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Kinzinger, 113th Congress sworn in

Shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday, the 112th Congress came to a close, ending Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s first two-year term as Congressman for Illinois’ 11th District.

A few minutes later, the 113th Congress was sworn in with Kinzinger now the new representative from Illinois’ 16th District. After the redistricting following the 2010 Census, Kinzinger chose to run against incumbent Don Manzullo in the 16th District. He defeated Manzullo in the March 2012 primary, and Democratic challenger Wanda Rohl in the November general election.

Before taking the oath of office, Kinzinger held a press conference to discuss Tuesday’s vote in the House avoiding the fiscal cliff, and his outlook for the new Congress.

Without moving an inch, all of Bureau County moved into Illinois’ 16th Congressional District Thursday. Instead of being in parts of the 11th, 14th and 18th Districts, all of Bureau County is in the new 16th District, and represented in Washington, D.C. by Kinzinger.

One of his last acts as the 11th District Representative was to join six other Illinois House Republican and all of the House Democrats in voting in favor of the fiscal cliff legislation at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Kinzinger said he voted for the bill because it was the best choice available at the time. He said that as of midnight, everyone’s tax rates had automatically gone up, and he feared the economy would have spun into recession if the bill wasn’t passed.

“I’m a very strong conservative, but I understand we have to work with the Democrats,” he said. “While it wasn’t the best deal, governing includes coming out here and having to sometimes make tough decisions.”

Kinzinger said voting yes was a tough vote.

“It would have been a lot easier to vote no and say, ‘I just didn’t like it so I didn’t vote for it,’” he said. “But I don’t think the people of the 16th District sent me out to Washington and to make only the easy votes.”

Kinzinger said he showed the people in his district that they have a Congressman who “rises above the partisan fray” and can get some things done.

Kinzinger said the fierce debate over the bill is part of having a government created with checks and balances.

“Congress is doing what Congress does,” he said. “It’s not meant to be pretty. The so-called ‘sausage-making’ of Washington, D.C. is not something you always want to see happen.”

By making the tax rates permanent, Kinzinger said the country now has a permanent tax code for the first time in a decade. This will create the opportunity to have real, comprehensive tax reform.

“That’s our goal in this Congress — hopefully this year — to work with the president, to work with Democrats, and to come to some real tax reform, some pro-growth reform that would have less loopholes, but lower rates and simpler taxes,” he said.

Kinzinger disputed the argument that Republicans won’t have any leverage in the upcoming debate about raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

“Congress has to agree to raise the debt ceiling,” he said. “We’ve set the precedent that we’re not going to raise it any more than we get in spending cuts.”

Kinzinger said because of the failure of the Senate to pass a budget, the government is continuing to pay its bills through the passage of a continuing resolution. That also gives the Republicans a tool in arguing about raising the debt ceiling.

Kinzinger said he would not guarantee how he would vote on raising the debt ceiling.

“Let’s see what we get for it because I’ve got to tell you, if we don’t get serious about our spending problem in this country, there’s not going to be a debt ceiling left because nobody’s going to be willing to fund government debt anymore,” he said.

In addition to avoiding the fiscal cliff and making tax rates permanent, other good things were accomplished in the New Year’s legislation. Kinzinger said one of the greatest benefits was setting the exemption at $5 million for estate tax. He called it a huge win for Republicans and agriculture because President Barack Obama had wanted that exemption set at $3 million

“On Jan. 1 it actually went to $1 million, so it meant that whatever assets you have over $1 million, the government would take 55 percent of it,” he said. “Obviously if you’re a small farmer, you would have to sell off your farm in order to pay the taxes on the wealth that was passed on.”

Kinzinger said he is looking at his second term with a slightly different mindset than he had two years ago.

“I came out here hoping that with a divided government there would be an opportunity to get to some solutions and drive to some answers,” he said.

Instead, he has been disappointed with the partisanship on both sides of the aisle and the unwillingness to make deals.

“This Congress needs leaders that are willing to have conversations with the other side of the aisle; to hang to your principles, but also understand that governing is a difficult thing to do,” he said. “I’m still optimistic about the future of our country.”

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