About the Candidate
Name: Bill Foster
DOB: Oct. 7, 1955
Occupation: U.S. Congressman, Scientist, Businessman
Political Experience: U.S. Representative (IL-11): 2013 – present; U.S. Representative (Il-14): 2008 - 2011
Hi, I’m Bill Foster. I am a scientist, a businessman, and the son of a civil rights lawyer, and I am proud to represent the 11th District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I’m running for reelection as the only PhD physicist in Congress because America needs more leaders with scientific and technical expertise as we confront complex challenges and pursue practical economic solutions that work for all Americans.
Before serving in Congress, I spent 24-years working as a particle physicist at Fermilab in Batavia, where I helped design and build the world-class accelerators and experiments that are crucial to the scientific research that takes place there every day.
Before my career in science, my younger brother and I were successful at launching and growing a high-tech manufacturing business that now provides hundreds of good jobs – and we’ve kept those good manufacturing jobs right here in the Midwest.
The American people are facing a lot of challenges right now: from inflation to student debt to protecting our climate for future generations.
I’m proud of the work my staff does every day to help constituents deal with federal agencies and help the communities that I represent receive their fair share of federal spending.
And that’s why it was so important that under Democratic leadership, Congress finally passed Infrastructure legislation that will send billions of dollars to Illinois. With this funding, we will modernize our transportation infrastructure, repair crumbling bridges and roads, extend broadband internet to underserved areas, and replace lead pipes in our drinking water systems.
And as your voice in Congress, I’ll always make sure that the concerns of my constituents, and respect for science, facts, and logic, are at the forefront of policy debates in Washington.
Thank you all.
Why are you running?
My decision to enter public service followed successful careers in both business and science. Nearly every issue our government faces has both a technological and economic component, and I feel it is important for Congress to carry expertise and experience in those areas to produce an economy and a society that works for all Americans.
At 19, my brother and I founded a high-tech manufacturing firm that now provides most of the theater lighting equipment in the U.S. It now provides over 1300 well-paid manufacturing jobs, and we have kept those jobs in the Midwest for over 45 years. We export a large fraction of what we manufacture, even in the face of offshore competition. At a time when our supply chains and economy are being restructured, it is important for Congress to have real-world expertise in these areas – one of the reasons I was appointed to serve on the House-Senate Conference Committee on the AMERICA COMPETES Act.
I am the only PhD Physicist in Congress, having worked at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia for 23 years.
So I also bring with me the experience gained from a career that required prioritizing research and scientific evidence to draw conclusions and make recommendations -- something we need much more of in Washington.
The American people are facing a lot of challenges right now: from inflation to student debt to protecting our climate for future generations. To tackle these issues, we need serious leaders who lead with science and a deep understanding of the policies that are debated in Washington. I’m proud of how I’ve approached my responsibilities to my constituents and how I’ve always fought to make sure science is prioritized in Congress.
What does this office do well, and what needs fixing?
I am proud of the work my office has done to help constituents in the 11th District deal with federal agencies on issues like immigration, social security, and veterans benefits. Making sure my constituent services team is readily available to help has always been one of my priorities.
I’m also proud of the work my office does to reach across party lines, especially on technical scientific issues where collaboration is essential. The bipartisan nature of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee makes the committee stronger, and builds the type of bipartisan working relationships we need more of in Congress.
Overall, Congress as an institution needs to focus more on improving the ability of Representatives and Senators to receive nonpartisan, expert advice about the technical aspects of the legislation that we consider. We need to revive the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) so there is a standing resource of high-quality expertise on science and technological issues. We also need to encourage people with backgrounds in science and STEM fields to run for office because it’s a background and perspective that Congress needs more of.
What is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?
The most pressing issue facing my constituents are the economic pressures, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, that are challenging countries across the globe.
Thanks to the bold actions we took to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic, America is leading the world in recovering the jobs that were lost and creating new ones. The U.S. unemployment rate, which peaked at nearly 15 percent in the middle of the pandemic and was at 6.4 percent when President Biden took office, is now at 3.6 percent.
While we’ve made great progress on the jobs front, we have more economic hurdles to overcome, namely the inflation we’re seeing as the economy recovers. Largely due to supply chain deficiencies and the failure to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Americans are facing higher prices for goods and services, especially groceries and gasoline. We need to do more to help lower costs for hard working families in Illinois and around the country.
On the inflation front, I was recently appointed to be a member of the committee negotiating the final America COMPETES package. I’m focused on crafting this bill to make substantial investments in our nation’s supply chain, which has been a major driver of inflation. Additionally, as a member of the Financial Services Committee, I’ve been weighing in with the Federal Reserve on their inexpensive lending policies, which helped save us from a COVID-19 recession but are now fueling inflation; in response, we saw the Fed finally increase these interest rates this month.
With regards to preventing further economic distress related to COVID-19, as a member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, I’ve led and supported substantial investments in our nation’s vaccine and treatment research and distribution infrastructure; this way, any future waves can be more quickly addressed so we can avoid any painful economic shutdowns. I’ve also been a strong supporter of the Paycheck Protection Program throughout the pandemic, which gave loans to small businesses forced to temporarily close to ensure their employees continued to get paid. We are also developing methods for our government to administer future emergency assistance programs in a more rapid and fraud-free manner, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder who suffer first in a pandemic.
What specific steps would you take to ensure your office is accessible and responsive to your constituents?
I take pride in my office being accessible to my constituents. Every week, my staff and I take dozens of meetings with constituents, issue area experts, and stakeholders, and receive and respond to hundreds or thousands of emails and phone calls. This year, I’ve even started holding virtual office hours, where anyone from our community can sign up for a slot to speak with me about an issue their family is facing. But it’s not just listening -- I take action on what constituents bring to my attention. In 2021, my office helped resolve almost 650 constituent cases, held nearly 400 meetings, and hosted 30 community events on a range of issues important to people in Illinois.
I’m also proud to have delivered nearly $20 million dollars for important community projects in the 11th District as part of the recently passed federal spending bill. That ranks in the top 10 percent of all districts, and that money will go to some very worthwhile projects, including job training and apprenticeship programs, addressing homelessness, and supporting safe housing for LGBTQ+ youth in the Chicago area.
I’ve signed onto countless bills based on my constituents’ advocacy and have written bills, like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Inclusion Act, aimed at correcting problems that people in Illinois have brought to my attention. I’ve also passed legislation, like the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act, that will benefit the people I serve, both through direct investment in places like Argonne National Lab, and the long-term benefits of developing next-generation, grid level energy storage that will help ensure our grandchildren can thrive on this planet. I encourage all of my constituents to reach out to my office when they encounter a problem, for anything from getting their Social Security check to advocating for a higher minimum wage.