Foster reflects on active first quarter
It’s been a busy three months for Bill Foster.
The representative for the recently redrawn 11th U.S. Congressional District has a constituency that stretches from North Aurora to New Lenox, Shorewood to Woodridge. Its border cuts a jagged diagonal across Naperville, the southwest half of which also lies in the 11th.
Although Washington, D.C,. was subdued Tuesday in the wake of this week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, Foster spent a few minutes talking to The Sun about forging a fresh connection between the district and Capitol Hill.
In the 114 days since the launch of the 113th Congress, he has established local offices, including one in east Aurora earlier this month and a second in Joliet, set for a ribbon-cutting before the start of May.
Meanwhile, working out of temporary loaned office space — including some in the Naperville Municipal Center — he and his staff have been getting to know people. He said he has so far met with numerous state legislators and more than a dozen mayors in the district.
“It’s valuable for me, because they serve as sort of antennas, to receive information about what they’re struggling with, or when they have frustrations with the federal bureaucracy,” he said. “One of the good things about this job is when someone in the federal bureaucracy is not doing their job properly, you have the ability to send a lighting bolt down the command chain, in the form of a call from a Congressional office, and very often that lightning bolt will land on someone’s chair and make them jump.”
In the halls of Congress, he said, drama and acrimony are less the norm than commonly believed.
“I think it’s not as bad as you might guess from reading the newspapers,” Foster said. “At the top level of leadership, they’re busy sniping continually at each other, but there are many instances — often it’s just a member-to-member level — where there is progress.”
That may bode well for what Foster regards as the most important piece of business before the chambers at the moment: immigration reform, “a problem that Congress has really left to rot for 20 years,” he said.
He’s also been pleased to play key roles in some initiatives, including the “Fab Lab,” a bipartisan endeavor that would create a federal charter to support establishment of public fabrication laboratories where kids and adults can invent, design and manufacture products. Among the cosponsors of the bill is 14th District Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, who squelched Foster’s November 2010 bid for a second elected term in that district.
“I think this will be very good in changing the culture of young kids, so they think it’s all right to start building and manufacturing things as a possible future,” Foster said.
At 17 million to 18 million U.S. workers as recently as a decade ago, he said, manufacturing jobs helped fuel a robust economy. After about one-third of those workers were let go in the early 2000s, he’s encouraged to see new manufacturing jobs among the key factors now leading the recovery.
Also on his list of achievements so far is cosponsoring with 5th District Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Carol Stream, the Autofill Act of 2013.
“It’s going to be a long-term program, but it’s basically putting on the table the idea that for roughly a third of all Americans, the IRS has all the information they need to complete the tax form,” he said. “The IRS could easily, when you download your printable tax forms, populate them with all the information that the IRS knows, and it’s ready to go. It would greatly simplify taxes. You’d no longer have to mess around with shoeboxes of 1099-Int forms and all of that.”
He’s hopeful for budget success to come soon as well.
“The Senate passed a budget, the House passed a budget and right now we’re trying hard to get the Republican House leadership to name members of the conference committee, to hammer out a budget resolution, which is the way things should work,” Foster said. “If that actually goes ahead, instead of just the piecemeal approach that Congress has been operating under for the last many years, then that will be a big change, a return to what they call regular order, that will probably be good for effective functioning of Congress.”
Although his term will expire in less than two years, he’s not ready to say whether he will run for re-election.
“I haven’t started to think about the next campaign,” Foster said.
“I’m too busy doing my daytime job for the citizens of the 11th District.”
He also declined to speculate on reports that he has challengers already lining up. Conservative radio commentator and retired Republican activist Ian Bayne, who lives in Aurora, announced Monday that he’s considering a run. Bayne did not name Foster in his press release, but he did take aim at state Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville, who also reportedly is thinking about a challenge to Foster next year. Attempts to reach Senger to discuss her plans were not successful.