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Monday, June 26, 2017
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U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (left) and Republican U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. (HPI Photos)
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (left) and Republican U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. (HPI Photos)
Sunday, June 25, 2017 1:28 PM

SOUTH BEND - The “mean” health care bill passed by House Republicans could be a key issue in the nationally important U.S. Senate race in Indiana next year. It will be if Sen. Joe Donnelly has anything to say about it. And Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent facing a very tough race, already is saying a lot about it, calling the plan not just mean, but disastrous.
The House Republican plan could be a key issue in Indiana because Donnelly’s Republican opponent is likely to be a Hoosier congressman, either Todd Rokita, 4th District, or Luke Messer, 6th District. Both are angling for the GOP senatorial nomination. And both voted for and praised passage of the House health care bill.
The description of the bill as “mean” comes now from President Donald Trump. But didn’t Trump pressure House Republicans, many skeptical about what was in the bill, to pass it anyway? Yes. Didn’t the president invite the bill supporters to a victory party in the Rose Garden to celebrate? Yes. And didn’t he hail it then as a “great plan” well crafted? Yes. The president did no favors for Rokita and Messer and other Republicans who voted for the bill he wanted in order to claim a political victory and celebrate. In conceding now that the “great plan” really is “mean,” Trump acknowledges what critics said about it from the start.
Critics, including doctors, hospitals, the AARP, health insurance providers and consumer groups, said it was mean in curtailing health care, especially for underprivileged children, the elderly and those unfortunately with preexisting conditions, and knocking 23 million Americans off health insurance.
Rokita and Messer are intelligent, politically savvy. They knew the thing pushed through the House without hearings or cost analysis was bad. They also knew it had no chance in the Senate.
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    NASHVILLE, Ind. – Freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young articulated this month what should be a no-brainer: The looming health care reform legislation should be a bipartisan effort. Young wrote to the 48 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, “If we are going to achieve lasting results, we need to reach bipartisan conclusions. I firmly believe the best solution possible can be reached by working together. As this debate advances, give me a call; I would be happy to grab a cup of coffee and hear your thoughts and ideas.” He found partial agreement with Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who said on the Senate floor Monday, “Indiana and our country would be better off if we could work together to produce bipartisan legislation rather than a partisan bill drafted in secret and voted on without input or a single Senate hearing." Where Donnelly parts with Young is his belief that President Trump and congressional Republicans purposely blew up Obamacare instead of working over the past seven years to evolve the law.
    FORT WAYNE - Another special congressional election. Another Republican victory. More pained analysis from liberal commentators and Democrat analysts. What in the world is wrong with the stupid voters: don’t they understand that President Trump and the congressional Republicans are about to destroy the entire world?  If not by next week, at least don’t bank on being able to celebrate Labor Day. The initial “lessons learned” analysis of Karen Handel’s 5.2% victory by the national figures who don’t wish the Republicans well is very encouraging to conservatives and Republicans. The lessons the liberal Democrats have learned is, apparently, nothing whatsoever. 1) They wanted to reduce expectations, to stop taking victory laps before the people voted. But in the 6th CD of Georgia that was difficult. Money wasn’t the question. It was the most expensive congressional race in American history. Familiarity and name identification for the Democrat candidate was not the problem. So much for the money excuse. 2) Turnout wasn’t the problem. Special elections usually are low turnout affairs. Not this one. Furthermore, early voting occurred in extraordinary numbers. The Democrats were disappointed with the narrow margin among early voters for their candidate. They were supposed to have a huge enthusiasm edge. Whoops.

    INDIANAPOLIS – So what happens if and when Indiana loses another congressional seat? It is not impossible.  In fact, it’s probably going to happen, so get ready. That said, if I had a nickel for everybody who wants to talk to me about chessboarding out Indiana politics over the coming eight years, I’d be replacing some of my tired old campaign shoes with Louboutins. Well, maybe. I would at least flirt with some. Still, what people don’t seem to be considering yet is that Hoosier opportunities to serve in our U.S. Congress may very well be shrinking, and pretty soon as our population continues to decline relative to other states. It is not a stretch to consider that by 2022, Indiana could be sending one fewer congressional delegate to Washington. Recent history tells a similar story, and it is worth refreshing our memory. Indiana’s 11th Congressional District was eliminated as a result of the 1980 census.
    WASHINGTON – It is said that no politician travels to Iowa to give a speech unless they plan to run for president. So the announcement this week that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to be a headline speaker at a Des Moines political event in September begs the question: What is Pete up to? He will be speaking along with Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who is by all accounts mulling a presidential run. Undoubtedly, Buttigieg is a rising star in the Democratic Party. He earned rave reviews for his recent dark horse campaign for Democratic National Committee Chair.  Though he didn’t win sufficient commitments from the delegates to seriously compete for the post, his message of reforming the party by going outside-the-Beltway resonated. Nearly all of the former DNC Chairs, including Howard Dean and Ed Rendell, endorsed him. He clearly elevated his national stature, one that was already climbing. The Democratic Party is in desperate need of the kind of change that Buttigieg advocates and offers. The party’s 2016 presidential candidate lost to possibly the least prepared candidate in American history. Republicans control both Houses of Congress and two-thirds of the governor’s offices. Republicans have veto proof majority’s in nearly half of the state legislatures in the county. As Bernie Sanders points out in an opinion editorial this week in The New York Times, “If these results are not a clear manifestation of a failed political strategy, I don’t know what is.”
    INDIANAPOLIS –  Where to start? I do think it’s great that the congressional baseball game will go on. It is for charity after all, and we can’t let fear or hate shut down our way of life, as everyone says when tragedy or terrorism occurs. Maybe they have already thought about this, but it might be a good idea to do away with the Republican vs. Democrat theme this year and split the two teams up if possible.  Remember when you’d pick teams in the backyard and captains would each pick one player at a time until the weakest players were left as the last picks? You never wanted to be that last pick. Of course, I never was. I just remember how it was for the others.  But those last picks will play harder to prove they don’t stink. It might be fun and at least different. At any rate, having Ds and Rs play on the same team against other Ds and Rs might bring a truer show of unity. Nothing better to bring folks that don’t know each other well enough together than making them teammates – except maybe being in a war together.  Unfortunately, too much of real life is turning, or could at any time, turn into a war zone.
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  • Atomic: GOP win in Georgia; Gov in Paris; Mayor Pete late nite

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. GOP rebuffs Dems in Georgia: Your hump day power lunch talking points: President Trump and House Republicans dodged a bullet in Georgia’s 6th CD last night, with Karen Handel pulling out a 4% victory over Jon Ossoff in a race that drew $50 million. The president rubbed it in on the Democrats, who made vote gains in Georgia, Montana and Kansas special elections, but don’t have a victory to show. “Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0,” Trump tweeted. A loss by Handel would have been analyzed as a harbinger for a volatile 2018 cycle that could cut into or eliminate GOP majorities in Congress, particularly if it set off a wave of retirements and proved to be a boon for Democratic recruitment. But her win gives the Trump administration not only a reprieve, but some momentum on the health care reforms the Senate will unveil on Thursday, and the massive tax cuts that Vice President Mike Pence told the National Association of Manufacturers are in the pipeline.

  • Atomic: Georgia showdown; Long's upset; Donnelly, GOP spar
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Georgia on our minds tonight: Here are your taco Tuesday power lunch talking points: With a bow to Hoosier songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, Georgia is on our minds tonight as the $50 million 6th CD race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel comes to a head. Four late polls show the race a statistical dead heat, though Handel appears to have the late momentum. If there’s a wild card, it may be a Super PAC TV ad using the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise against Ossoff. It has been denounced by both sides. The election is seen as a referendum on President Trump, who tweeted this morning, “Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn’t even live in district.” Health care could be the decisive issue, with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution showing 81% of likely voters describing the issue as extremely or very important “priority” to them. And the Washington Post reported that many voters wanted to give TrumpCare a chance.

  • Atomic: Pence's I-69 fiasco; hospitals fret; 'witch hunt' annotated

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. More tarnish for Pence gov legacy: Your Monday power lunch talking points:  The IndyStar’s Mark Alesia and Kaitlin L. Lange published an investigative piece in the Sunday edition that raises questions about oversight of the European consortium Isolux Corsan in the troubled I-69 project between Bloomington and Martinsville. The project is two years behind schedule, and the prolonged construction has increased traffic accidents by more than 40% and lengthened commute times, as well as bogged down traffic to the state’s flagship university. Isolux had little prior experience in the U.S., and no experience building roads and bridges in the U.S.; the group bid $325 million, about $73 million less than the closest competing bid and $22 million less than the state's own cost estimate. The Star posed this question: How did this once-touted project – pitched and promoted by then-Gov. Mike Pence as a model for smart infrastructure planning – become such an embarrassing mess?

  • A tough health vote for House GOP, then Trump calls it 'mean'
    INDIANAPOLIS – After Vice President Mike Pence, his legislative liaison Marc Short and with cajoling from President Trump mustered 217 votes to pass the American Health Care Act on May 4, the Indiana Republican delegation sprang to a defense. “The American Health Care Act protects patients with pre-existing conditions, ensures access to quality, affordable health care, and gives states the flexibility they need to enact innovative reforms like those in Indiana,” insisted U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski. U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks said, “Most importantly, this legislation ensures that no one can be denied coverage, including people with pre-existing conditions. In addition, no one, regardless of health status, will be charged higher premiums if they maintain their coverage.”
  • HPI Interview: Attorney Gen. Hill weighs drug, cyber threats
    INDIANAPOLIS – Last week Howey Politics Indiana reported that new Attorney General Curtis Hill has been approached about a U.S. Senate run in 2018. In this HPI Interview, we talked with Hill at the Statehouse about his first five months after spending nearly three decades working in the Elkhart County prosecutor’s office, the last 14 in that elected position. He entered the attorney general office this year with some seismic issues ranging from an opioid and methamphetamine epidemic, to cyber security issues that are hitting Hoosier businesses and consumers in the wallet.
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  • Gov. Holcomb continues to monitor 'evolving' Senate GOP health bill
    “America’s health care system has failed and needs reform. That was demonstrated again just last week when two providers announced they will discontinue participation in the Obamacare exchange in Indiana starting next year. We can and must do better. Given a fighting chance, Indiana can take care of its own citizens. We’re focused on making sure that Indiana has the flexibility and control it needs to adjust, just like we’ve done with the Healthy Indiana Plan. Every state should have the ability to develop its own approach. The legislation under consideration by the Senate is a discussion draft and continues to evolve. I understand leaders are still making changes to the bill to address concerns, and we’ll continue working with our Congressional delegation to advocate for solutions that meet Hoosiers’ needs.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, asked today about the U.S. Senate Republican health reform bill that is expected to come up for a vote on Thursday. A Congressional Budget Office scoring of the bill estimated that 22 million Americans would lose health coverage, but federal spending would decrease by $321 billion, compared to $119 billion in the House passed bill. The House version would have had 28 million people losing coverage. The Indiana Hospital Association also announced Monday it is opposing the Senate bill saying it "threatens the future of the successful Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, and it would also substantially reduce support for Indiana’s overall Medicaid program."
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  • President Trump and bovine scatalogy
    Here in Indiana, when someone talks big, says unreliable things they can’t back up, Hoosiers call that person, pardon our language, a “bullshitter.” Or as Sheriff Joe Squadrito might put it, a purveyor of “bovine scatalogy.” Well, with President Trump’s claim that he has no audio files of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey made via Twitter on Thursday, when last month he suggested he did, our assessment is that our president is a BSer. And because he has told hundreds of lies since taking the oath of office, do we believe him this time? This is a dangerous dynamic, because at some point in his presidency, Donald Trump is going to face a crisis where he is going to have to level with the American people and we are going to have to decide whether he is being truthful. What we have in President Trump is someone who is a serial liar and his chaotic administration runs on fantasy, half truths and alternative facts. We want to believe our presidents, but this one is in a realm all his own. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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