Democratic lawmakers sworn in Tuesday for the new session of Congress signaled their willingness to cooperate with the incoming Trump administration. But also a willingness to stand up to it.
"I think there is a sense of hesitancy," new U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said on a call Tuesday afternoon from Capitol Hill shortly after her swearing-in ceremony. "I think people are sort of holding their breath to see what happens out of the incoming administration."
But the Democrat elected convincingly in November said that she hoped that Trump would present an agreeable and vigorous infrastructure improvement plan. He had campaigned on spending $1 trillion on such work, and Duckworth said that from removing lead from the water supply to lock-and-dam repairs on waterways to physical plant improvements at buildings including schools, there are many needs she sees.
Likewise, third-term U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, said that she hopes transportation and infrastructure are "a place where we can work together."
But, both cautioned, their interest in that issue isn't a blank check of support, and that they're leery of many other proposals from the GOP including a prospective repeal — without clear replacement — of the Affordable Care Act.
"That would absolutely be devastating to tens of millions of Americans," Bustos said from just off the House floor between votes on the first day of the new session of Congress.
Likewise, a host of Cabinet nominees by Trump drew warning shots from the pair, though, with Bustos noting a series of concerns with selection including with Environmental Protection Agency pick Scott Pruitt, who she said holds views on the renewable fuel standard that wouldn't benefit farmers in downstate Illinois.
Duckworth — who will actually vote on confirmations — reiterated that she would withhold final judgment until confirmation hearings and noted that "I'm willing to give them all a chance and sit down and chat with them and if they prove to be qualified and have policies that benefit the people of Illinois and the country, then I'll vote for them."
For example, Duckworth said that while he himself is distinctly qualified for the post, she has serious concerns about the process that went into granting a waiver for Secretary of Defense designee Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis to serve in civilian leadership soon after his retirement.
"If you lessen that time period, you get to the point where you have high ranking military leaders stepping right into civilian leadership, and that's simply not acceptable," said the former Army officer, who served in Iraq while Mattis held a command there.
Bustos, meanwhile, suggested a hope that the Trump administration would be amenable to anti-outsourcing efforts given his campaign rhetoric, and also suggested that eliminating government waste and redundancy — the subject of a bill passed by Bustos in late 2015 — could be an area where they found agreement.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at email@example.com and 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.