WASHINGTON – Incoming Democratic Illinois House members Sean Casten and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and incumbent Raja Krishnamoothi said Tuesday they will back Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker, with the first of two votes taking place on Wednesday.
And Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill., the number two Senate Democrat, also said he backed Pelosi, a close friend and ally.
Durbin said in a Tweet, “I have seen Nancy Pelosi’s leadership first hand. More than any member of the House, it was Nancy’s determined leadership that saved the Affordable Care Act, giving 20 million Americans health care protection.”
The only suspense left in the Illinois delegation is over Rep. Dan Lipinski D-Ill., who is part of the nine-member Problem Solvers Caucus negotiating with Pelosi over rules changes.
Rep. Bill Foster D-Ill., is part of a group of about 15 Democrats who want Pelosi out of power to make room for a “new generation” of leadership, though there is no member who has emerged to replace the California Democrat.
All the other Illinois Democrats will vote for Pelosi. Democrats meet on Wednesday to in effect nominate Pelosi for speaker, and she will win that easily, since only a majority is needed. On Jan. 3, the entire 435-member House meets, and Pelosi has only about 16 votes to spare to reclaim the speakership. Pelosi was the first female speaker when she first took the gavel in 2007.
Garcia spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times after emerging from a face-to-face meeting with Pelosi in the Capitol. Garcia said they they discussed policies dealing with health care, infrastructure, immigration, including protecting “Dreamers”and the border crisis.
“She’s been a long time leader in issues we both have roots in,” Garcia said, “…so I am ready to cast my vote for Nancy Pelosi.”
Garcia, who represents the 4th congressional district, anchored in Chicago’s Hispanic communities, said he has been in conversations with Pelosi since June, when she came to Chicago for a roundtable on infrastructure needs at a Carpenter’s Union training center on the South Side.
“We hit it off from the beginning,” Garcia said.
Garcia, a Cook County Board member, said he told Pelosi his requests for committees: either Transportation and Infrastructure or Financial Services.
Garcia did not get a promise on committees. A proponent of “Medicare for All,” Garcia said, “I got a commitment that we would work on the issues that cann be addressed as a priority during the first year of the 116th Congress and that as we develop more support for Medicare for All, it will be looked at.”
“As I have engaged her in the past nine months of so, I have found her to be pleasant, to be very knowledgeable, down-to-earth and progressive,” Garcia said.
Garcia, the son of Mexican immigrants, will travel to Mexico City this weekend to attend the inauguration of incoming Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez.
Casten talked to the Sun-Times in the Longworth House Office Building following a meeting he had with Sen. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill.
Casten said had been open to backing to Pelosi and wanted to learn more and “become an informed voter” before announcing his decision.
Casten, a former energy company executive who beat Rep. Peter Roskam R-Ill., for the 6th congressional district seat, which hugs the Chicago western and northwest suburbs, said he did not need a meeting with Pelosi.
“She didn’t need to persuade me,” Casten said.
He did not feel a need to go public early because he said he wanted learn more about “what people think she had done well, what are the rules issues which worked well in the minority and the majority.
“I don’t claim to be an expert on any of those, but I got the opportunity to learn things that I would not have the opportunity to learn, had I decided that what I really wanted to do was get in front of the TV cameras, and say, here’s my view, let me come out and be public about it,” Casten said.
Casten, an expert on climate change issues, is seeking a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Krishnamoorthi, who represents the northwest suburban 8th district said in a statement, “Since I took the oath of office, my top priority has been fighting for working families by strengthening and expanding the middle class. To make these pocketbook issues a top priority for the next Congress, we need a Speaker with the toughness, experience, and dedication to go toe to toe with Senator McConnell and President Trump. Only Leader Pelosi has demonstrated these qualities, and that’s why I’m supporting her for Speaker.”