Some Legislators Pushing to End U.S. Senate Elections

For politicos, Indiana's 2012 U.S. Senate primary and election had it all: Drama. Faction rivalries. Gaffes. But if it was up to some legislators, the ultimate victor would not be left up to the general voting public.

Some Georgia Republicans are seeking a repeal of the 17th Amendment, and want state legislators to start appointing Senators in order to bring more power back to the states. The Huffington Post writes:

The resolution calls on Congress to begin the process of repealing the 17th Amendment, passed in 1913, which provided for the direct election of senators. State Rep. Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton), the main sponsor of the resolution, told the Douglas County Sentinel that moving the power back to state legislatures would allow for the original intent of the Constitution.

“It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now,” Cooke told the paper. “This isn’t an idea of mine. This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.”

In the text of the resolution, Cooke cites Madison's writing in the Federalist Papers, specifying that members of the Senate would be "elected absolutely and exclusively by state legislatures."

The resolution says the 17th Amendment has prevented state governments from having a say in federal government and that repealing the amendment would hold U.S. senators accountable to the states. The federal government has grown in "size and scope," it says, in the century since the amendment was adopted.

The 17th Amendment was adopted out of concern for state-level corruption influencing Senate elections, which Cooke said would not be the case now.

“It’s the responsibility of each and every citizen to make sure of who gets elected to office, that they’re principled people,” Cooke told the Douglas County Sentinel. “You can look at the current state of ethics and transparency. Anybody has the ability to look at money being donated to campaigns. It would keep anything from being done out of the public eye.”

Chamber Poll: Senate Race Tied, Pence Has Advantage in Gov. Race

Richard Mourdock (R) and Joe Donnelly (D) are in a statistical dead heat for the open U.S. Senate seat, with 17% of voters in that race still undecided, according to a new statewide poll released today by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

By a 41% to 39% margin (within the survey’s margin of error), Mourdock enjoys a slight lead over Donnelly.  In addition to the 17% of respondents who are undecided, 3% support Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning.

In the election for Indiana Governor, Mike Pence (R) holds a commanding 50% to 32% lead over John Gregg (D), with Libertarian Rupert Boneham supported by 3%.  In that race, 15% of respondents are still undecided.

The scientific public opinion poll of 600 registered voters statewide was conducted by Market Research Insight from August 6-9, 2012.  The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4% and utilized live interviewer telephone surveys to maximize accuracy. Dr. Verne Kennedy, senior analyst for Market Research Insight, served as project director for the poll. Kennedy has conducted more than 200 public opinion surveys in Indiana over the past two decades.

When poll respondents were asked to identify their political affiliations, results were 46% Republican and 38% Democrat, with 16% identifying as independents. Mourdock and Donnelly achieve similar support levels among their respective party voters, but 41% of self-identified independent voters are still undecided.

“As typical, both Democrats and Republicans are relatively polarized, favoring the candidate for their party,” Kennedy says. The 16% of Indiana voters who say they are completely independent will likely determine the outcome of the Senate race.

“Mourdock has the advantage in the election because more of the 17% of undecided voters on this race identify themselves as Republicans than Democrats,” Kennedy explains. “For instance, among those voters undecided on the U.S. Senate race, 33% indicated their support for Pence for governor compared to 6% who support Gregg in that race.”

The public opinion poll was commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its non-partisan political action program, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG). Learn more by viewing the polling report and crosstabs.

UPDATED: Our Congressmen Agree on Something! (Paperwork is Terrible)

Any time eight members of a nine-person Congressional delegation can agree on something these days, it must be a good thing. That is the case with the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011.

H.R. 4 is expected to be considered on the House floor today and the subject of a vote on Thursday. The 273 co-sponsors include all six Indiana Republicans (Larry Buschon, Dan Burton, Mike Pence, Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young) as well as Democrats Andre Carson and Joe Donnelly. Only Pete Visclosky is missing from the co-sponsor list, which, of course, doesn’t disqualify him from supporting the bill.

For those who don’t recall the provision or prefer to block it out in order to try and get a good night’s sleep, a section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that small business owners file a 1099-MISC with the IRS for all payments of $600 or more to a vendor in a tax year. In other words, just about everything. In a regulatory world gone awry, this might be the biggest nightmare of all if allowed to proceed.

The repeal earlier passed the Senate 81-17. Let’s hope common sense prevails in the House this week. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council has additional background and facts.

UPDATED: Thankfully, the U.S. House has voted to repeal this ridiculous measure. Surprisingly, despite being listed as a co-sponsor, Indiana Rep. Andre Carson voted against the measure. All eight other Hoosiers representatives sided with the majority in a 314-112 vote. The Senate has passed a slightly different version, so a compromise will need to be reached. Journal of Accountancy has the story.

Pelosi Facing Bite from Blue Dogs?

The Democratic Blue Dog Coalition has been a rather enigmatic lot in recent years. And its members get grief from liberals for being too conservative and/or too corporate, yet Indiana’s Blue Dog Congressmen (Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill, Joe Donnelly, etc.) are constantly blasted in the conservative blogosphere for being — pardon me for this — "lapdogs" for the Obama administration.

But now, it seems Speaker Pelosi may be taking genuine heat from this caucus. Roll Call explains:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made passing a jobs agenda her top priority this year, but an anti-deficit insurgency led by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), the administrative co-chairwoman of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, has forced Pelosi to scale back her ambitions.

With concerns about deficits rising and rank-and-file Democrats fearing losses in November, Blue Dog clout has soared in recent weeks, and liberal priorities from health care benefits for the jobless to tens of billions of dollars in aid to the states have ended up on the chopping block. In the tumult, Herseth Sandlin has emerged to head a new generation of Blue Dogs as old-guard members such as Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) are heading for the exits or lowering their profiles.

The pivotal moment came shortly before the Memorial Day recess, with Pelosi planning to push through a nearly $200 billion package of tax cut extensions, doctor payments, jobless benefits and state aid. But Herseth Sandlin warned the measure didn’t have the votes and would have to be trimmed significantly.

“While we’ve been invited to share our concerns and leadership has listened, not everyone is hearing us,” she told reporters at the time.

Within a day, Democratic leaders were forced to carve their bill nearly in half in a mad scramble for votes.

And this week, the leadership’s plans for a war spending bill had to be cut back in the face of demands from Blue Dogs that add-on aid for states and money for the Pell Grant program be fully offset. The bill will include just $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs — less than half the amount sought by leadership and President Barack Obama…

Blue Dogs won another victory in this year’s budget battles by extracting a $7 billion cut from Obama’s budget request — a level that will likely force cuts to some domestic spending programs treasured by liberals.

So what do you think? Genuine uproar within the party that could alter its platform, or just contrived friction that will ultimately mean nothing?

UPDATE: Also discovered this article, contemplating a possible Blue Dog coup to overtake Pelosi’s speakership. Doesn’t seem likely, but an interesting thought.

Following the Bouncing Election Ball

Random observations and insights from Election Day thus far:

  • Seems that the Secretary of State’s election division received as many inquiries about liquor stores being open (the law was, in a common sense move, changed earlier this year to allow alcohol sales while the polls were open) than problems at the polls. Good news there.
  • A caller to The Times in Northwest Indiana bragged that he voted straight Republican today. The newspaper’s response, on its blog, was: Well, duh!
  • There were early reports (around 7 p.m.) that U.S. Senate frontrunner Dan Coats had practiced his victory speech from the podium at the Indianapolis Marriott. Guess he didn’t mind tempting fate a bit.
  • Interesting to see those U.S. Senate and other TV ads airing in the final minutes before the polls closed. Candidates seeking a last-minute push? Nah! Just the intricacies of televison scheduling.
  • Indy Star’s Matt Tully notes on Chamber webcast that all Republicans leading the congressional primaries were doing so with less than 50% of the vote (current Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski did move up to 57% a short time later in dominating her race to challenge Joe Donnelly)

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):

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

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

Hat tip to Hoosier Access for getting votes up promptly.

No Indiana Reps Among Top Targets — At This Time

In 2006, three Indiana congressional seats went from the Republican side of the ledger to the Democrat column. For those straining to remember, that was Donnelly over Chocola in District 2, Ellsworth topping Hostettler in District 8 and Hill over Sodrel (the third of their four straight matchups) in District 9.

That was part of a 31-seat gain the House for Democrats, the largest increase for one party since 1974. It did, however, continue a trend of the sitting president’s political party losing ground in the mid-term election. In 2008, by the way, there were no changes in Indiana’s delegation.

The early national targets are out for 2010, and no Hoosier incumbents are included. That is the situation today. Who knows what might change in the next 17 months.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified the following as potential pickup opportunities: Michael Castle of Delaware, Bill Young of Florida, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan and Jim Gerlach of Pennsylania.

On the GOP side, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s top Democrat targets are: Walter Minnick of Idaho, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter, Steve Driehaus of Ohio, and Virginia’s Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello.

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:

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

Against
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."