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Freshman lawmaker Nikki Budzinski says she’s found ways to work across the aisle in her first 100 days

US Rep. Nikki Budzinski (D-Springfield), a freshman lawmakers representing Illinois' 13th Congressional District.

As she reaches her 100th day in office, Illinois Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski has been touring her congressional district, talking about her achievements so far.

Budzinski represents Illinois’ 13th congressional district, which includes much of Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Springfield, Carlinville and the Metro East suburbs of St. Louis.

The Springfield Democrat told Jim Meadows that one of her goals was to find ways to work constructively with members of the other party.

Nikki Budzinski: What I sought out intentionally was to find the people that I could work with. The message that I got from voters was that they expected me to go to DC to be a part of the solution, not more of this problem. And I think within this first 100 days, we’ve been able to work together on a bipartisan basis to find some common allies and friends, to do some issues, work on issues that are going to support the communities in central and southern Illinois.

JM: You’ve spoken about finding common allies before. And I’m just wondering, now that we’ve been through about three months of this current Congress, are they there? Are you finding those working relationships where you can do things?

Nikki Budzinski:  We’ve introduced several different bills, and I’ve had a co-lead that’s a Republican on each of them. My very first bill was the LEAP Act. You know, one of the issues I heard about throughout the campaign, especially from the business community, was that we weren’t getting people back into jobs, back at work. And we had labor shortages. One of the parts of that issue is that we need to be creating more workforce development programs to get people the skills training they need to get into good paying jobs. The LEAP Act does just that. With a Republican colleague of mine from Columbus, Ohio, Mike Carey, we’re co-leading on the LEAP Act, which is a small business tax credit, $1,500 for a small business that hires a pre-apprentice or an apprentice into their workforce.

JM: Using federal tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire apprentices sounds fairly non-controversial, but it’s something your predecessor Rodney Davis, introduced first ten years ago.

Nikki Budzinski: Yep.

JM: It hasn’t been passed yet?

Nikki Budzinski: It hasn’t. But I think we’ve got a fresh chance at this. I tweaked former congressman Davis’s bill a little bit. There was an age requirement to it. I eliminated the age requirement, because I think whether you’re younger or older, you’re looking to get a different set of skills to get into the workplace. I think I’ve got a great partner in Congressman Mike Carey, and I intend to get it done.

JM: You’re serving on the Agriculture Committee. And there’s a farm bill in the works now for 2023. What’s going on with the farm bill, and what part of that bill is of greatest concern for you?

Nikki Budzinski: I’m incredibly excited to get to serve on the House Agriculture Committee. Because this is a farm bill year. The farm bill only comes up once every five years, I have the opportunity to serve on three different subcommittees. I’d say one of those that I’d become very interested in is agricultural research. We’re here in Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois, world-class ACES program. That’s a part of the Farm Bill: funding for agricultural education. From Decatur to Champaign, which is the 13th District, we are leading, we are the cutting edge for ag tech in the country. And the farm bill will support those types of innovations and that type of research. So I want to be a part of advocating for that, and also highlight crop insurance. Crop insurance is incredibly important. We’ve seen huge storms, you know, just outside of Springfield, and Sherman got hit by a tornado, like about a week ago, very destructive. So I think there’s a lot of great bipartisan opportunities on this committee. And those are the types of issues we’re going to be talking about and negotiating, in addition to our nutrition program. I can’t can’t go without saying over 80% of our farm bill goes to our nutrition program. All of this great stuff is in the farm bill, lots of benefits to Central and Southern Illinois families.

JM: Looking at the rest of 2023, what do you think is the biggest challenge ahead, for you and your interests in this Congress?

Nikki Budzinski: Well, I think one of the upcoming, kind of more looming debates, is going to be around the debt ceiling. We’re going to need to raise the debt ceiling in order to pay our bills. I think a lot of this issue gets conflated as one, spending and paying bills. It’s actually I think, two separate issues. We can have a larger conversation around spending, whereas it relates to the budget. But I think it is going to be critically important as we get into the summer, that the debt ceiling is cleanly lifted. There are some indications, obviously, that Republicans are still looking back at, like cuts to Social Security and Medicare. I’ll never stand for that. I’ll never support that. And so that’s why a lot of my colleagues and I have written to the President to say we want to see a clean debt ceiling lift, not allow any of our programs like Social Security and Medicare, which our seniors have worked their entire lives to earn as a benefit, to be held hostage in this debate.

Comments on abortion court fight

Budzinski also commented on the current legal dispute over the so-called abortion pill, Mifepristone, saying lower court rulings blocking or curtailing its use  showed overreach by abortion opponents.

The freshman lawmaker said she would fight to protect the Food and Drug Administration’s long-established ruling that Mifepristone is safe to use.

“It’s why I’ve co-sponsored legislation to protect a woman’s right to have access to this medication,” said Budzinski. “I’ve also co-sponsored legislation that would protect at the federal level a woman’s right to choose basically rolling back at the federal level, the Dobbs decision with which eliminated 50 years of precedent that Roe versus Wade had established.”

Budzinski commented on Thursday, April 13, a day before the U-S Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of a lower court ruling tightening rules about Mifipristone’s use for abortions. That ruling, in effect through Wednesday, April 19, ensures the drug’s continued availability until the court decides whether to issue a formal stay.

Budzinski has joined more than 200 members of Congress in signing an amicus brief in the case, supporting the FDA’s original approval of Mifipristone for abortions.

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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