Nine years to the day he announced his candidacy for President, Barack Obama returned to the Illinois Statehouse where he served three terms as a State Senator. On Feb. 10, President Obama became the fourth sitting president to address a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly, emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and reform.
During his speech, the President dedicated a number of his remarks to underscoring the need for changing the state’s method of drawing legislative districts. Senate Republican lawmakers applauded the President’s call for redistricting reform, having spent years introducing proposals to change Illinois’ current process that allows elected officials to draw the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries.
Republicans have long underscored a point the President made during his Wednesday address, when he declared that, “American politicians should not pick their voters, voters should pick their politicians.”
Occasionally joking about his time as a former State Senator, and reminiscing about memorable moments with colleagues from both political parties, the President stressed the need for compromise and encouraged Illinois’ leaders to set rancor and bipartisanship aside to accomplish good things for the people of Illinois.
Citing diversity as one of Illinois’ best attributes, President Obama called Illinois the “microcosm of America, where Republicans, Democrats, Independents and good people of every faith and ethnicity share certain bedrock values.” He called on the Illinois General Assembly to listen to all of these diverse voices to help “bridge differences” and find common ground on the state’s most important issues.
Republican lawmakers and the Governor have consistently expressed their willingness to compromise on a budget and reforms in order to end the state’s current budget impasse. To date, the state’s legislative Democrats have refused to come to the negotiating table on any reforms—including redistricting reform.
Legislative Republicans said they are hopeful that the President’s message of bipartisan cooperation and compromise will resonate as lawmakers work together address the significant challenges Illinois faces.