Congressman pays visit to Anna during recent summer recess
The United States Congress was in its summer recess session during August, but the break from the capitol building doesn’t mean much rest and relaxation for Congressmen and Congresswomen.
For elected representatives, recess means road trips. Not to sunny beach destinations (unless they happen to be a costal state representative) but rather whirlwind tours of their Congressional districts.
This gives the representatives a chance to return to their hometowns, to speak with their constituents, to meet with local organizations, to tour local businesses, and get a ground-level view of the area they represent.
This is no different for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., the elected representative for the 12th Congressional District. Union County is in the district.
Rep. Bost stopped by Anna during the August recess and paid a visit to The Gazette-Democrat to talk about his plans for the district.
At the top of Bost’s concerns is the aftermath of the destructive floods that occurred over the summer.
The Illinois 12th District has the second-most riverfront land in the country, and much of it was profoundly affected by the flooding events.
Of particular concern to Bost is the Len Small Levee in Alexander County, which breached in 2016. Bost feels the temporary measures taken since then are not nearly enough.
“We are pulling our hair out because every time we feel we are getting a fix on Len Small, the Army Corps discovers why that won’t work,” says Bost. “The riprap they put in to try to slow everything down is now all washed away by this flood. So how many times are we going to continue to do that before we put a structure in place that will do what the Len Small Levee did.”
The Army Corps of Engineers has deemed that the cost-benefit ratio for the estimated $16.5 billion it would take to repair the levy is too low to justify the expense.
Recently, Bost introduced the Levee Rehabilitation and Improvement Act, a piece of legislation that would require the navigational problems that a breach could cause to be factored into the decision to determine if the levy is worth repairing. Levee breaches can have dangerous and costly effects to Mississippi River travel.
Bost is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and sees the infrastructure bill currently being worked on in Washington, D.C., as another way the region may rebuild.
“Levees are always a problem, always a concern,” says Bost, “and that’s why the importance of the infrastructure bill. Because the infrastructure bill is not just for roads and highways. It’s also for levees. It would be for locks and dams and ports.”
Bost hopes that his work in the Infrastructure Committee will also help bring better information technology advancements to the area.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that infrastructure also involves the hooking up of T1 lines so we can stop the digital divide,” says Bost. “Rural areas and inner cities for a long time didn’t have access to good, high-speed Internet. We have to figure out how to deal with that.”
Despite the partisan tension in Washington, there are a number of legislative initiatives that Bost is proud to have been a part of.
“Since January of last year I’ve introduced seven bills, introduced four amendments to other bills, and cosponsored 116 bills,” says Bost. “If I see a bill that is vitally important to the district, or something that would be wise to show support for, I like to get involved.”
“We’ve had four amendments passed overwhelming during this time of all this chaos,” said Bost. “For starters, we improved federal oversight for public housing, like the situation that occurred in Cairo.”
Other items of improvement for the region that Bost has been involved with includes legislation making Cahokia Mounds into a national park.
There was also an amendment to increase trade enforcement funds to stop illegal dumping. “Illegal dumping caused a loss of jobs in Granite City for the steel plants,” says Bost. “We were able to get back those 2,000 jobs.”
Bost is a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and is the ranking member on the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Committee. Bost’s work on these committees helped passed legislation to help veterans to own small businesses and compete for federal grants.
Through his work on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Bost also was involved in the “Blue Water Navy Veterans Act.” This act would help Marines and sailors who were stationed offshore during the Vietnam War and were exposed to Agent Orange.
“Buying American” is another important issue for Bost. “I have many amendments put out there to make sure that when we move forward with the infrastructure bill, that we lock in that we are buying American as much as we can for products we are using,” said Bost.
Bost also cosponsored a number of bills, including the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund Act. This bill would help replenish the fund that helps care for and cover the health issues for Sept. 11, 2001, first responders.
During the interview, Bost also discussed his views on some of the more pressing topics of our time, including gun control.
“I raised my hand and pledged to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States,” says Bost. “I will defend every part of the constitution, every amendment of the constitution, including the second amendment.”
One issue in the gun regulation debate that Bost supports is background checks, but only with the correct implementation. “The problem with the last two bills that had background checks in them that I didn’t support,” says Bost, “was that there were other parts of that bill that did violate the second amendment.”
In response to the shooting tragedies prevalent in the news today, Bost supports “red flag legislation,” which would aim to identify potentially violent individuals before an incident occurs.
“People fall through the cracks, and then when they’ve done the crime, people come forward and say they saw signs of this kind of behavior, but no one reported it,” says Bost. “If someone is making a very radical statement, and you are a teacher, or you are a police officer, there needs to mediatory reporting of this kind of behavior.”
Partisan rhetoric and political extremes are another issue Bost weighed in on.
“I thought I was conservative, until I got to D.C.” Bost said, “But then I met some of my collegues who would shut government down if given the chance, because they are almost libertarian or farther.”
“On the other side, you have people who tout socialism, who don’t understand the constitution, and that argue from the other extreme. Somewhere we have to get a balance in the middle. But balance in the middle doesn’t sell well on MSNBC or Fox News.”
“My job is to find sensible ground we can agree on. I’m not compromising who I am, I’m trying to govern,” says Bost. “If we would ever drop partisan rhetoric, you would be surprised what we could get done.”