BIGGERT, Judy Borg

BIGGERT, Judy Borg
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
1937–

Biography

Illinois Republican Judy Biggert dedicated her career in the House to advocating for education reform and childcare programs, earning a reputation for crossing the aisle for issues she believed in. Reflecting on her ability to negotiate with her colleagues, Biggert noted, “What I will do is change their minds…. If I can’t change them, then I will have to work with them.”1

Judy Biggert was born Judith Borg in Chicago, Illinois, on August 15, 1937, the daughter of Alvin Andrew and Marjorie Virginia (Mailler) Borg. She graduated from Stanford University in 1959 with a degree in international relations and earned a JD in 1963 from Northwestern University Law School. After graduating from Northwestern, she clerked for Judge Luther M. Swygert in the U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit. She married Rody Biggert and the couple raised four children: Courtney, Alison, Rody, and Adrienne. From 1975 to 1998, Biggert operated a home-based private law practice specializing in real estate, estate planning, and probate law.

Biggert eventually became active in local politics, serving as school board president of Hinsdale Township High School District 86. She later chaired the Visiting Nurses Association of Chicago and served as president of the Junior League of Chicago. In 1992 Biggert won election to the Illinois state house of representatives and served three consecutive terms (1993–1999). In the state legislature, she authored strict anti-crime laws and worked to balance the state budget without raising taxes.2

In 1998 Biggert ran for a House seat representing the southwest Chicago suburbs which was vacated by retiring Republican Harris W. Fawell. In the Republican primary, Biggert topped a more conservative challenger, taking 45 percent of the vote. She later remarked that women politicians “are held to an awfully high standard. We have to work three times as hard.”3 In the general election, Biggert defeated Democrat Susan W. Hynes, a business executive, with 61 percent of the vote.4 In each of her six re-elections, Biggert won by wide margins averaging more than 60 percent.5

As a freshman Member, in the 106th Congress (1999– 2001), Biggert served on three committees: Government Reform; Banking and Financial Services (later named the Financial Services Committee); and Science (later Science and Technology, and then Science, Space, and Technology). In the 107th Congress (2001–2003), she left Government Reform for assignments on the Education and Workforce Committee (later Education and Labor) and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (later named the Ethics Committee). In the 108th and 109th Congresses (2003– 2007), Biggert served as chair of the Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy. When Democrats gained the House majority in the 110th Congress (2007–2009), Biggert left her position on Standards of Official Conduct. In the 112th Congress (2011–2013), when Republicans recaptured the majority, Biggert served as chair of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity. Beyond her committee work, Biggert co-chaired the Women’s Caucus in the 107th Congress. She also cofounded four issues caucuses dealing with the judicial branch, literacy policy, research and development, and homelessness in America.6 Biggert ran for Republican Conference Secretary in 2001 and 2002 but lost both races.

Biggert made her mark in the House as an advocate for education reform, childcare for low income families, and expanded legal assistance for victims of domestic violence. In 1999 Biggert introduced the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act, which built on legislation from the 1980s to extend educational opportunities to homeless children. According to Biggert’s research, at the time, 45 percent of the approximately 1 million children without homes nationwide did not attend school on a regular basis. Her bill sought to ensure their enrollment and reduced bureaucratic roadblocks that might prevent children who were forced to move frequently from attending class. The bill also expanded federal funding to help states better track and aid these students. “Being without a home should not mean being without an education,” Biggert said in a floor speech in 1999. “Yet that is what homelessness has meant for far too many of our children and youth today; red tape, lack of information, and bureaucratic delays that result in their missing school and missing the chance at a better life.” Much of her bill passed the House as part of the 1999 Students Results Act, but it died in the Senate. When she submitted another version in 2001, the bill moved quickly through the Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush as part of the No Child Left Behind Act on January 8, 2002.7 For the remainder of her career, Biggert introduced legislation to provide greater educational assistance to children experiencing homelessness. “Whether they are in a motel or jumping from couch to couch, these kids need help,” Biggert said.8

She also introduced the Building, Renovating, Improving, and Constructing Kids’ Schools (BRICKS) Act in 2001 to address the “deplorable conditions” and “crumbling infrastructure” of elementary and secondary schools nationwide. With an estimated $112 billion in repairs required for existing school facilities, her legislation provided for interest-free and low-interest loans for construction and repairs at the state and local level.9

After the 2010 Census, Biggert’s Republican district was redrawn by the Illinois legislature to favor Democrats. Biggert lost the 2012 general election to her Democratic opponent, former Congressman Bill Foster by 17 percent.10 Reflecting on her career, she remarked, “Representing the people of this area has been the great honor of my lifetime. I can never thank them enough for their kindnesses towards me, their generosity with their ideas, their patience when we don’t see eye-to-eye, and their deep love of community and country.”11

Footnotes

1William Grady, “Biggert Seeking Unity with GOP Foes; Candidacy of Hynes May Help Her Do That,” 28 June 1998, Chicago Tribune: D1.

2R. Bruce Dold, “Is the 13th Congressional District Seat Up for Grabs?,” 8 May 1999, Chicago Tribune: N27.

3Politics in America, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2001): 331.

4Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920to Present.”

5“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

6“House Committees that Judy Serves On,” official website of Representative Judy Biggert, https://web.archive.org/web/20121212140830/http://biggert.house.gov/house-committees-that-judy-serves-on/.

7Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 1999, H.R. 2888, 106th Cong. (1999); Student Results Act of 1999, H.R. 2, 106th Cong. (1999); McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act of 2001, H.R. 623, 107th Cong. (2001); Congressional Record, House, 106th Cong., 1st sess. (21 September 1999): H8442; Congressional Record, House, 107th Cong., 1st sess. (14 February 2001): H191; Barbara Sherlock, “Biggert Gives A Big Boost to Homeless-Student Law,” 27 October 1999, Chicago Tribune: D1; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, PL 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2002).

8“Biggert Aims to Redefine Services for Homeless Kids,” official website of Representative Judy Biggert, press release, 7 February 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20121024185503/http://biggert.house.gov/press-releases/biggert-aims-to-redefine-services-for-homeless-kids/.

9Building, Renovating, Improving, and Constructing Kids’ Schools (BRICKS) Act, H.R. 1430, 107th Cong. (2001); Congressional Record, House, 107th Cong., 1st sess. (5 April 2001): H567.

10“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

11“Judy Biggert Concedes Race to Bill Foster,” 6 November 2012, CBS Chicago, https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/11/06/biggert-concedes-race-to-foster/.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

[ Top ]

Bibliography / Further Reading

"Judith Biggert" in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006.

[ Top ]

Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Banking and Financial Services
  • House Committee - Education and Labor
  • House Committee - Education and the Workforce
  • House Committee - Financial Services
    • Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity - Chair
  • House Committee - Government Reform and Oversight
  • House Committee - Science
    • Energy - Chair
  • House Committee - Science and Technology
  • House Committee - Science, Space, and Technology
  • House Committee - Standards of Official Conduct
[ Top ]