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Location: Washington, DC

Digging In

First Year Congressman Roskam Says Battle of Parties Continues As Lawmakers Debate Federal Budget

Des Plaines, Oct 15 - By Todd Wessell
Journal & Topics Editor

Three-quarters of the way through his first full year as a congressman, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-6th) appears to have immersed himself in many of Congress' major issues as well as subjects considered important to the West and Northwest suburbs.

"It's an interesting time out here now," Roskam told the Journal last week referring to Washington, D.C. The 6th Congressional Dist. includes western Des Plaines, southern Mt. Prospect and most of Elk Grove Village.

The freshman congressman from Wheaton said the big focus in the nation's capital at this time is spending. The trillion dollar plus federal budget, normally approved by Oct. 1, has yet to be formally acted on. Roskam predicts that an Omnibus Bill---one big spending package---will soon be approved by Congress which will then trigger a veto by President Bush.

"Then you will start to see a new chapter unfold," Roskam said.

Lawmakers recently approved a continuing resolution that allows federal spending to continue until a formal budget is passed. That resolution is not indefinite and if Congress does not act by Nov. 16, the effect of the resolution will eventually expire. Until that time, the resolution permits federal agencies to spend at their current levels in order to continue operating. However, during the period of current spending, funding for some services is less than what is needed. Federal agencies can become disrupted and non-essential operations adversely affected or even suspended. That, coupled with the fact that election year politicking can strangle the functioning of governing, can lead to shutting down federal government. That happened in 1995 when President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich engaged in a standoff on U.S. spending.

"It was a big battle, a big mess and not helpful," Roskam told the Journal. He said he is co-sponsor of a House bill that would prevent any shut down of the government.

Presently, President Bush and Congress are $23 billion apart on the Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bills. Of the 12 House-passed bills, the President has issued veto threats on 10 of them.

On the local level, Roskam has focused much attention on America's relationship with China, particularly economically. As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Roskam represents a district that employs 75,000 people in banking, insurance, real estate and other financial services industries. Roskam said a challenge the country needs to address is its business relationship with China that would lead to the opening of its market to U.S. companies and investors.

"China has a limit on foreign ownership of services," Roskam explained. "China has said to the U.S. that you can come in, but there is a 25% ownership cap. A week ago, I passed out of the House a resolution calling on China to lift that ownership cap so more of our Chicago-based financial companies can do business in China. I think it is very important to move forward in a country that has 1.2 billion people of which 485 million have cell phones, but only 1 million have credit cards."

Roskam maintains that China's cap on company ownership gives that nation an unfair advantage over the U.S.

"The American market is very open to the Chinese. I think in some ways, America is being taken advantage of by China," Roskam added. "The issue is literally thousands of miles away, but it has a direct impact on our district."

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