Rep. Stutzman sends our message to feeble leadership

The Pharos-Tribune
Brian Howey
The Howey Report

INDIANAPOLIS — On the day after he was one of 25 Republicans to vote against the reelection of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, the Politico reported that “particular ire was directed at U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman,” who was a leading instigator of the attempted coup.

Many see Stutzman as a Republican on the Tea Party fringe, steadily working his way toward the back bench. Ultimately, this may be the case.

But what I see in Stutzman is someone who had the guts to make a declarative statement that the status quo in Congress is utterly unacceptable. It is something the American people have been telling pollsters for years now. If you take a recent best case scenario, NBC/Wall Street Journal put Congressional approval/disapproval at 16/78 percent last month. Fox News had it at 14/80 percent. The National Journal had it at 9/80 percent last autumn.

The 113th Congress passed only 234 laws, the lowest in history. Another count by Politico had 296 laws passing, with 212 of them described as “substantive” while 84 were categorized as ceremonial. This Congress shut down for 16 days, with Stutzman a leading proponent. The House was only in session 147 days, and the Senate 141 days, or about 40 percent of the time. Some 94.6 percent of incumbents were reelected on Nov. 4. Since 1964, it’s never dipped below 82 percent in the House, and only during the Reagan landslide of 1980 has it gone below 60 percent in the Senate.

Even though the states have been begging Congress to fulfill its duty and bring about comprehensive immigration reform, this Congress kicked that big, stinkin’ can down the road.

Stutzman explained his vote against Boehner, saying, “In my years of service as a state and federal legislator, I’ve been honored to consistently support the leadership of my party because of their commitment to conservative principles. The parliamentary procedures of the U.S. House of Representatives are a proven framework for respectful thought and dialogue as the best means to guide proposed laws through a meticulous legislative process.”

“One month after winning the 2014 midterm elections, the current House leadership forced members to vote on the ‘CROmnibus’ legislation less than three days after it was introduced, a violation of the spirit of the House of Representatives ‘three-day rule’ before voting on bills,” Stutzman explained. “Legislation that contains almost 1,700 pages of legal language deserves the time and attention required to comprehend its content before bringing it to the floor for a vote. Recorded votes that break our own rules are no better than ‘passing a bill so we can find out what’s in it.’ It is a dangerous practice that consistently results in laws that are detrimental for the American people. This type of disregard for regular order and other similar actions will not do anything to build the trust of the American people. We can and must do better.”

Sometimes it’s worth noting that a member on the outlier can actually be absolved by history. Then U.S. Rep. Mike Pence was a lonely Republican vote against No Child Left Behind, a popular bill that was based on a ridiculous premise, as history as proven. Then U.S. Rep. John Hostettler was the lone Hoosier Republican to vote against the 2002 Iraq War Resolution, has none of the blood on his hands in what has proven to be nothing less than an American disaster.

Stutzman is not the only Hoosier member to publicly complain about this process. An exasperated U.S. Sen. Dan Coats explained last month, “One of Congress’ primary duties is to fund the federal government, but under the management of Harry Reid, the Senate has consistently ignored important spending decisions until literally the last minute. This forces senators to vote on large bills that fund the entire government, but inevitably include many items I do not support. The bill that the House sent to the Senate bill does, however, make positive changes for Hoosier families. Reforms include cutting the EPA budget by $60 million and the IRS budget by $345 million, prohibiting an EPA regulation opposed by Indiana farmers and blocking any new funding to implement Obamacare. Republicans will govern not only more conservatively, but also more responsibly, when we take control of the Senate in January.”

To Coats, the Reid era Senate was “dysfunctional.”

The question Hoosiers should keep in mind is with such a dismal performance record, why is Stutzman the only member to come to the conclusion that the problem lies at the top, with long-entrenched leadership, as opposed to the back bench? Since 1899, only one House Majority Leader (Eric Cantor) was defeated in a primary election and that came last spring. It isn’t a stretch to say that Cantor might be our little yellow canary.

Stutzman added, “The American system of government is based on the idea that ultimate power lies in the people, not the federal government. Our elected officers at all levels of government must be accountable to the rules and structures that have been established as a proven means of governing with integrity. Congress should not be the exception, but the example of such rule of law.”

Virtually all Hoosier House members sit in safe districts. They all have huge campaign war chests stored to discourage challengers. All breezed to reelection last November with comfortable to overwhelming pluralities.

But 2016 will be a vastly different beast than 2014. Six of the seven Republicans invested in leadership this week that has done virtually nothing to deserve the trust of the people. The people are consistently saying that they want lawmakers to work across the aisle, compromise, and deal with the nation’s many challenges. Hoosier members who voted for leadership would be wise to press them internally to get to work, and deal with the needs of the people. Within two years, complacency could be replaced with pikes and pitchforks.

Brian Howey, a Peru native, is the publisher of The Howey Political Report. He can be reached at Find him on Twitter @hwypol.

Budget Battle Deadlines for 2015: Immigration, Debt Ceiling and 2016 Federal Budget

In order for Congress to avoid rushed backroom budget deals like the 1,600 page Cromnibus, they must adhere to deadlines in the budget process. Here are the ones they need to keep in mind this year:


National Priorities Project
By Jasmine Tucker

Today marks the first day of the Republican-controlled 114th Congress, where 74 brand new, newly-elected members will swear in with other members of Congress.

In a previous post, we brought you three New Years’ resolutions for Congress. Now that the new year and new Congress have started, here are some deadlines for lawmakers to keep in mind if they want to keep those resolutions: (more)

Speaker Boehner: You can do better

It just doesn’t feel right. Furthermore, it was unnecessary. John Boehner was re-elected Speaker of the House and then removed two representatives from the Rules Committee because they did not vote for him as Speaker.

I have been learning about the tremendous clout that a Speaker has. This was one more lesson and I don’t like it. For a system of governance that we pride ourselves in this falls far short of our idealism.

The voting for Speaker will be found here. If you would like to know more you’ll find it at “Boehner takes revenge.”

Long cuts short Pence’s chance to run for 2 offices

The Journal Gazette
Niki Kelly

INDIANAPOLIS – A legislative effort to allow Gov. Mike Pence to run for both governor and president in 2016 was short-lived, as Senate President Pro Tem David Long, on Tuesday “parked” the bill in Senate Rules Committee to die. “You need to make up your mind,” Long, of Fort Wayne said. “Choose the job you are going to run for.” Under current law, Pence would not be allowed to be on the ballot for two offices at once. Long said when he ran for State Senate he did not seek re-election to the Fort Wayne City Council because he felt the public had a right to pick who would serve. “I feel very strongly our laws are just fine the way they are,” he said. “Our leaders have chosen for years. If they want to run for an office it’s a decision they have to make. They’ll have to let somebody else take their place. I think that’s the best system.” Earlier in the day, Pence said he did not know of the bill – filed by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel – until he read a newspaper account… (more)

In a Break From Partisan Rancor, Ohio Moves to Make Elections More Competitive

The New York Times
By Trip Gabriel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Of 435 House races in November, only a few dozen were considered competitive — a result of decades of drawing district lines for partisan advantage, generally by state legislatures. But in an era of hyperpartisan gerrymandering, which many blame for the polarization of state and national politics, Ohio took a step in the opposite direction last week. With the support of both parties, the Ohio House gave final approval Wednesday to a plan to draw voting districts for the General Assembly using a bipartisan process, intended to make elections more competitive…The plan explicitly prohibits maps drawn to favor or disfavor one party… (more)

Net neutrality to dominate D.C.’s tech agenda

Net neutrality to dominate D.C.’s tech agenda

The FCC will soon issue a new set of Open Internet rules, and Republicans in Congress are already making plans to push back.
By Tony Romm, PoliticoPro

…The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is racing to write rules that require Internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally…Some GOP members are planning to use their soon-to-be majority status to knock down the FCC’s net neutrality actions…The FCC finds itself back at the drawing board on net neutrality after its previous set of rules…drew a lawsuit from Verizon and ultimately was tossed by a federal court. It’s been left to current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to craft a new net neutrality regime that can withstand another anticipated legal challenge from telecom companies while still satisfying Democrats and consumer groups, who pine for tough new protections. Wheeler stumbled with his early proposal — a draft that critics said would permit pay-for-play Internet ‘fast lanes’…Republicans, who oppose any net neutrality rules at all…The (National Cable and Telecommunications Association) has argued that net neutrality rules issued under Title II would prompt a spike in consumers’ broadband bills…Net neutrality also has featured prominently in the FCC’s review of two megamergers. Comcast, which is seeking regulatory approval for its $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, for months has touted that it’s already bound by net neutrality rules. The cable giant agreed to heed the FCC’s previous open Internet order as a condition of its 2011 purchase of NBC Universal, though that commitment is set to expire in 2018. AT&T has promised it will adhere to the same rules for three years, if it gets the nod to acquire DirecTV for $48.5 billion. At the same time, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have made it clear to the FCC that they overwhelmingly oppose any effort to treat broadband as a utility… (more)

2014: A year in photos from the White House

“For the sixth consecutive year, I’m thrilled to share my annual Year in Photographs. Each photograph, taken either by me or a photographer on my staff, is accompanied by my personal observations about the image. In some instances, there is an interesting backstory to the photograph, which I’ve included. Most of the moments captured can best be described as behind-the-scenes — that is, photographs taken away from the spotlight of public events. Some of the photographs are historic because of what is taking place, but others hopefully give people a more personal sense of who the President and First Lady are. Editing is a highly subjective — and for me — personal endeavor. I’ve included a mix of ‘moments,’ but also some photographs that rely more on graphics, lighting and composition. Some are serious and some are humorous. And of course, some are with babies (since the President loves babies). I hope you enjoy this year’s album of photographs.”

Pete Souza, Director and Chief Official White House Photographer

(Although it is accessible from “Year in Photographs” above, here is a link directly to a 3 minute video “Behind the Scenes: Watch the President Get 3D-Printed.” It is really cool! – Site Administrator)

Sen. Joe Donnelly — Indiana’s man in the middle
By Matthew Tully

His party is about to be tossed from power in the U.S. Senate, the result of a brutal election year for Democrats, but Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana smiled over a plate of eggs Friday morning and said that, for him, life in the minority offers quite an opportunity.

Why? Because the rules in the glacially paced Senate often require not a majority of votes, but 60 votes, for anything to move. So while Republican’s 54-seat majority might have the Fox News crowd all giddy, it won’t mean a lot without crossover votes from moderates like Donnelly.

“They are going to have to have at least six Democrats on everything,” Donnelly said as we talked at the City Cafe Downtown. “So I think I’m in a great position — in the middle.”

Shortly after the November elections, Donnelly said he approached Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the incoming majority leader, and told him that, “I am here to help you get things done.”

To be more specific, the lawmaker from Northern Indiana told me that this is what that means: “On the crazy stuff here or there, on either side, I’ll pass. But on the jobs stuff, on the common sense stuff, on the stuff we should all be able to agree is good for the country, I’ll be there. I just want to get things done.”

Now before my conservative friends fill my inbox with outrage at calling anyone to the left of Ted Cruz a moderate, let me be clear: Like other moderates, Donnelly votes most often with his own party. That’s not a sin (though some will disagree), and it doesn’t disqualify him from moderate status. Just as it didn’t disqualify his Republican predecessor, Richard Lugar.

Donnelly is a gun rights supporter, and he votes more like a conservative Republican on abortion issues. He’s a fiscal conservative in many ways, and he’s certainly no great environmentalist. But beyond the wedge issues, the true spirit of a moderate is about something deeper. It’s about a willingness to work with the other side to get things done and to accept the reality that compromise is usually the answer.

Lugar believed that and Donnelly, elected in 2012, believes that. And it would be nice if more lawmakers in Washington believed that; if they did, perhaps Congress’ approval ratings wouldn’t be as paltry as its list of recent accomplishments.

Of course, it’s easier to be a moderate when the politics of your state demand it. Politicians such as Evan Bayh and Joe Donnelly can win statewide; Elizabeth Warren could not. So Donnelly’s stance is both appreciated and a requirement of the job.

“For me, it’s about being in the position Hoosiers elected me to be in,” he said. “It’s about being in the middle and going (to Washington) and trying to support common sense, and not to worry about the parties.”

And, so, in what many have labeled one of the least productive congressional sessions in history, Donnelly ended the 2014 session with a significant first-term legislative victory. It’s significant because it could help a lot of people and because of what it symbolizes.

The legislation is named after an Indiana National Guard member named Jacob Sexton, a 21-year-old who committed suicide in Muncie in 2009. It seeks to give soldiers and veterans more support and encouragement in their darkest days and to proactively identify looming crises. It comes amid a flurry of reports detailing a disturbing and heartbreaking increase in suicides among service members current and former.

The bill will require mental health assessments each year for those in the service, and it calls for a federal report that will examine existing programs to see if they are working and, likely, to suggest new ones. It seeks to erase the unfair stigma that so often is tied to the decision to seek counseling.

“What has to happen,” Donnelly said, “is we have to show (service members and veterans) that this is not a sign of weakness. Part of the focus here is to make them know that there is nothing wrong with talking to someone.”

Not to get carried away, but the legislation’s success is a sign that, even in Washington and even in this toxic political era, things can get done. To get this done, Donnelly teamed up with a Republican, Roger Wicker of Mississippi. And he worked methodically to build support from a vast array of sources: military and health organizations, Democrats and Republicans, and veterans and family members of those serving.

“It was done the classic way things should be done out there,” Donnelly said. “With my Republican friend and I sitting down saying, ‘let’s get this done.’”

When portions of the original bill were spiked by more senior senators, Donnelly said he had a choice to make: He could either compromise and get most of what he wanted or let his legislation die out of political stubbornness, as many other bills have.

He chose compromise. It was a wise choice.

“That culture has been gone for a long time,” he said. “We’ve been in this period where people in Washington say they have to get everything they want or they are going to hold a press conference and stomp their feet up and down.”

That’s indeed been the way of Washington of late, but it’s gotten the country nowhere. And it’s a reminder of why Indiana was smart two years ago to send Joe Donnelly to the Senate.

You can reach me at or at

Voters agree: A free and open Internet is crucial to our economic future

San Hose Mercury News
By Tom Freedman, Alan Davidson, and Alexander C. Hart

As we look to the New Year, we should recognize that there is a new trend in politics. The digital world isn’t just changing the way election campaigns are run; it is also changing the way voters think. From specific issues like net neutrality to a general willingness to support building our national communications infrastructure, this trend will change American politics.

 Immediately after the 2014 elections, we conducted a national poll of midterm voters. Digital voters, those who spend more than three hours a day on the Internet and are often highly educated, place a stronger emphasis on the Internet and are aware of what is needed to make a digital economy thrive. As this part of the electorate grows, its influence will as well.Five beliefs among these voters are particularly worth noting:

First, on the most high-profile issue of the day, net neutrality, the new proposed executive branch actions have strong support across the ideological spectrum.

The concept that Internet service providers (ISPs) should be prevented from blocking or slowing down access to Internet services or from treating them differently is hotly disputed. But even strong language like that used by President Obama — treating Internet service providers like public utilities — saw support that crossed the partisan divide. More than half of voters agreed with treating providers like utilities, including two-thirds of Democrats, nearly the same percentage of Independents and a plurality of Republicans.

There is real doubt about allowing ISPs to create Internet fast lanes and collect tolls. Midterm voters think it’s important to ensure that small businesses have access to the same quality of Internet service as big corporations. A majority also say it is very important to prevent ISPs from slowing down access to websites that don’t pay them a fee. 

Second, voters were concerned about maintaining their privacy online, with four out of five saying strengthening privacy protections is “very important,” outranking every other concern tested. An astonishing 94 percent rank privacy on the Internet as very or somewhat important. 

Third, there is an emerging popular technology agenda for a new Congress. Investments in job training and education programs that equip Americans with the technical skills Internet businesses need have hugely strong support. Working to expand high-speed Internet access by eliminating barriers to municipal utilities providing Internet service was also popular.

Fourth, there is a consensus that the Internet is a critical tool. Strong majorities now conclude that Internet access is essential and “everyone” needs it. Barely 20 percent of voters who use the Internet say it is not essential.

Finally, there is a consensus to support political leaders who will stand up for a free and open Internet. Overall, 60 percent of voters said they are more likely to support a government official “committed to protecting a free and open Internet.” This cuts across party lines, including 67 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of Independents, and 56 percent of Republicans.

Something profound is going on. Just as the transformation of the nation from an agricultural to industrial society changed the concerns of voters, so the new transformations of our Information Age are changing our modern political landscape. The open Web matters, and it should be protected and supported

Tom Freedman is President of Freedman Consulting, LLC, and former Senior Advisor to President Clinton. Alan Davidson is Vice President for Technology, Policy and Strategy at the New America Foundation and former Public Policy Director at Google. Alexander C. Hart is a Project Manager with Freedman Consulting, LLC. They wrote this for this newspaper.