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 â€” 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.