Mike Bost, Rodney Davis and Mary Miller made campaign promises. Have they kept them?
Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
Mike Bost and Rodney Davis say they’ve done their jobs representing southern Illinois in Congress.
The two Republicans have so far introduced 48 bills combined in the 117th Congress. They have advocated for veterans, farmers and families, as they promised during their 2020 campaigns.
They also voted against bills that will provide billions in infrastructure investment in Illinois and lift children out of poverty. Two of them voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Davis and Bost promoted and defended their work in interviews with the Belleville News-Democrat. Mary Miller, the third GOP member of Congress from southern Illinois, did not respond to multiple interview requests.
Miller’s work in her first term reflects her concern about transgender children using bathrooms in schools, and about COVID-19 vaccination mandates and mask-wearing, though she also introduced a bill related to agriculture.
Freshman lawmakers such as Miller don’t have the resources and political capital accumulated by more senior members of Congress to promote their agendas. Bost is in his fourth term and Davis in his fifth.
In their first terms, Davis sponsored or introduced 14 bills and Bost six.
Bost has sponsored 20 bills since he began his current term on Jan. 3, 2021. Fourteen advocate for veterans, and he was the only one of the three southern Illinois members to have a bill become law this term as of mid-February. Davis has sponsored 23 bills relating to areas such as education and taxes.
Sponsored legislation doesn’t represent the entire scope of a lawmaker’s influence in Washington, D.C. Bost, Davis and Miller all fulfill their roles as rank-and-file Republicans who cast their votes along party lines as expected.
But drafting bills is how they can share their ideas and address the specific needs of people back home.
The BND evaluated their sponsored legislation and compared it to 2020 campaign promises.
Here’s what Bost and Davis had to say about their current terms and a look at Miller’s work so far, in alphabetical order by last name.
U.S. Rep Mike Bost
As ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Bost made good on promises to advocate for active duty military and veterans.
Like Davis, Bost voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense spending bill that this year provided a 2.7% basic pay raise for members of the Armed Forces. One of his bills would expand health care for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals. Another bill became law, providing oversight of how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spends COVID-19 relief money.
“We had so much money going into the VA, but there was no oversight,” Bost said. “What this bill did was to make sure we could do our job. Our job is to not just pass a bill, but once a bill is passed, … to monitor where and how our money that we invested in the VA is being spent.”
In line with campaign promises on agriculture, Bost introduced a bill that would give interest-free loans to farmers who offer apprenticeships to veterans without any agricultural experience. He also proposed legislation that ensure farmers have access to enough credit as inflation sends costs higher.
Like his colleagues, Bost voted against the Biden infrastructure package that will bring billions of dollars in investments to Illinois. Like the rest of the state, southern Illinois suffers from crumbling roads and bridges and poor internet connectivity.
Illinois is expected to get $9.8 billion for highways, $1.4 billion for bridges, $149 million for electric vehicle infrastructure and $100 million for broadband internet.
The congressman said he voted against the deal because it was connected to the Biden administration’s Build Back Better proposal. The stalled social spending deal would extend child tax credits and expand free preschool, among other measures. He also didn’t like provisions for electric vehicle infrastructure expansion, a job he thinks is for the private sector.
Roads, bridges, locks and dams, seaports, airports, water and sewer, and “activity on the net” are the only things Bost considers infrastructure.
While he didn’t vote for the deal, the congressman said he hopes southern Illinois benefits from it.
“I can still argue as a member of Congress for my district and for the state of Illinois for those projects out there and I will be doing that,” Bost said. “Also, that bill, I believe we can come in and modify in next Congresses and redirect those funds.”
Bost voted against another bill that lifted children out of poverty and helped millions of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Rescue Plan provided $300 monthly advances on an expanded child tax credit and extended unemployment insurance.
Bost said flooding the economy with money contributed to inflation.
“You provide the right jobs and the right opportunities, then those who can’t afford daycare will afford daycare,” Bost said. “This caused higher prices on daycare and less affordability for families. … People who are lower-income, there were plans available for them. People who were working, all it did was drive the price of the rest of their life up.”
Staffing costs have been the largest driver of a 41% increase in per-child costs at daycares during the pandemic, according to an analysis of child care data by the loan marketplace site LendingTree.
Like Miller, Bost voted against upholding 2020 presidential election results in January 2021. President Joe Biden won 306 Electoral College votes compared to Donald Trump’s 232, yet Republicans attempted to disavow the results by objecting to Arizona and Pennsylvania’s counts. The U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election, and state election officials verified the results.
Last May, Bost said he objected to the results because of how they conducted their elections, but believed Biden was the rightful winner.
“Once their votes are certified, that’s it,” Bost told the BND. “I hope he’s the president because the amount of letters I’ve been sending complaining about things, I hope I’ve been sending them to the right guy.”
U.S. Rep Rodney Davis
The 52-year-old from Taylorville said he worked on “conservative, Republican solutions” to America’s problems.
Davis sponsored the David Dorn Back the Blue Act, named for a 77-year-old retired police captain who was fatally shot in St. Louis. The bill would provide $15 billion in grants for local law enforcement agencies to provide raises and hire officers. The bill, which a House committee was still considering, represents the congressman’s opposition to calls for redirecting police funding to social services, he said.
Efforts to “defund the police” threaten the military as well, Davis said. Davis, like Bost, voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act. Miller voted against that bill, as did members of “the squad,” a group of six progressive House members.
“I’ll never stand with the squad not only when they try to defund our police, but when they try to defund our military,” Davis said.
Ideas from constituents inspired some of Davis’ bills. He introduced a measure to rename the post office in Maroa, Illinois, after Jeremy L. Ridlen, a National Guardsman who died in action in Iraq in 2004. The bill passed the House on Feb. 1. Davis also sponsored legislation to establish a monument to the 1908 Springfield race riot ,preserving the event’s history and its role in the NAACP’s founding.
Yet like Bost and Miller, Davis voted against the infrastructure package. If it hadn’t been linked to Build Back Better, he said he might have considered some of the infrastructure provisions.
“There was no way I could support it knowing that many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were using this infrastructure vote to then pass a multi-trillion dollar package of tax increases and spending levels that I just could not support,” Davis said.
The congressman said he believes the $2.2 trillion plan would “exacerbate the inflationary crisis we’re in right now.” Nonetheless, Davis said he hopes investments in Illinois’ infrastructure help improve lock and dam systems.
“I’m not going to begrudge my colleagues who voted for this, but at the same time you have to understand what the situation was when the bill came to the floor.”
Davis differed from his southern Illinois colleagues when he voted to uphold 2020 presidential election results in January 2021. He said he was fulfilling his constitutional duty under the 12th Amendment, which says Congress counts the Electoral College results the states send them.
The congressman went on to introduce legislation that would have established a commission to investigate “the attacks on the Capitol of January 6, 2021.” Republicans split recently on how to view the insurrection,with the Republican National Convention calling it “legitimate political discourse.”
Davis disagrees. He wanted a “true bipartisan commission” to investigate “what went wrong that led to the Capitol being breached.” Davis’ proposed commission never materialized, but House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy named him to the group that did form. He later declined to participate when Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to seat some Republicans.
“My commission would have been a much less partisan, a much more effective way to address what went wrong, and clearly those questions are not being answered by this sham committee that we see in place that is nothing more than Pelosi’s partisan circus,” Davis said.
“Anybody who walked into that Capitol and broke the law needs to be held accountable, just like I’ve said the entire year before,” he added. “Anybody who walks into a store and commits a crime of looting or rioting, they need to be held accountable criminally too. Crime’s crime.”
U.S. Rep. Mary Miller
House freshmen seldom make their mark with legislation. But Miller’s voting record and co-sponsorships support her promise to oppose Democrats’ agenda in Congress.
The first bill Miller sponsored would prohibit schools from using Title IX provisions to protect transgender children’s choice of what bathroom or locker room they use, and whether they play in girls or boys sports.
“As the Biden Administration continues to push radical gender ideology on our children, parents must draw the line to protect our daughters,” Miller said in a January newsletter.
Public health researchers at Harvard University found transgender children face a higher risk of sexual assault when their bathroom or locker room choices are restricted.
One of Miller’s bills related to campaign promises on agriculture. The Define WOTUS Act of 2021 would prevent the federal government from further regulating farmland through the Biden administration’s interpretation of “Waters of the United States” rules.
Unlike Bost and Davis, Miller opposed the annual defense spending bill that gave servicemembers a raise. She said she voted against it because “to this day, no one in the Biden Administration has been held accountable for the withdrawal in Afghanistan.” In January, she introduced her own bill that would give servicemembers the same raise and exempt them from COVID-19 mandates.
As her colleagues did, Miller voted against the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure deal. In her newsletter, she said the infrastructure bill “helped to advance the radical socialist ‘Green New Deal,’” a progressive climate proposal.
Miller introduced legislation related to schools that fail to provide in-person teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Miller’s bills would withhold federal funding from schools that don’t provide it or require masks, while a bill Davis introduced would give grants to families to find alternate education.
Miller noted she cosponsored legislation that would:
- Prohibit federal money to universities that provide medical abortion pills
- Force the Biden Administration to resume building a wall along the southern border
- Provide broadband infrastructure investment in rural areas
- Provide incentives for manufacturing facilities to relocate to the United States
- Designate “antifa” as a domestic terrorist organization
- Protect police officers from “frivolous litigation when they perform their duty responsibly”
- Prohibit “foreign nationals from buying public or private land in the United States”
Unlike Bost and Davis, Miller never publicly acknowledged the legitimacy of Biden’s election. She voted against certifying electoral ballots and has perpetuated misinformation about election fraud.
The three southern Illinois Republicans have nearly a year to continue working before a new Congress is seated. By that point, they might be in the majority.
Bost said he wants to continue working on border security, supporting law enforcement, redirecting infrastructure money and helping veterans understand what services are available to them. Davis aims to rein in government spending, work on election security issues, address student debt and make Trump tax cuts permanent.
“As much as we talk about campaigns, I’m happy to talk about what we’re actually out here doing in Washington,” Davis said. “In the end, we’re not going to sacrifice our core values and principles as conservatives, but we also have to govern. And part of governing is putting forth conservative, Republican solutions to problems.”
Kelsey Landis is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.