About half the protesters who came to Congresswoman Judy Biggert's Willowbrook office Tuesday afternoon were unemployed.
"I got laid off last month. My 401K is now gone. I'm paying COBRA (insurance coverage) that I can't afford, and I'm 62," said Winfield resident Terre Houte. "I've been working since I was 16, thinking that I was going to retire, and now I can't."
Houte was one of about 10 protesters who stood outside the representative's office holding signs and chanting, "Jobs not cuts!"
They spoke with Brian Colgan, district affairs director from Biggert's staff, who said he is willing to sit down with anyone who wants to discuss the matter further.
The group was one of dozens across the country taking part in demonstrations coordinated this week by moveon.org, to support President Barack Obama's $447 billion jobs bill, scheduled to go before the Senate Tuesday.
The protesters are coordinated by volunteers for moveon.org, a liberal, non-profit political action group.
Free trade agreements before Senate Finance Committee today
The West Suburban branch of the organization came to Biggert's office to protest her support of free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea being voted on by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.
"Together, these agreements would create 250,000 American jobs and increase exports by $13 billion dollars," said Biggert in a Sept. 8 statement.
A Hinsdale union representative disagrees.
"I don't think that's a correct representation of what's going to happen," said Joseph Pijanowski, a directing business representative for Hinsdale-based Local 126 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "Trade pacts are destructive for jobs...While they might help a select few wealthy corporations, on the whole, it's a negative for the entire country."
Protesters want higher taxes for millionaires
Protesters said they also want Biggert to support higher taxes for millionaires.
"As a millionaire [herself,] we would like her to take a stand for a little bit higher taxes, and we can use that money for jobs and to repair roads," said Siobhan Higgins Burke, an Aurora resident who helped coordinate Tuesday's demonstration. Burke lost her job working for the Illinois Department of Human Services Put Illinois to Work program when funding for the program was cut from the state budget.
"I'm seething with anger," said Burr Ridge resident Indra Makhija, a retired economics teacher who said that she feels the government should not be cutting programs that support the poor while allowing tax breaks for the rich. "It's the 99 percent [of Americans] that are suffering...They're not asking for much."
Representatives from Biggert's office say this is not the time to increase taxes that would affect small businesses in Illinois.
"Time and again, liberal activists at MoveOn have argued for more so-called stimulus spending and higher taxes, and the result has been higher debt and continued unemployment," said Abby Milone, Rep. Biggert’s deputy press secretary.
The congresswoman's representatives said she is supporting the free trade agreements because exports would support 65,000 jobs in DuPage, Will and Cook Counties.
“This week, [Representative Biggert's] working to pass the three pending Free Trade Agreements, because the economic benefits to Illinois—and suburban Chicago in particular—are overwhelmingly positive," said Milone. "There are over 109 existing exporters in the 13th district—small and large—that will be able to compete on a more level playing field and create more jobs here in the community thanks to these agreements.”
Sixty votes needed for a vote in the Senate
Representatives from Biggert's office said that although the congresswoman is in favor of some parts of the President's jobs bill, she feels other parts of the bill need work.
"Some parts of this plan, including certain tax cuts, credits and deductions do have the potential to win bipartisan support. For example, the President voiced support for extending the deduction on investments in new equipment. That makes sense. But these tax cuts must be targeted at economic growth, and not just used as an excuse to raise taxes on those who create jobs," said Biggert in a Sept. 8 statement following the president's job speech to congress.
The bill needs to receive 60 votes to cut off debate and bring it to a vote in the Senate.