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Working across the aisle a theme of Rep. Sorensen's telephone town hall

Rep.-elect Eric Sorensen, D-Ill., arrives for New Member Orientation check-in and program registration at the Hyatt Regency, in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
AP file
U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen represents parts of Bloomington-Normal in the 17th Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen sat down for dinner Monday night at a table with five Republicans and three Democrats.

“And the thing I brought away from that is, God, this looks a lot like my neighborhood. We should be able to sit down and talk with one another again, and support one another,” said Sorensen, who represents the 17th Congressional District that includes the Twin City area.

The theme of working across the aisle to benefit the people he represents ran throughout a telephone town hall Tuesday night, with Sorensen going so far as agreeing with Republicans that spending cuts need to be made in the budget.

But he called those who would use a looming default on the debt limit to rework a budget that’s already been approved “extremists” who would drive the economy off a cliff for the sole purpose of winning an election.

On a personal level, Sorenson likened the default to deciding not to pay one's credit card bill.

“Because what if I don’t? Then that means that the credit card company is going to sue me. My credit rating is going to take a hit and I’m not going to be able to borrow. That’s exactly what’s going to happen if we play games with the default,” he said.

On a national scale, he said it would cripple the stock market, hurt 401Ks and put retirement plans at risk, as well as adversely affecting Social Security, Medicare and other vital programs.

While Sorensen, of Moline, addressed several national issues during the event, which featured call-in questions from throughout the 17th district, much of the discussion centered around how he’s trying to help constituents from a district that includes the Illinois Quad Cities, Rockford, Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.

Callers asked about Sorensen’s position on issues ranging from prescription drug prices and Alzheimer’s care to mental health and train derailments. Sorensen’s answers often brought the issues back to what could be done locally — and often with bipartisan support.

He also touted his support for increased law enforcement funding and more agents at the southern border.

Asked about work he’d done that excited him, he talked about bringing astronaut Kate Rubins to visit a college, high school and grade school in the district.

When he brought her to a second grade classroom, the teacher said, “This is Mr. Eric. He’s our congressman, and he’s going to describe what he does for us.”

The question caught Sorensen, a former TV weatherman, unprepared.

“I can tell you what a meteorologist does. But I didn’t have that planned. And so I said, 'Well, boys and girls, I live about five blocks away from your school. But I work in Washington, D.C. in the United States capitol. And my job is to make sure you can do and be whomever you want to be when you grow up.'"

"But I’ve been thinking about that answer. And I didn’t plan that answer. But that's really the job of a congressman or a congresswoman. All my job really should be is to make sure that we’re secure going forward in our home towns, that our kids can grow up here.”

Sorensen guesses it will be about 20 years until a person sets foot on Mars, which puts that future astronaut in third grade.

“And whomever that third grader is, we gotta make sure they’re supported.”

Jim Stahly Jr. is a correspondent with WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.