Sauerberg: Durbin 'too liberal, too partisan'

Ryan Keith

Republican Steve Sauerberg wants Illinois voters to send him to Washington to change things from the inside out, using the bully pulpit to get better solutions for the nation’s major economic and health-care problems.

Sauerberg — running against powerful Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin this fall — says Durbin and others in Congress have let the American people down by focusing too much on political self-preservation.

Rather than getting out in front of problems early on, he says, lawmakers have let them reach crisis proportions and then supported solutions that don’t work. He wants Illinoisans to take a chance on a political newcomer to change that pattern.

“We have problems, and they need to be fixed,” Sauerberg said in an hourlong interview Friday with The State Journal-Register editorial board. “I can do this if this is what people want.”

Sauerberg says that unlike Durbin, he would have opposed the $700 billion financial bailout package Congress approved recently in favor of other free-market solutions, such as putting a moratorium on capital-gains taxes and lowering corporate taxes to spur jobs and more investment.

He criticized Durbin for supporting the package even though the senator acknowledges he doesn’t know if it will work to stabilize the economy.

Sauerberg, a family doctor from Chicago’s suburbs, also pointed to the economic crisis as a forerunner of catastrophe facing health care if something isn’t done soon.

His plan would call for replacing the current health insurance system with a standard system where all citizens buy coverage, independent of their jobs. He acknowledges that would be a major change and cause pain to switch over but says otherwise the federal Medicare system will be devastated by 2014.

“What’s going on in Washington about it? Nothing,” Sauerberg said.

Sauerberg is making his first run for public office and promises to serve only two six-year terms in Washington if elected. Durbin is running for his third Senate term.

Sauerberg said he got into the race because he thought Durbin, of Springfield, no longer was a moderate Democrat who represented the values of the people of Illinois.

“He’s too liberal, he’s too partisan, and it’s really not too much more complicated than that,” Sauerberg said.

Sauerberg said he knows his approach to changing government won’t go over well in Congress and that he wouldn’t be a very popular member of his party if he’s sent there. But he said nothing will change unless someone who’s focused on reform rather than re-election takes a stand.

“I don’t accept that it has to be this way,” Sauerberg said.

On the war in Iraq, Sauerberg thinks Durbin should have done more to warn the public that the invasion was wrong based on intelligence at the time, although Sauerberg doesn’t know if he would have voted to send troops without access to the same information.

He says the nation must win the war in Iraq and create a stable government where terrorism doesn’t flourish. Once that’s accomplished, Sauerberg then sees sending troops to Afghanistan to deal with security problems there.

“I don’t think we can police the world, but we can help,” Sauerberg said.

He promised not to secure federal earmarks for Illinois, instead pushing for separate congressional votes on funding for projects and programs here.

And on energy, Sauerberg says the nation’s economic problems could be greatly eased if leaders would try short-term and long-term solutions — allowing more offshore and Alaska oil drilling, developing vehicles that run on electricity and pursuing other alternative forms of power.

Sauerberg says he’s focused largely on improving the big picture for the state and nation.

“Government, I think, should make our lives simpler and better,” Sauerberg said. “Life is hard, and why are we making it harder?”

Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518.