Rep. Bryan Steil said ending the government shutdown was at the top of his mind as he took office Thursday.
The Janesville Republican spoke by phone with The Gazette hours before he officially replaced Rep. Paul Ryan as the 1st Congressional District’s representative.
“I am firmly committed: We need to reopen the government,” Steil said, but he added that will happen when President Donald Trump and the Senate resolve their “logjam” over the question of a border wall.
Steil said he hadn’t received any complaints about the shutdown, “but I have no doubt it is having very serious impacts on a large number of people.”
Steil said now that he is able to receive complaints through official channels, he expects to hear plenty about the shutdown from constituents.
“I share their frustration,” he added.
Steil said he expects a compromise between Democrats and Republicans will be needed to resolve the impasse.
When asked about a possible compromise involving the so-called Dreamers, he said: “My view is, we need a kind of big-picture immigration reform. The immigration system is broken. I think almost everybody agrees with that. I think Step 1 is securing the border,” followed by “addressing the groups that are here (illegally).”
“One of the most deserving groups is the Dreamers,” who are in the United States because they were brought here as children through no fault of their own, Steil said.
“But Step 1 is border security,” he said. He defined border security as improving current border-security measures, which he said are inadequate.
Steil said he backs a change in the system of approving budgets so that if Congress doesn’t pass one, the federal government would continue to function with no increase in funding. Now, failure to pass a budget means a partial shutdown.
Steil’s proposal would prevent politicians from using the threat of a shutdown to achieve policy changes, Steil said, forcing opponents to come to the table to get things done.
Steil also addressed these subjects:
- District offices: He is in the process of finalizing office locations across the district. The Janesville office will be in the same place as Ryan’s office, in the Olde Towne Mall, 20 S. Main St.
- His living situation: He won’t be sleeping in his office, as Ryan had done.
“I’m going to rent a little, tiny place to hang my hat while I’m here. I still live in Janesville, in my home out behind Home Depot, and will continue to live in and call Janesville my home.”
He said he would be in the 1st District when he’s not needed in Washington.
- Appointing staff: He has focused on this over the past two months.
In-district staff members include Andrew Iverson of Janesville, who was Steil’s communications director in the campaign, Tricia Stoneking of Janesville, who was director of scheduling and office operations for the House, and Rebekah Cullum of Janesville.
James Langnes of Elkhorn, who was deputy communications director for the Steil campaign, will join Steil’s staff in Washington.
- Preparations: Steil said he attended a two-week, bipartisan orientation for new House members. He planned this weekend to attend another bipartisan seminar, which addresses policy in a nonpartisan way, put on by the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service.
Steil said he is looking forward to conversations with his new colleagues.
The House freshman class comprises more than 90 members, roughly 60 Democrats and 30 Republicans, Steil said, adding that it’s good to bring fresh ideas, backgrounds and experiences to issues facing the nation.
- Caucuses: Steil said he has not joined any of the policy-oriented groupings in the House, but he likely will.
- Office space: Steil has a fourth-floor office in the Longworth House Office Building, about a five-minute walk to the House floor.
Steil and his staff are “tucked in tight” in the three-room office at 1408 Longworth, but it has natural light and should help him be effective in getting things done, he said.
In an official statement issued after the 116th Congress was sworn in, Steil said, in part:
“The American people are frustrated with the dysfunction in Washington, but I am committed to cutting through the noise to focus on the issues. I stand ready to work with every member of the House to find solutions that ensure families, students, and workers have affordable health care, good-paying jobs, and access to quality and affordable education. I look forward to getting to work on behalf of the people of Southeast Wisconsin.”