U.S. Rep.-elect Sean Casten said he's ready to push progressive policies in the nation's capital when he's sworn in Thursday.
Casten, the Downers Grove Democrat who defeated incumbent Republican Peter Roskam during the midterm election, will represent the state's 6th Congressional District.
Casten said he's excited to get to work.
"It's just really humbling and inspiring," Casten told the Northwest Herald on Dec. 27. "Meeting both the newly elected members and the existing members who've I've met – I haven't met all of them, I probably haven't met the majority of them – but without exception, everybody I've met is motivated by public service. I wished the media coverage was more about that piece of it. ... It's an impressive group of people."
Casten, a biochemist and entrepreneur, said his business experience has prepared him for the House of Representatives. In 2000, Casten became the president and CEO of Turbosteam Corp., a manufacturer of combined heat and power plants.
"I ran because climate change is really important and I feel like I can contribute to that conversation," Casten said.
Casten said one of his first priorities is ending the partial government shutdown.
"I'm hopeful we can get that done quickly," he said. "It certainly doesn't sound like there's any real objection in either part in the House to doing that but we have to get the president to sign it. If I thought that this president was a mature person who put this country first, it'd be real easy."
When questioned about a tweet from President Donald Trump claiming that Democrats are suffering the most from the government shutdown because he believes most federal employees are Democrats, Casten replied: "The president says so many things that are false that it's not worth the time to respond to all of them. You know it's not true, the president knows it's not true. I don't even know how that's knowable. The people responsible for this shutdown are named Donald Trump. Period. The people who are hurt by it are over 800,000 federal employees."
Casten said the next two years will be better if elected officials focus on "things that unite us rather then divide us."
"If we are focused on what party an idea came from, I don't think that's very constructive," he said. "That is substantially going to be on the president and the Senate. ... I know there are people of good will in both parties."
Casten said "he largely still believes" that "every day Donald Trump is in office is a danger to the world."
When questioned about impeachment, Casten said Democrats should be cautious.
"If you impeach him but are unable to remove him, he's more dangerous," he said. "The House cannot remove a sitting president. The House can indict a sitting president but the Senate is the jury and the judge. Do you think as we sit here today that Trump could do anything that would cause roughly 15 to 17 Republican senators to put country over party? I don't know the answer to that question, and that's really scary."
To remove a president, two-thirds of the Republican controlled Senate must vote for it after the House starts such proceedings.
Supports Nancy Pelosi for Speaker
Casten said he will support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. Pelosi, a California Democrat and current minority leader, is widely expected to become the nation's third-highest ranking politician when the House votes next month. She previously held the position from Jan. 4, 2007 to Jan. 3, 2011.
"There's no one else running for Speaker, and I'm encouraged to have her experience in steering us through what's going to be a very challenging couple of years," Casten said. "I think the fact that if you look at the last speakers you can't name any that have accomplished as much as she's done."
Casten said outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, "accomplished virtually nothing."