Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton Poised for Power from Suburban State Lawmaker to No. 4 Post in U.S. House

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 27, 2011 | Go to article overview

Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton Poised for Power from Suburban State Lawmaker to No. 4 Post in U.S. House


Byline: Kerry Lester Politics and Projects Writer klester@dailyherald.com

WASHINGTON "Heads up."

Heeding those words of warning, the stifling conference room, packed with reporters, goes silent.

Several seconds pass, and, to the click of camera shutters, in files the second most powerful Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, Majority Leader Eric Cantor. At his heels is the man in the No. 4 slot, Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, of Wheaton.

For Roskam, the moment is light-years away from the days of his first campaign for Illinois state representative from DuPage County's 40th District in 1992. He won that race decisively, as Republicans often do in DuPage, but the prize was to become one of another 117 state House members fighting to be heard.

Here in Washington, D.C., on this day, Roskam is not in a

crowd. He stands out as a rising power in a party that took back significant political ground in the midterm election and hopes to take the presidency in two years.

Roskam, who grew up in Glen Ellyn, is poised to go places, perhaps even to one day become the U.S. House Speaker, following in Yorkville Republican Dennis Hastert's footsteps.

Roskam was named chief deputy whip in late November, making him the final power broker at the GOP's leadership table, in line after House Speaker John Boehner, Cantor and Whip Kevin McCarthy.

The three men behind Boehner share many of the same characteristics, a manifestation of their newly invigorated party. They are young. Bold. And unwavering in their ideals.

Each man's speech bursts with energy and newfound authority, as Republicans have control of the House for the first time since 2006.

The talk's all budget these days, as the House Republicans have given the Democrat-controlled Senate two choices to avoid a government shutdown: cut $61 billion from the federal budget in one fell swoop, or pass a temporary, two-week funding bill that cuts $4 billion from the budget in the meantime.

"Last week, we took the steps in the House to begin to get our fiscal house in order," Cantor tells reporters that afternoon. "It's very clear now I think where we sit. The House has acted."

As Cantor speaks, Roskam looks down, the tips of his fingers pushing slightly at the paper that outlines what he plans to say, come time. His lips are slightly pursed. He appears poised, body language fighting any display of anxiousness. After a few moments, Cantor looks to his left, introducing with his velvety Virginia accent, the "gentleman from Illinois."

"Thank you leader," Roskam says with a hard blink, turning to look ahead, focused. "It's clear there are two clear goals here."

One, he says, is that the government stay open. Two, cut the budget.

"Surely we can continue on that pathway and the American public can gain confidence in where we are and where we're going," Roskam says. "I was just home in the district, and it just became increasingly clear to me a that voters are watching. They're watching how the House is conducting itself."

Roskam's a linchpin in that new Congress, as he works to help a large freshman class of Republicans gel into a cohesive and functional unit, as he works to educate members about legislation high on the Republican agenda and show them, by example, how to serve a diverse constituent base.

"Roskam's savvy. Right away, you knew he was on the fast track," said Drew Cannon, a soft-spoken Oregon native who, for the past eight years, has watched Roskam and the other congressmen from his perch manning the third floor press gallery, which provides a bird's-eye view of the lower chamber.

Those who know Roskam, 49, describe him as intensely intelligent, trustworthy, spiritual, devoted to his wife and family, and a man with a gift for connecting with constituents and colleagues alike.

He's a protg of his former boss, 6th District Congressman Henry Hyde, the staunch conservative who oversaw the House impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton and wrote the Hyde Amendment that limited federal abortion funding. …

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