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Tuesday, Aug 29, 2006

This is classic DC politics.

Rep. Jerry Weller, a sixth-term Republican who grew up on a family farm, represents a district in rural Illinois that’s a far cry from the sandy beaches of the Caribbean.

But in the past three years Weller has become Capitol Hill’s go-to guy for issues dear to the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico, from getting more federal money for its hospitals to lowering a manufacturing tax that business interests say prevents U.S. companies from locating there. […]

Weller’s 11th Congressional District has hardly any Puerto Ricans, according to a 2005 U.S. Census Bureau survey that estimated of its roughly 698,000 residents, only 677 to 3,569 are likely to fall into that category — less than 1 percent of the total.

In addition to the manufacturing bill, Weller has also co-sponsored legislation to increase Medicare reimbursements for hospitals in Puerto Rico that advocates say could bring the island by tens of millions of dollars annually and another bill that would let Puerto Ricans vote on whether they want to continue as a U.S. territory.

Meanwhile, back in his actual district

Today’s celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor authorization is bittersweet.

Sweet because, through the years, the canal has become a backyard haven for tourists, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts, plus has sparked new commerce and jobs in communities along the 96-mile historic artery from Chicago to La Salle.

Bitter, because the U.S. Senate today has still not authorized $10 million in funding for the corridor in the federal government’s 2007 fiscal budget, noted Ana Koval, president and CEO of the non-profit Canal Corridor Association, which operates the NHC. […]

Koval said Congressman Jerry Weller, R-Morris, who authored the measure in the House, said this was agreed-upon legislation he thought the Senate would pass a couple days later.

“But, the Senate went home without doing it. Until the legislation is actually passed, it doesn’t put the canal in line to be added to the budget,” said Koval.

“Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking. Next to our name now on the appropriations list is a big fat zero. The deadlines for requests is long gone - it’s far along in the budget process.”

And the Chicago Reader had a cover story last week on the Congressman’s marriage to the daughter of a former Guatemalan dictator. The two recently had a baby, and the child was born in Guatemala.

I’ve known Jerry Weller a long time. He’s a natural politician and a great campaigner. With a litany like I’ve just laid out, and with a district that just barely leans GOP, those skills are undoubtedly the main reason he’s not on any political target lists this year. At least, not yet.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - grand old partisan - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 9:45 am:

    I grew up in the small part of Chicago that used to be part of Weller’s District in the 90’s. During that time, my brother was in the National Guard and occasionally had problems with his paychecks, or some other human resources paperwork. Weller’s office was always very helpful in cutting through red tape and getting things put right. Needless to say, I’ve always liked him.

    The Puerto Rico stuff is a bit strange, but I don’t really find it troubling. As for the juxtaposition between that and the Canal appropriations, I don’t really see what you are getting at. Weller did his job: he got the Canal funding approved by his chamber. It is the Senate that is holding it up. Similarly, the Senate has yet to approve either of the bills regarding Puerto Rico that he has sponsored. If the implication here is that his efforts on behalf of Puerto Rico are getting in the way of his responsibility to his own district, I think you need more to prove you case.

  2. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 9:53 am:

    I’m another old friend of Weller. He has changed. He is very happy with his new family, and has a new life. I hope he doesn’t take us for granted. We’re feeling kinda lonely.

  3. - TomD - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 2:50 pm:

    Ms. Sosa’s place in Guatemalan history/politics is troubling, all by itself. The appearanceof an ongoing conflict of interest is also a problem.

    And if it were any other country (that is, a country with a little more importance to US interests), the Weller-Sosa relationship would be a serious problem. There are really only three or four issues that are key to US/Guatemalan relations — the UN Security Council, drugs, immigration, Central American free trade, maybe a few others . . . .

    Even taking him at his word (that he recuses himself appropriately), this situation is no good, because both countries are worse off because an important figure steps out of the room when issues arise between the two countries. If Congressman Weller had not boxed himself out of those matters, he could actually do some good work on them. Same thing for Ms. Sosa (but I assume she is less constrained, assuming that the Guatemalan legislature is less concerend about conflicts of interest).

    I worry about that there are situations when Congressman Weller faces an actual conflict in which he does not recuse himself, especially if he is drawing a narrow line around Guatemalan-specific matters. I’m reminded of the infamous line from Jack Grubman, formerly of Salomon Smith Barney: “We used to call them conflicts of interest. Now we call them synergies.”

  4. - LaSalle - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 5:12 pm:

    AFSCME WINS Gateway is pulling out of all State facilities!!

    No thanks to Weller of course!

  5. - Minion - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 5:28 pm:

    If Clem Balanoff had focused more on fundraising and had a better press spokesperson, Weller would have been defeated in 1996.

  6. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 30, 06 @ 8:31 am:

    The 11th District has more union households than any other district in the state of Illinois. Mr. Weller continues to vote their jobs away. Mr. Weller is not only married to a political member of a Central American county, by has significant land holdings in Central American countries. There is a clear conflict of interest in voting for CAFTA.

  7. - Captain America - Wednesday, Aug 30, 06 @ 2:06 pm:

    I believe marriages/political spouses and children, Democratic or Republican, should be off-limits in political campaigns. Who doesn’t remember and deplore Rush Limbaugh referring to Chelsea as “ugly?” Similarly, I could care less about the Bush twins’ drinking habits and other antics,

    I know nothing about Weller’s congressional district. What little I know about Weller suggests that he is a classic absentee Congressman. He doesn’t really live in his district anymore, except that he meets the technical/legal requirements for residency.

    Given the generic national Democratic trend, it seems amazing to me that his race isn’t competitive, especially since Rich Miller considers it a Democratic-leaning district.

    Based upon one column I read about John Pavich, he appears to have an impressive background. Other people I know speak highly of Pavich.

    Since the race is not deemed competitive according to the national pundits, I assume that it may take Pavich two campaigns to beat the incumbent Weller- much like it took two campaigns for Melissa Bean to defeat Phil Crane.

  8. - Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 12:34 am:

    I have often looked at people make cookie cutter remarks about Weller and his lack of support for working families.

    I have always thought this to be strange considering the deep and long-standing support he has received from Organized Labor.

    Jerry has received more support from Organized Labor as a group, than any other group listed on public disclosure websites, to my knowledge, including Pharmaceuticals and Oil and Gas Producers (both of which, I might add are employers in the 11th).

    He has consistently received the endorsements and financial backing of organized labor groups such as:

    The AFL/CIO Building Trades Department; Carpenters & Joiners; Ironworkers; Laborers; Operating Engineers; Boilermakers; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers; Maintenance of Way Employees; National Air Traffic Controllers Assn; Teamsters Union; AFSCME; International Assn of Fire Fighters; Plumbers/Pipefitters; and UNITE HERE.

    They have been with him for over a decade, and have consistently backed him because of his being able to get results for their membership.

    It is laughable to think that he does not have strong and deep rooted support in this and many other communities in the district.

  9. - Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 11:42 am:

    To the last comment: Sure, locals support him, for whatever reason. Check his voting record on the national sites. 0% for labor. Whatever.

  10. - Pavich Supporter - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 11:42 am:

    The name indicates my bias…

    Just a clarification… Weller has not received the endorsement this year of AFSCME as they have yet to endorse either candidate. The Will County Trades may endorse him this year, but the LaSalle Trades certainly will not. The Air Traffic Controllers have not endorsed him. Weller may have gained labor support in the past, but it’s clear that his “0″ rating from the AFL-CIO is starting to catch up to him.

  11. - Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 11:43 am:

    Also, Charlie Cook has him at the same place Bean was in 04. Her race didn’t break until late Oct.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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