Chamber Visits Delegation in D.C.

Approximately 50 members of the Indiana Chamber visited with Indiana’s congressional delegation during the Chamber’s annual D.C. Fly-in event September 14-15. The group, accompanied by Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and other staff, arrived in a city where partisan tensions were ever present and more than a few congressmen were absent, locked in tight re-election fights back in the Hoosier state.

The Chamber delegation visited with both U.S. Sens. Dick Lugar and Evan Bayh, engaging with the latter in an informal Q&A session in the U.S. Capitol’s Visitors Center. Senator Bayh pronounced that it was likely the last time he would be meeting with us as a U.S. senator and further stated that predictions of an active agenda for a post-election “lame duck” session of Congress were overblown. Senator Bayh told the group that there was very little momentum for a broad agenda beyond a fiscal continuing resolution to keep the federal government functioning and perhaps some action on extending the ’01 and ’03 or so-called Bush tax cuts.

Senator Lugar addressed the group during dinner on September 14, joined by Reps. Pete Visclosky, Dan Burton, Steve Buyer (who is retiring) and Mike Pence. The group echoed Sen. Bayh’s assessment about the congressional agenda through year’s end, and tax legislation, the federal budget and the upcoming election were foremost on their minds.

The Chamber participants pressed the delegation on a variety of issues, including pending appropriations bills, reauthorization of the federal surface transportation act and “card check” legislation. Special emphasis was given to extending the tax cuts, as expiration of this tax relief at year’s end would negatively affect the frail national economy and Hoosier small businesses.

On January 1, 2011, Americans will face the biggest tax hike in history. If Congress fails to act, marginal tax rates will increase for every taxpayer, the capital gains rate climbs 33%, and dividend rates jump by as much as 164%. American small businesses, our economic jobs engine, will face marginal tax rates as high as 39.6%. Compounded with the loss of certain itemized deductions and personal exemptions, these small businesses face rates as high as 41.6%. And this increase hits successful small businesses, our job creators, particularly hard: Approximately half of the business income reported on tax returns in 2011 will be subjected to the top two marginal rates.

The Indiana Chamber’s message to the delegation was that outcome is unacceptable and Congress must act before year’s end, but no one in D.C. seems to know when, or if, that debate might occur. In a time of economic uncertainty, raising taxes on businesses and investors would hinder Americans from building individual savings and further investing in the economy.

Extending existing tax rates would, in one bold stroke, boost investor, business and consumer confidence by taking the uncertainty of tax policy off the table. It would leave hard earned income in the hands of the individuals and businesses that earned it and allow them to spur investment, boost consumption, promote economic growth and create jobs.

Now is not the time to increase taxes on all taxpayers, but rather to work together to keep the economy on the road to recovery.

The Roller Coaster Ride of Candidate Filing Comes to a Close

Even though we have been heavily involved in candidate recruitment this election cycle, the candidate filing period was full of surprises and plenty of candidates wanting to serve Indiana at the Indiana Statehouse and the U.S. Capitol.

Here is the complete list of filings (PDF).

We will write more analysis next week, but here are some early highlights:

  • Eighty-three candidates filed for U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. Someone pull out the history book and tell me the last time the party holding an open U.S. Senate seat did not have a candidate on the primary ballot.
  • U.S. Senator Bayh, Congressman Steve Buyer and Congressman Brad Ellsworth will not be returning to Washington in their current seat. Ellsworth is vacating his congressional seat for a run at the open U.S. Senate seat.
  • The early scoreboard on the race for control of the Indiana House is 30-11 for the Republicans. There are 30 districts currently held by a Republican without a Democratic challenger and 11 uncontested for the Democrats. Each party has until June 30 to fill a ballot vacancy for the general election.
  • The Senate scoreboard is 23-10 for the Republicans. This includes seats not up until 2012 (Republicans control 18 of those 25 seats).
  • There are eight contested primaries in the Senate. Three are on the Democratic side and five on the Republican side.
  • There are 38 contested primaries in the House. Ten are on the Democratic side and 28 on the Republican side.
  • Sue Errington and John Waterman are the only two incumbent senators with a primary.
  • There are 19 House incumbents with a primary: Charlie Brown, Dan Stevenson, Chet Dobis, Don Lehe, Doug Gutwein, David Wolkins, Shelli VanDenburgh, Tom Dermody, Bill Ruppel, Bill Friend, Jack Lutz, Jacque Clements, Tim Brown, Dan Leonard, Dick Dodge, Tom Knollman, Woody Burton, Phyllis Pond and Mary Ann Sullivan.
  • There were a total of 263 candidates that filed for the Indiana General Assembly.
  • Only 17.1% of the candidates were women.

Look for more analysis over the next several days on candidate filings. Please feel free to add to the conversation and post your comments or questions.

An Early Look at the 2010 Congressional Vote

Politicos tell us it’s never too early to look ahead to the next election. Washington’s CQ Politics does so for Congress, rating 100 House districts in play in some form in the 2010 mid-term elections.

CQ has eight of Indiana’s nine incumbents in the safe category. They are Visclosky, Donnelly, Carson and Ellsworth on the Dems’ side, and Souder, Buyer, Burton and Pence for the Republicans. Baron Hill (9th District) is in the Democrat Favored listing.

Key items to watch, according to CQ:

  • Democrats will likely lose a portion of their 256-178 (one current opening) advantage. The party in charge of the White House typically loses seats during the first mid-term vote (although the GOP and President Bush were an exception in 2002)
  • Swing seats will be a big focus. In 49 districts, voters favored John McCain for president but elected a Democrat to the House; conversely, 34 districsts backed President Obama but put a Republican in the House
  • Of the 100 seats rated competitive, 59 are held by Democrats. Only three are viewed as toss-ups, a slightly higher numbers as highly competitive and the majority as slightly competitive

Much can change, however, over the next 15 months.

“Climate Change” Bill Passes U.S. House

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 passed the House this evening, 219-212.

Here’s how Indiana’s Congressmen voted (See all votes here):

Carson – Yes
Donnelly – No
Ellsworth – No
Hill – Yes
Visclosky – No

Burton – No
Buyer – No
Pence – No
Souder – No

Hat tip to Hoosier Access for getting votes up promptly.

Obama’s Budget Passes, Indiana Chamber Opposes

The U.S. House passed the budget on a party-line vote Thursday night, 233-196; later the Senate passed a modified version 55-43 with two Democrats joining all 41 Republicans in opposition. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Shirkieville) was one of the two.

This budget calls for approximately $4 trillion in expenditures in a single year, or nearly 29% of our country’s gross domestic product (GDP). According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the Obama Administration’s budget blueprint, if followed, would double the national debt in five years and nearly triple it by 2019 – a point at which America’s federal debt would equal 82% of GDP.

The Indiana Chamber adamantly opposes such irresponsible spending, as well as many of the specific programs and tax increases included in the president’s proposal and urged the entire Indiana congressional delegation to reject the president’s proposal and adopt a more fiscally restrained, responsible alternative.

In addition to unsustainable spending and unacceptable levels of public indebtedness, President Obama’s budget would radically alter the federal government’s relationship to its citizens through expansive new proposals regarding taxation, energy, environmental regulation and health care. Hoosiers are looking for a common-sense solution to restore the economy, not an expansive overhaul of federal government programs. Increasing taxes as a means to finance new federal spending on health care reform, Medicare and energy policy resulting in the country’s largest government expansion in decades is the wrong answer at the wrong time. The country simply cannot afford a budget this out-sized, nor can we expect small businesses to invest in the economy or employ workers while their livelihoods are threatened by tax hikes and federal intervention across numerous markets and industries.

The Indiana Chamber is alarmed at the sheer size of the president’s proposal and what it portends for the future of free enterprise, job creation and economic growth in our country.

HOW THEY VOTED:  Within Indiana’s Congressional delegation, Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republicans Dan Burton, Steve Buyer, Mike Pence and Mark Souder voted against the budget plan. Democrats Andre Carson, Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill and Pete Visclosky voted in favor. In the Senate, both Republican Richard Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh voted against.

Auto Bailout Passes House

The auto bailout for the Big 3 (Chrysler, Ford, GM), worth $14 billion of assistance, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 237-170. Here’s how Indiana’s Congressmen voted:

Andre Carson (D)
Joe Donnelly (D)
Brad Ellsworth (D)
Baron Hill (D)
Pete Visclosky (D)
Steve Buyer (R)
Mark Souder (R)

Dan Burton (R)
Mike Pence (R)

The bill now heads to the Senate. Indiana’s junior Senator Evan Bayh (D) has this to say:

“We’re faced with trying to choose the best among unpalatable alternatives. Nobody wanted to give money to the banks or to the insurance companies, and nobody wants to give money to the auto industry. I don’t. But if the alternative is losing hundreds of thousands of jobs and having automakers, dealerships, part suppliers, and other retailers in local communities go down, we have to make a hard choice here.

“People think the economy is bad now, but if we let all these companies go belly up, and all those folks get laid off, I’m afraid it would be much worse.

“Indiana has a huge stake in this debate. If the big auto companies go down and thousands of jobs are lost, it’s going to hit us a lot harder than almost any place else in the country."