Club for Growth wants Bucshon primaried

Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon could face a primary challenge next year if the Club for Growth gets its way.

The anti-spending group last year helped state Treasurer Richard Mourdock unseat U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, and now says it wants Bucshon replaced by a more strident conservative.

The group launched a website called PrimaryMyCongressman.com. It lists Bucshon and eight others who are in seats their party is strongly favored to keep as “RINOs” – short for Republicans in name only.

On the website, Bucshon is blasted for voting to continue ethanol subsidies, to keep the National Labor Relations Board and more. The two-term Indiana congressman’s lifetime rating of 68 percent on the Club for Growth’s scorecard is highlighted.

“Big government liberals inhabit the Democratic Party, but they are far too common within the Republican Party as well,” said Club for Growth president Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman who now leads the national group.

“The Republicans helped pass billions of dollars in tax increases and they have repeatedly voted against efforts by fiscal conservatives to limit government. PrimaryMyCongressman.com will serve as a tool to hold opponents of economic freedom and limited government accountable for their actions.”

The Club for Growth’s move comes as hard-line conservative groups battle with organizations such as Karl Rove’s Conservative Victory Project, which are advocating pragmatic approaches in light of several stinging 2012 losses – including Mourdock’s.

The website lists what the Club for Growth considers Bucshon’s bad votes. Among them is his support for a deal to increase the federal debt ceiling. He served on a joint House-Senate conference committee that negotiated a transportation funding deal that the group also criticizes.

Bucshon’s office shrugged off the Club for Growth’s criticism, pointing out that in 2012 he voted with the organization more often than did U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee.

His office also touted an award Thursday from the American Conservative Union. The chairman of that group, Al Cardenas, said Bucshon “shows a consistent commitment to conservative principles.”

“Club for Growth is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that certainly has a right to their opinion,” said Bucshon spokesman Nick McGee.

“Dr. Bucshon has a strong conservative voting record and was successfully reelected by a 10 percent margin in his last election,” he said.

“He has confidence his constituents in Indiana will continue to assess his record of consistently fighting to cut spending, keep taxes low, bring good paying jobs to Hoosiers, and reform healthcare and not rely on a D.C. based organization to assess it for them.”

Although the PrimaryMyCongressman.com website includes a button for viewers to “recommend an opponent,” no one has announced a primary or general election bid against Bucshon.

Still, he’s used to both. Bucshon emerged from a crowded field of contenders to win the GOP nomination, and then survived a one-on-one matchup with that year’s second-place finisher, Owen County activist Kristi Risk, in 2012.

Democrats have targeted the seat, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee including it in the group’s “Red to Blue” program the last two elections. However, neither former state Rep. Trent Van Haaften nor former state Rep. Dave Crooks ultimately came close to defeating Bucshon.

Indiana Democratic Party chairman Dan Parker quickly sought to use the Club for Growth’s move as a fundraising tool, blasting an email out Wednesday to the party’s supporters that highlighted PrimaryMyCongressman.com.

“This is exactly what Republicans did to Richard Lugar last year. You’d think they’d have learned their lesson,” Parker wrote. “We keep hearing Republicans are on a mission to unite their party and attract new voters, but it looks to us like they’re still in self-destruct mode.”

Some Indiana Republicans, meanwhile, rushed to Bucshon’s defense.

“Bucshon is a bright pragmatist who has made a quick name for himself in Congress, particularly in his role as a leader on matters pertaining to finding solutions to improve our nation’s transportation and infrastructure system,” Mike O’Brien, the Hendricks County GOP chairman and former Gov. Mitch Daniels aide, wrote in a blog post.

“The formula used by the Club is particularly rigid and ignores the unique political realities of Indiana’s long-embattled 8th District.”

Citing sequester, Indiana to stop unemployment benefits

Indiana is stopping 32,000 Hoosiers’ unemployment benefits at the end of this week, citing uncertainty over how the looming “sequester” could affect the federal government’s funding for the program.

The move by Gov. Mike Pence’s administration will pause the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s payments, which range from $50 to $390 and average $275 per week, to those who have been out of work more than 26 weeks.

So far, Indiana is the only state so far to announce that it will stop payments outright, rather than planning to reduce them by about 9.4 percent – the amount that the U.S. Department of Labor has told states will be cut from unemployment benefits.

The state is doing so because it wants more direction on how to implement those cuts – and is worried that it might wind up having to recoup any overpayments made to benefit recipients in the meantime, said DWD spokeswoman Joe Frank.

He said Indiana officials are also worried as well that federal benefits extensions might be used by Congress as a bargaining chip in negotiating a deal to avert the sequester.

“The best course of action, everyone determined, was to hold off on giving everyone benefits because if we give people too much, then we’re required by the federal government to get that money back,” Frank said.

“The great part about this though is our system is such that folks apply online — we can turn it around really quick; we just need guidance.”

Indiana provides state unemployment benefits for the first 26 weeks that Hoosiers are out of work, but then federal funding kicks in to extend the program through 63 weeks.

A spokesman said the U.S. Department of Labor told Indiana officials Wednesday that more direction on how to implement cuts forced by the sequester is coming soon, and that the state should take down its notice that benefits will be stopped next week.

Frank said the Labor Department arranged a phone call with state officials for Friday – and that until then, the state will continue with its current plan.

“They haven’t given us any guidance yet, so we can’t make any changes,” he said. “We definitely hope that on Friday we’ll hear something concrete from them.”

The Pence administration’s move – which the governor did not mention Wednesday during a news conference in which he discussed how the sequester would affect Indiana – was quickly criticized by labor lawyers who said Indiana might run afoul of federal law.

“We’re not aware of any state that has decided to suspend the benefits, and in our view, doing so flatly contradicts basic federal requirements that states pay federal benefits on time,” said Maurice Emsellem, the policy co-director for the National Employment Law Project.

Frank said the state is “doing our best to hurt people in the least amount possible.” But Emsellem said Indiana’s decision is “paternalistic” and would impose a “cruel hardship” on those who have been out of work for months.

“This has been a struggle, to say the least,” said Sherri Summit, a 48-year-old who lives in Unionville, Ind. and has been out of work for nine months.

Summit is a single mother who has three children – one who’s an adult, but another who she’s helping foot college bills and a third who is 10 years old – and lost her previous job in May 2012, three weeks after starting with a new company.

She said the $368 she’s received each week in unemployment benefits have kept her afloat, although she’s two house payments behind.

“I don’t use any other government assistance – food stamps, anything like that. When I’ve gotten a little bit behind on things, my church has pitched in,” Summit said.

“It just gets really scary. I don’t have any health insurance; I have to pay for my medicine on my own. Where do you cut back when you’ve already cut back? Do you lose your home?”

Bucshon to chair research subcommittee

Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon — a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee — will chair the panel’s subcommittee on research and science education, his office announced Tuesday.

“Because of my background in science and medicine, I understand very well the importance of research in improving the life of all Americans and the role it plays in economic development.   I look forward to working with the committee to foster innovation in the research industry so that we can create jobs and grow the economy in Indiana and nationwide,” Bucshon said in a statement.

The subcommittee, which you can read much more about here, has conducted recent hearings on the role of research universities and their relationships with business, effective  science and technology educational practices, the spending of the National Science Foundation and more.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman, Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, said Bucshon was chosen “because of his extensive background in research as a physician.” Bucshon, from Newburgh, was a heart surgeon before being elected in 2010.

Donnelly joins centrist U.S. senators

Sens. Donnelly, Birch and Evan Bayh on Swearing In Day

As he prepared to enter the U.S. Senate on Thursday, Joe Donnelly said he plans to join a “very significant” group of moderates in what he hopes will become a “center of legislative action.”

The Indiana Democrat will be sworn in at noon, officially stepping into a seat that Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar held for 36 years.

After campaigning as a centrist and promising to work without regard for party affiliation – a claim Republicans scoffed at – Donnelly said he considers Lugar a “role model” and a “tremendous friend” who he will call for advice.

“We have had just a tradition of being a state where the senators who represent us are not extremists, but are ones who are looked to by the entire nation to bring us together,” he said.

Donnelly said he hopes to work with a group of senators that will include Republicans, as well as Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and others.

“There has been a group in the past, but you saw in this last election a number of additional moderate senators” elected, he said. “It has even expanded, and I believe it will not only influence legislation that will be brought by the caucuses, but also bring legislation of their own.”

He pointed to Manchin’s “CALM Act” proposal to gradually step down from the fiscal cliff as one such proposal.

The next major battle in Congress will be over finances, with the nation reaching its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit and needing its debt ceiling raised, while the current federal spending plan is set to expire and Republicans are pushing to overhaul entitlement programs while the White House seeks extra tax revenue.

“I think that playing with the debt ceiling is a very, very, very dangerous thing. It’s dangerous to our credit rating, it’s dangerous to our world economy,” and could hurt job growth, Donnelly said Thursday.

At the end of his third term in the U.S. House on Tuesday, Donnelly voted for the deal to stave off most tax increases and push back deep spending cuts for two months. “What I voted for the other day was tax cuts on 98 percent of Americans,” he said.

Donnelly enters Senate as Lugar departs

Though he starts his new job Thursday, U.S. Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly has weeks of work ahead of him as he prepares to move into new Washington digs, hire a much larger staff and open offices across Indiana.

Donnelly, a Democrat, will be sworn in at noon Thursday, along with other new members of the House and Senate.

It’ll be his first day, and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar’s last.

After 13,067 votes cast over six terms, Lugar – whose re-election bid was spoiled by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the Republican primary – is leaving as his party’s longest-tenured senator.

Lugar’s offices in Washington and Indiana have been packed up, cleaned out and closed down, with most of the materials in them shipped to Indiana University’s archives.

Donnelly, meanwhile, is currently juggling several offices of his own.

As an outgoing House member, he’s been moved out of his old congressional office and given a much smaller place to set up temporary shop. On the other side of Capitol Hill, he has a small office with other incoming senators. And starting Thursday, he’ll be moved into a larger – but still temporary – office in the Senate’s Russell Building.

Eventually, Donnelly will get his own Senate office in Washington. But it could take a while. Those offices are divided up based on seniority, and each senator gets one business day to determine whether they’d like to move into a new spot. That leaves freshmen like Donnelly waiting weeks to choose last.

So far, he has set up one in-state office – a spot in an Indianapolis high-rise, where Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats also has one. He intends to open more regional offices in the near future.

Meanwhile, Donnelly is also adding staff. As a House member, his staff never topped 20 members. Now, he’ll need more than that to handle policy, media inquiries, constituent services, regional offices and more.

13,067 votes

That’s how many outgoing Sen. Richard Lugar cast during the Republican’s six terms representing Indiana, according to his spokesman, Andy Fisher. It’s good for 10th place on the all-time list of most votes cast by senators.

He’s also finishing his 36-year career with a 98.27 percent voting record. He’s leaving as Indiana’s longest-serving senator, the senior-most Republican senator, and the second-most senior senator overall, behind Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat.

Bucshon opposes, Donnelly supports ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

Indiana’s congressional delegation split on the fiscal cliff deal, with four members supporting it and six members voting no.

The two Republican senators, Dan Coats and outgoing Richard Lugar, were yes votes, as were two of the state’s three Democratic House members — Joe Donnelly and Andre Carson.

The Indiana House Republican no votes were Larry Bucshon, Marlin Stutzman, Todd Rokita, Todd Young and Gov.-elect Mike Pence. Democrat Pete Visclosky also voted no.

Republican Dan Burton, who’s retiring, didn’t show up to vote.

A link to the roll call is here.

Bucshon, R-Newburgh, released this statement late Tuesday night:

“While I want to keep tax rates as low as possible for all Americans, the fiscal cliff deal passed by the United States Senate fails to address our most pressing problem – reducing out of control spending.  This plan has $41 in tax increases for every $1 in spending cuts.  It is not balanced in any way and will not improve our economy or reduce the deficit.”

“Thousands of Indiana small businesses will be forced to figure out how they’ll pay this new tax and they are likely to do it by cutting back on employees, reducing hourly wages and many will have to lay off employees.

“The president ran on a platform of more taxes, more spending, and more government and he won.  Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay the price with larger deficits, increased government power and intrusion in their lives, and slower economic growth.  I came to Washington, DC to fight for common sense Hoosier values and I cannot support legislation that will take more of your dollars while continuing to over extend our resources. 

“As long as I am in Congress, I will fight on behalf of all Hoosiers to set America back on a sustainable financial path that stops mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.”

Meanwhile, Donnelly, D-Granger — the U.S. senator-elect who will be sworn into his new office Thursday at noon — supported the deal.

Here’s the statement Donnelly released Tuesday night:

“I voted for the bipartisan, Senate-passed compromise because it preserves low tax rates for 98% of families and 97% of small businesses.  It is far from perfect, as I would have preferred to keep low rates for everyone for one year while our economy continues to recover, but the American people deserve a Congress that is willing to compromise to get things done.
“Too many in Washington have allowed their own political interests to trump their ultimate responsibility to work together to do what is best for our country.  Moving forward, I strongly believe that we need to set politics aside and work together to reduce spending as we further put our fiscal house in order.”