Durbin Statement Honoring Congressman Costello
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today submitted a statement for the record in the U.S. Senate honoring U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello who has represented the 12th Congressional District of Illinois for nearly 25 years and will be retiring at the end of the 112th Congress.
“The 12th Congressional District in southern and southwest Illinois runs along the Mississippi River, from Alton south to Cairo. It is a mix of agricultural and industrial communities including East St. Louis, Belleville, Carbondale and Granite City. People there don’t care much about political labels, they care about results – and that is what Jerry Costello has always focused on. He is a pragmatic and bipartisan,” said Durbin.
“Congressman Costello will be retiring at the end of this Congress. He has flown home nearly every weekend for 24 years. He and I have shared more flights between Washington to Illinois than either of us can count. I will miss his company on those flights, and all of us in the Illinois Congressional delegation will miss his leadership and good counsel in our ranks.”
Full text of Senator Durbin’s remarks are below:
Mr. President, I would like to take a moment to thank a man who has been a good friend to me and a strong advocate for working people in our home state of Illinois, across America and beyond.
Congressman Jerry Costello has represented the 12th Congressional District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly a quarter-century. We served together for eight years in the House, from 1988 to 1996.
Congressman Costello will be retiring at the end of this Congress. He has flown home nearly every weekend for 24 years. He and I have shared more flights between Washington to Illinois than either of us can count. I will miss his company on those flights, and all of us in the Illinois Congressional delegation will miss his leadership and good counsel in our ranks.
Jerry Costello and I were both born in East St. Louis, Illinois, which was a hard-scrabble, working class town even back then. Jerry’s family lived in Holy Angels Parish and I was a St. Elizabeth Parish kid but we were both taught by the Marianist brothers at Assumption High School, home of the Pioneers.
Jerry’s family moved to Belleville, Illinois, when Jerry was in high school and his dad was elected St. Clair County sheriff. In seventh grade, he met the love of his life, Georgia Cockrum. They married when they were just 18.
Jerry put himself through college working as a court bailiff. He also worked as a deputy sheriff, probation officer and court administrator.
In 1980 he was elected St. Clair County Board chairman, making him C.E.O. of one of Illinois’ largest counties.
Elected to Congress
In 1988 he won a special election to fill the term of a longtime congressman who had died in office. Mel Price was a veritable legend who had served in Congress since before Jerry Costello was born.
I remember when Jerry Costello was sworn in. I was one of the newer members of the Illinois delegation back then. Welcoming him to our delegation that day were Illinois Senators Paul Simon and Alan Dixon, along with Congressmen Sid Yates, Frank Anunzio, Ken Gray and me.
We kidded Jerry and called him “Landslide” because of his narrow margin of victory. It was the one and only time in his Congressional career that he had a close election.
“Costello will surely do it”
The 12th Congressional District in southern and southwest Illinois runs along the Mississippi River, from Alton south to Cairo. It is a mix of agricultural and industrial communities including East St. Louis, Belleville, Carbondale and Granite City.
People there don’t care much about political labels, they care about results – and that is what Jerry Costello has always focused on. He is a pragmatic and bipartisan.
The Almanac of American Politics said it well: Jerry Costello “as practical and district-minded as any member of the House. If it can be done, Costello will surely do it.”
Creating jobs and balancing the budget
He has fought for smart, responsible economic policies. He supported historic deficit-reduction bills in 1993 and 1997 that helped produce the first balanced budget in a generation. Four years ago when our nation was on the verge of economic collapse, he voted for the Recovery Act to help prevent a second Great Depression.
Commitment to transportation
On that day 24 years ago that he was sworn in, Jerry Costello expressed interest in serving on the House Public Works and Transportation Committee. He won that assignment. Today he is the senior Democrat on the House Transportation Aviation Subcommittee, an assignment he has used to keep the aerospace industry alive and well in Southern Illinois.
He has also been a relentless advocate for aviation safety. He has had a hand in every major aviation safety bill over the past decade. Congressman Costello’s legacy will be safer skies and runways for America.
No one in Congress has a better understanding of or a stronger commitment to improving America’s transportation infrastructure.
Jerry Costello has helped write three national transportation bills. We served together on the conference committee for the most recent transportation act, which passed earlier this year. It was a bipartisan victory that will create or save 3 million good jobs, strengthen America’s infrastructure and provide the certainty that transportation planners and builders need.
Building modern, regional transportation networks to support economic development and improve people’s quality of life has always been one of his top priorities.
Jerry Costello has been involved in every major transportation project in the St. Louis-Metro East region for the last 30 years, from construction of the Clark Bridge to the New Mississippi River Bridge connecting St. Louis and East St. Louis.
He helped bring light rail to the Metro East region and he helped lead the effort to create a high-speed rail corridor connecting St. Louis and Chicago. He helped pass the strongest airline safety law in 50 years. His leadership was critical in securing the funding to strengthen the flood-control levees and dams along the Mississippi River and in the adoption of new flood insurance maps that are fair and equitable.
Support for workers and families
The first vote Jerry Costello cast in Congress was a “yes” vote to help bring a South Africa trade sanctions bill to the floor for debate. He has remained a committed, consistent champion of basic human rights and worker rights – including worker safety and the right to bargain collectively
He has fought for fair trade, for efforts to create good jobs in America, and against rewarding companies for shipping American jobs overseas. He has voted to make college more affordable, and he helped pass the Affordable Care Act. Presidents and Congresses tried for a century to pass comprehensive health care. Jerry Costello bravely cast one of the votes that finally got the job done.
Coal lies below 65 percent of Illinois’ surface. It could be a real economic and energy boon to America – if we can find a way to use it safely and cleanly. Jerry Costello has fought for cutting-edge new technologies and public-private partnerships including FutureGen and the new Prairie State Energy Campus that can advance clean coal exploration and bring thousands of good new jobs to Illinois. He has also been a strong supporter of expanding the use of biofuels – a move that would help our environment, boost our energy security and benefit Illinois farmers.
Scott Air Force Base
Scott Air Force Base is the largest employer in Illinois south of Springfield. When the future of the base hung in the balance during successive rounds of BRAC closings between 1995 and 2005, Jerry Costello led the effort to maintain and expand its missions. Instead of shutting down, Scott Air Force Base actually added 800 new jobs and when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Scott in 2007 he hailed it as one of America’s three most important air bases.
Congressman John Shimkus has called Jerry Costello the “patron saint of Scott Air Force Base” and he’s right. Jerry’s energy and skill did more to save Scott Air Force Base from being closed by the BRAC process than any other factor.
Loretta and I want to thank Jerry’s wife, Georgia, their three grown children, Jerry, John and Gina, and their eight grandchildren for sharing so much of their husband, father and grandfather with our state and our nation all these years.
Jerry has said that he might like to teach government next. He’d be good at it. The success of our democracy depends on our ability to solve hard problems by reaching honorable compromises. Jerry Costello could teach that lesson because he has lived it. Whatever his future holds, I wish my old friend the best of luck and I want to thank him again for all he has done for our state and our nation.
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