President Obama to address Illinois legislature amid budget impasse

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- President Barack Obama says he plans to bring a message of cooperation between political parties when he comes to Springfield next month.

The speech, which will be on Feb. 10, will put the wreckage of Illinois state government in the national spotlight.

It was nine years ago when he was last in Springfield as a U.S. senator announcing a run for the White House. But with all the discord in Washington, will his message do any good here?

While he has visited his adopted home state frequently, President Obama has so avoided Illinois politics that he has not granted one interview to any Chicago-based political reporter since his inauguration. The announcement that he would address a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly - mired in a seven-month-old budget impasse - surprised both Democrat and Republican members.

"I think it's pretty cool. The President's gonna come and speak to the General Assembly," said State Sen. Matt Murphy.

Republican Murphy says he hopes Obama can convince Democrats to strike a deal to accept at least some of Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed reforms.

"If the Democrats don't want to do everything the way he wants that's okay. Come up with your ideas and we'll talk about it," Murphy said.

"I'll be willing to meet with the governor whenever he wants to see how we can help with this budget to provide the money necessary," said State Sen. John Cullerton (D), senate president.

Cullerton, who served alongside Obama in the Illinois Senate, said the president -in his State of the Union Address - struck a chord with its call for more civil politics.

While Cullerton has agreed to work with Rauner on pension and education reform, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and the governor remain far apart on virtually every issue.

"We're not aggressively forcing our leaders to put together an agenda that reflects us in our respective districts," said State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D).

In a statement, Rauner said: "I look forward to welcoming President Obama to the state capitol and hearing him speak about finding common ground between Republicans and Democrats."

There is lots of speculation why the president suddenly decided to go to Springfield. A spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel - Obama's former chief-of-staff - said she does not know if the mayor had anything to do with the visit.
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President Obama is planning his return to the place his political career blossomed, but who had the political muscle to get him here?


President Obama is planning his return to the place his political career blossomed, but who had the political muscle to get him here?

In 2004, Barack Obama left Springfield for a run at the U.S. Senate. He would return on a frigid February day in 2007, announcing a run for president. And now, exactly nine years later, to the day, he's coming back.

"Let's hope it's not as cold as it was, I think it was in the single digits that day," ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington said.

Washington believes Chicago is huge reason why President Obama is returning.

"Rahm Emanuel has more at stake than anybody else in the state of Illinois to see movement. Many of the programs and institutions that are affected by this budget impasse are under his watch," Washington said.

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, now in office more than a year, is in a stalemate with House Speaker Michael Madigan on just about every issue.

Rauner referenced the President's State of the Union address in his own State of the State, citing two specific issues the governor agrees with.

"President Obama has come out strongly in favor of both term limits and redistricting reform," Gov. Rauner said.

Michael Madigan's spokesperson says the speaker is "very honored to have a sitting president and former member visit."

The other unanswered question is: can the president break the stalemate? Laura Washington believes if there's one person who can, it's the president of the United States.

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