An Illinois House committee on Thursday approved legislation that would allow repairs to a levee in Grand Tower, in southern Illinois. It would have been routine except for the featured witness — sitting U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart.
Congressmen are a rare sight in the Statehouse — especially when the U.S. House of Representatives is in session in Washington. But Enyart, a Democrat from Belleville, took time out of his schedule to testify in favor of a bill that has near unanimous support. Then he held a press conference about it.
"I understand the challenges of fighting flood waters, and I understand the challenges of state and federal law," Enyart said. "That's why ... I've been fighting for Grand Tower."
To understand why Enyart made such a big show of this, it helps to know that the sponsor of the levee bill is his opponent for the 12th District seat in Congress.
State Rep. Mike Bost is a Republican from Murphysboro. He says his proposal was blocked for months — until Enyart came in to claim a share of the credit. But Bost says he doesn't care about that.
"What I care about is those people in that community, and making sure the property is safe and they're safe," Bost said.
And does the fact he's challenging Enyart have anything to do with the congressman's sudden presence?
"It's just coincidental, I'm sure," Bost said with a chuckle.
The legislation would allow local officials to fund the repairs using expired bonding authority. The spending was originally approved by voters back in 1994.