ON THE RECORD: Rep. Darin LaHood discusses climate of the Republican Party, American Jobs Plan and vaccine hesitancy

On The Record

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After years of population loss, Illinois is officially losing one Congressional seat.

The State will now have 17 U.S. Representatives instead of 18.

So what’s the future plan of the 18 District’s Representative Darin LaHood? LaHood spoke with WMBD’s Matt Sheehan Monday morning about his future.

In regard to the loss of a senate seat, he said it did not come as a surprise, unfortunately.

“It’s disappointing to see population loss in Illinois and lose a member in Congress because of the population loss over the last 10 years. But in some ways, it shouldn’t be surprising. Illinois continues to want to raise your taxes, we continue to have a pension system that is 140 billion dollars in unfunded liability. We don’t have balanced budgets, so we see people continue to leave the State of Illinois. People are leaving with their feet, out of Illinois and so we’ve lost population. If you look at States that have gained population, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina.”

-Rep. lahood

Rep. LaHood said the one thing those states have in common is their low taxes. Some even have no state income tax.

He went on to say, “They have a good, vibrant business climate, they have term limits in most of those states on their state legislators, and they have a solvent pension system. So you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to look at what’s working in those states and what’s not working in Illinois. It ought to be a wake up call, Matt, to Illinois.”

As for what that means locally, he is unsure.

“I don’t know what will happen to my district. I’m proud to represent the Peoria area and Bloomington Normal, I’m going to continue to work hard in whatever district I get to run as hard as I can,” LaHood said.

President Biden is working hard to stress to politicians and Americans that the American Jobs Plan needs to pass. LaHood, however, is not on board.

“I’m frustrated with President Biden. I went to his inauguration on January 20th, I listened to his speech. He actually gave a pretty good speech. Talking about bipartisanship, coming together, working with Republicans. But we’ve seen just the opposite in the 100 days. It’s been a bait and switch. He baited us all that he wanted to do that but he’s up to 60 executive orders that have circumvented the Congress, canceled the XL Pipeline, we see gas prices and energy prices up over a dollar what they were under President Trump,” LaHood said.

There are plenty of problems that need to be addressed first, he said.

We have an unmitigated crisis at the Southern Border that he hasn’t sought Republican support or help on that. Then you look at the infrastructure bill you mentioned, a $4 trillion infrastructure bill by raising taxes. We can have a debate on infrastructure and the definition. My definition is roads, bridges, locks and dams, broadband, airports, and tunnels. President Biden is talking about this boondoggle of things that have nothing to do with infrastructure. We can have a debate on those other things, but we ought to focus on infrastructure. Count me in on finding a solution on working on traditional infrastructure. But the President has not gone that direction, so we’ll see in the next month.”

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Congressman LaHood said he submitted a number of local projects that would be paid for with the infrastructure bill.

“Pioneer Park Project, which will help with traffic efficiency and building out in North Peoria. We’re also working on a project on Prospect Road in Peoria Heights and on Galena Road. Those are priorities for us in terms of infrastructure,” LaHood said.

LaHood said he hopes this bill will also help upgrade the local locks and dams.

Congressman Adam Kinzinger was recently on Face the Nation, and said the Republican Party is like the Titanic. LaHood disagreed, saying he is “very confident in the future of the Republican Party.”

“I think the Republican Party is going to come back very strong in the next election. Look at our Freshman class, we elected as Republicans in the House in 2020. Record number of women, record number of minorities, a record number of veterans. We picked up 14 seats, we were supposed to lose close to 20,” Rep. LaHood said. “We’re building upon that record of electing women and minorities across the country. We won seats from Miami, to Minnesota, to California. That’s on our principles and values. The rule of law, standing up for workers, putting workers first, that’s what we stand for. I’m very confident in the future of the Republican party and I think we’ll fire Nancy Pelosi in 18 months.”

When it comes to vaccinations, LaHood admitted there was a hesitancy for Republicans to push the vaccination, but said it should not be that way.

“There shouldn’t be. I’ve promoted myself getting the vaccine on social media. You shouldn’t listen to politicians or elected officials, you ought to listen to your medical professional. Your doctor, your nurse, someone you respect in the medical field. They’ll tell you this is the best thing for individuals. I’ve encouraged people to do that,” Rep. LaHood said. “There’s a lot of conspiracy theories out there, people need to stay away from that. They need to look at the science, talk to medical professionals. The vast majority of Republicans in Congress have gotten the vaccine. President Trump has gotten the vaccine and many others. It’s in the best interest of this country and the best interest of other people that we get this vaccine.”

Wednesday morning, House GOP leaders ousted Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney from leadership. She formally was the GOP Conference Chair. Much of the disdain from GOP members came after she has been critical of former President Trump.

But many House GOP members will not publicly say how they voted on the ouster. The whole ordeal took less than 20 minutes within the closed-door Republican conference meeting.

Dr. Meghan E. Leonard, Associate Professor in the Department of Politics & Government at Illinois State University, weighed in to explain how that took place.

“The vote yesterday was just in the Republican conference, not in the House itself. As a result, the votes are subject to party conference-specific rules rather than the rules of the House. The parties themselves set these rules. These conference rules are more flexible as they are just for the party in the chamber. So, a voice vote here ensures no Republican member would need to go on the record,” said Dr. Leonard.

On Monday, Congressman LaHood said he was “open-minded” to keeping Rep. Cheney in leadership or supporting a new GOP Conference Chair.

Former Pres. Trump has endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to take the position.

“We’re going to go back to D.C. this week, we’ll have a debate on Wednesday where we will hear the pros and cons of that,” LaHood said.

It is unclear if there was any debate regarding Cheney’s ouster.

However, Dr. Megan Remmel, Assistant Professor in Political Science at Bradley University, said the meeting was already “predetermined.”

“Rep. Cheney knew she would lose her leadership position. The rest of the party leadership knew she would lose her leadership position. Her (relatively few) supporters knew she would lose her leadership position. And the rank-and-file Republicans knew she would lose her leadership position. Rep. Cheney apparently gave a short speech not asking her fellow partisans to change their minds but to make a statement about her thoughts on former President Trump’s effects on both the GOP and on American democracy more broadly. According to sources in the room, she ended the speech by citing John 8:32 — “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” Dr. Remmel said.

In a text message to Sheehan Wednesday night, LaHood said there was no vote, but instead, there was a “voice vote.”

“In formal House or Senate proceedings, it’s the presiding officer of the chamber stating the question at hand, asking those in favor to say “Yea” and those opposed to say “Nay” (generally separately), and then announcing the result according to his or her judgment based on sound alone. In the House and Senate during these formal votes, a member can ask for a “division of the assembly.” If that’s called for, then the voice vote takes place again, this time with members standing during the “Yea” and “Nay” votes to provide a visual source of information about the vote count. Finally, one-fifth of the total members of the chamber can then call for a recorded vote. A recorded vote means members actually cast a vote of “Yea” or “Nay” and a record is actually kept. Anyone can then look up how individual members voted on Congress’ website,” Dr. Remmel said.

“But all of what I mentioned above occurs inside the overall House of Representatives or the Senate. How the individual parties operate behind the scenes is up to the party caucuses themselves. In this case, it appears the GOP members of the House met and cast one of these informal voice votes. The resolution introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina was to strip Rep. Cheney of her leadership position. I assume the resolution called for the question to remove Rep. Cheney from her position as conference chair. As a result, a “Yea” vote likely meant supporting her removal and a “Nay” vote likely meant opposing her removal,” Dr. Remmel added.

Dr. Remmel said the “voice vote” was done in order to try and protect individual members of the GOP caucus.

“There is no written record of how each individual member voted on this resolution. Some members have definitely made public their votes. For example, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of the Illinois 16th congressional district has openly and frequently talked about his support for keeping Rep. Cheney in her leadership position. Conversely, Rep. Mary Miller representing the Illinois 15th congressional district has openly stated she supported removing Rep. Cheney from that position,” Dr. Remmel said.

But the same cannot be said for Representatives Mike Bost, Rodney Davis, and Darin LaHood.

“They’re staying quiet because they can and because it is in their personal interest to stay quiet. This is especially true for Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois’ 13th congressional district. That district is very competitive, and he’s faced competitive challenges in each of the last two election cycles. By refusing to admit his vote publicly and by providing a tepid statement concerning his views on Rep. Cheney’s leadership, he’s trying to have his cake and eat it, too. In other words, he is likely trying not to alienate supporters of former President Trump while simultaneously trying to avoid a backlash from opponents of former President Trump,” Dr. Remmel said.

Rep. Rodney Davis did send WMBD a statement.

“Liz is a good friend, and I thought she did a good job as conference chair. I’d like to thank her for her leadership. Our country has real problems that are going unaddressed – a crisis at the southern border, cyber attack on a major pipeline, gas shortages, inflation and rising food and gas prices, lackluster jobs report, an economy hampered by government, kids still not in school, Israel under attack by Hamas terrorists, the list goes on. Democrats are in total control of Washington, yet they refuse to work on real solutions to these problems we face. I’m 100% focused on policy solutions that will improve the lives of the families and taxpayers I represent, and that’s exactly what Congress should be focused on.”

Rodney davis | (r) il-13

“Representative Mike Bost of the Illinois 12th congressional district knows his congressional district is likely to be significantly affected by the new redistricting plan that will emerge from Illinois’ General Assembly. Illinois lost a seat as a result of the 2020 Census, which means there will be a massive redrawing of the state’s congressional districts, particularly in the downstate,” Dr. Remmel said.

Dr. Remmel says because of the “solid Democratic control” of the state legislature, she thinks state lawmakers will do everything they can to make competitive districts that Democrats can win.

“That makes Representative Bost’s district, one of the biggest in the state, ripe for reconfiguration. And as Rep. Bost won’t know what that new district will look like and what voters will be in that district, he’s also being cagey,” Dr. Remmel said.

Dr. Remmel said the same logic may hold for Darin LaHood’s district.

“That district is also large, which again makes it a target for the state legislature to radically redraw it, especially given Rep. Cheri Bustos’s announcement that she will not seek reelection in 2022. As Bustos is a Democrat and her 17the congressional district has grown more conservative, these two geographically related districts are likely going to face substantial revision under the new redistricting map. Rep. LaHood is probably keeping an eye on that and trying to, like Rep. Davis, shore up both his conservative flank in the district while avoiding openly alienating people who oppose former President Trump,” she added.

After the vote, Rep. Darin LaHood did send a statement regarding Liz Cheney to Sheehan.

“I am grateful for Congresswoman Cheney’s leadership as Conference Chair. Under the Biden Administration and Democrat-controlled Washington, we have a crisis at our southern border, skyrocketing gas prices, and April jobs report that shows a lackluster recovery. I am committed to addressing these challenges and look forward to working to unite Republicans throughout Illinois and the country to fire Speaker Pelosi and take back the House in 2022,” LaHood said.

On Monday, Rep. LaHood told Sheehan that Liz Cheney had been “very conservative in her voting record.”

“You have to have Republicans all rowing in the right direction,” LaHood said right after. “We’ll see what Elise brings to the table. I’m going to remain open-minded on that.”

Rep. LaHood said the Republican’s number one priority should be “firing Nancy Pelosi.”

“I don’t think Nancy Pelosi represents the best interests of my district in Peoria and Central Illinois. What I’m focused on is winning back the House, we’re three seats short, and doing everything we can to fire Pelosi in 18 months,” LaHood said.

Congressman LaHood would not officially say if he would consider a run for U.S. Senate or Illinois Governor in 2022. He said his focus is on the 18th District, and then once the redistricting happens, his focus will be on the new District he would be able to campaign for.

“We’re gonna see what the map looks like. We’ll see in the next several months, but my focus is on representing the 18th District that I was elected in,” LaHood has represented the district for the last six years.

“While it’s nice for people to consider you for U.S. Senate, or maybe Governor, I’m focused on representing the 18th District. We’ll see what happens in redistricting,” LaHood said.

Rep. LaHood said Former President Trump is still a very active part of the Republican Party.

“I look at the policies President Trump put in place. What he did with the U.S. Supreme Court, what he did on the Southern Border, what he did in putting America first,” LaHood said. “We arguably had the best economy in my lifetime under President Trump pre-COVID.”

LaHood also mentioned Trump’s work in Operation Warp Speed.

“When I look at those things, the President brought a lot to the table. Representing Conservative, Republican values, many of those I agree with. What happens in 2024, that’s an eternity in politics. Right now, what we need to be focused on is winning back the House, winning back the Senate, I think the President will help us with that in 2022,” LaHood said.

There will be an On The Record interview next week that will air Friday, May 21. It is with a candidate who is announcing their candidacy for State Senate.

The week after, there will be a live On the Record on WMBD This Morning with Peoria’s Fourth District Councilman Andre Allen. That will be on 5/25 at 6:20 a.m.

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