week challenged Kinzinger to "(expletive) bring it." One GOP group in the 16th District censured him.

Kinzinger said he won't sacrifice his integrity to get back in his party's good graces.

"I committed the cardinal sin of recognizing Joe Biden as the president-elect," Kinzinger quipped. "If you censure me for voting my conscience, that reflects more on you that it does on me."

Redfield believes Kinzinger could benefit from his stand.

"His recent status (as) someone one who stands on principle gives him visibility and credibility inside and outside of Congress," Redfield said. "This will create opportunities."

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