WASHINGTON — A week after Pope Francis implored Congress to live by the Golden Rule, well, nothing in the tone of the place has changed. But Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., is trying.
Kinzinger is imploring the “false prophets” on his side — the GOP hard-liners who drove House Speaker John Boehner to quit — to look for solutions, not a fight.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Kinzinger blamed radio talk-show hosts and some conservative, GOP-allied political groups for whipping up anger and dissent to raise money — not to govern.
Boehner, invoking the Bible, called the 40 or so conservatives from the tea-party wing who banded together to form the Freedom Caucus “false prophets” Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Kinzinger understands “principled opposition,” “but where I do get upset is when you put an unreachable standard on your leadership just to benefit yourself politically.”
“They say all we have to do is shut down the federal government and the president will be compelled to be on our side,” which is just not how things work.
The way Congress operates often is by kicking the can down the road. Facing a Wednesday deadline, lawmakers averted a government shutdown with a two-month stopgap spending bill. That’s OK by Kinzinger.
He rejects arguments by the hard-liners that “if you shut down the federal government over Obamacare or if you shut down the federal government over Planned Parenthood, then you are really fighting . . . and anything short of that is selling out.”
Though Republicans control the House and Senate, a Democrat is in the White House.
“I’m probably as conservative as anybody . . . but I understand in a split government the American people demand that we govern, and unfortunately there are people who make money on us not governing,” Kinzinger said.
“I always say this. Give me an avenue to victory, not just an avenue for a fight,” he added.
There is nothing wrong with advancing the conservative agenda “a few yards at a time,” said Kinzinger, in the House since January 2011. He represents a sprawling district that meanders around the Chicago suburbs from the Wisconsin border to Indiana.
“It’s like we have to go for a Hail Mary every time,” he said. “And maybe they believe that will work.”
But mostly it does not.
Somewhere, the tone needs to be adjusted. Maybe House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — who is likely to be the next speaker — can do better than Boehner.
“The loudest voices out there are the ones that are just saying, ‘Burn the place down,’ ” said Kinzinger, a co-chair of Jeb Bush’s Illinois campaign.
Roskam opts out of leadership race
Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., said Wednesday he would not seek a leadership spot in the wake of a shuffle at the top triggered by Boehner’s quitting. Leadership elections are Oct. 8.
Roskam was a chief deputy whip who lost a bid for whip in 2014. He was able to force a meeting on Tuesday for his GOP colleagues to discuss the road ahead.
In a letter to colleagues, Roskam wrote, “On the heels of one of the most remarkable political developments in American history, we should honor the opportunity before us to reset our operations to a more effective plan. I’m not running in any of the leadership elections because I hope to continue to work at driving these themes to empower our leadership and our members.”