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Politically Speaking: Illinois Congressman Shimkus on taxes, Trump and Rauner's re-election

Congressman John Shimkus, November 2017
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back U.S. Rep. John Shimkus to the show for the third time.

Shimkus is a Collinsville Republican who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1996. He represents the enormous and heavily Republican 15th congressional district, which encompasses a big chunk of southern Illinois. In fact, since redistricting went into effect in 2012, Shimkus says his district appears to be the largest – area-wise – of any district east of the Mississippi River.

Shimkus has been a key member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for a number of years. Like most of the Republican caucus, Shimkus voted in a favor of a major overhaul of the federal tax code earlier this month. Whether it actually makes it to President Donald Trump’s desk remains to be seen, as some Republican senators have expressed misgivings about some of the provisions. The House and Senate have dramatically different versions of the tax bill.

For the most part, Shimkus has voted for many of the items that align with Trump’s agenda. He says the president is popular in southern Illinois, one the areas of the state where Trump performed well in 2016 — even though he failed to carry the state. Democrat Hillary Clinton won Illinois by a wide margin, thanks to huge support from the Chicago area.

Here's what Shimkus had to say during the show:

  • Some critics of the tax cut plan fear it will cause the federal deficit to go up dramatically. Shimkus is banking on the various provisions of the legislation to spur economic growth. He described the last decade, from 2006 to 2016, as a “malaise” when it comes to the economy.

  • Shimkus said Trump has delivered on his promise to shake up the federal government. “I define him as a disruptive technology like an Uber or an iPhone thrown into the federal government to disrupt the way we normally operate,” he said.

  • But Shimkus said he’s not sold with how Trump comports himself on social media. “Many people on both sides, those that support him and those that don’t support him, wish he wouldn’t tweet as much,” he said.

  • Shimkus said he is staying out of next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, and has no plans to endorse any of the likely contenders. Incumbent GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to face more conservative Republican challengers. Many social conservatives were upset that Rauner signed a bill allowing Medicaid and state-based insurance to cover abortions in some cases. “We thought that he would stay out of some of the socially-divisive issues,” Shimkus said. “He did not.” But the congressman added that he will support the GOP victor in the 2018 general election.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow John Shimkus on Twitter: @RepShimkus

Music: “Karma Police” by Radiohead

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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