Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats in the Illinois congressional delegation expressed optimism Wednesday that the newly re-elected president can be more effective winning legislative support for his agenda, even though Republicans continued to be in the majority in the U.S. House.
Mike Quigley, who represents Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s old North Side district in the House, said bipartisan cooperation could result from the defeats of Republican colleague Joe Walsh and other Tea Party stalwarts.
“It’s not how many Republicans won–it’s which Republicans won or lost,” Quigley told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Republicans appeared to have won 233 seats in the 435-member House, a diminished but still clear majority.
But Quigley noted that conservative Tea Party candidates fared worse Tuesday than in 2010, when they helped fuel the GOP takeover of the House. Former Obama administration official Tammy Duckworth unseated Walsh, while other Tea Party candidates fell in Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin and other states.
Quigley said House Speaker John Boehner could now feel less pressure to take conservative positions and more freedom to compromise with Democrats.
“This gives Boehner the opportunity to be more moderate,” said Quigley, who won a third term Tuesday. “Sure it’s better to be in the majority, but it takes two to dance, and it was tougher with these Tea Party guys skewing the Republicans to the right.”
Chicago Democrat Luis Gutierrez echoed Quigley in focusing on the party’s wins in suburban Chicago races. Gutierrez said former Republican governors Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson could help usher in a new era of bipartisanship in Congress.
Gutierrez said he believed many Hispanic voters punished Republicans for their lack of support for changes to immigration laws.
“It’s now a great opportunity for moderate Republicans like former Gov. Edgar and former Gov. Thompson, or for Sen. [Mark] Kirk to sit down with us and figure out how we can impact the national debate on immigration reform, and send a message from Illinois,” Gutierrez said. “I’m delighted to return to Washington as the dean of the Democrats in the Illinois delegation, with four more Democrats from this state.”