Saying So Long to Senate Seniority

We know about Indiana's changes in Senate seniority — from Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh a few years ago to first-termers Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly. Although Coats served previously, his 12-year gap between terms puts him back in the pack, for the most part, when it comes to seniority.

BIPAC, the Business Industry Political Action Committee in Washington, has some interesting insights on the rapid changes in seniority across the country and some of the impacts.

Seniority in the U.S. Senate has always been viewed as beneficial.  More senior members usually have increased clout in the chamber and higher positions in committees.  However, in a year where almost half of the senators have been serving less than six years, lack of seniority and experience can also be a good thing.  This is a great time to reach out to the newer members and introduce yourself and your issues.
 
There are currently 45 senators (this includes Senator Kerry's successor) that have served less than six years.  In 11 states – Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin – both senators have served less than six years.
 
Since the 2012 elections, changes in the Hawaii and Massachusetts delegations have drastically altered seniority in both states and the Senate.  When Senator Inouye passed away, the Senate lost its most senior member and Hawaii lost its seniority as a state in the chamber.  Both Sens. Schatz and Hirono have served less than two months, a major change from the long careers of Sens. Inouye and Akaka.  Schatz is considered Hawaii's senior member, since he was sworn in on December 27, 2012 and Hirono was sworn in on January 3, 2013.
 
Now that Kerry has submitted his resignation to become Secretary of State, Massachusetts lost the seniority it held for decades.  Kerry was the seventh most senior senator and Ted Kennedy, before he passed away, was the second most senior member.  Once Kerry's seat is filled, both senators from Massachusetts will have been in office for less than a year (This will still hold true if Scott Brown is elected to take Kerry's seat.  He lost his seniority when he left office in January 2013 after losing to Elizabeth Warren).
 
Two states that still hold considerable seniority in the Senate are Iowa and California.  For Iowa, Senator Grassley is the sixth most senior senator, followed by Senator Harkin who is seventh.  Iowa's position will change following the 2014 election now that Harkin has announced his retirement.  California holds the 14th and 15th most senior spots, with Sens. Feinstein and Boxer.   Senator Leahy from Vermont is the Senate's most senior member.
 

Will Bayh Seek Governor’s Office Again?

Writing for Howey Politics Indiana, veteran reporter/columnist Jack Colwell relays the soon-to-be former Senator’s comments on seeking the Indiana Governor’s office once again, as well as his thoughts on the acrimonious nature of politics at the national level today:

After deciding, Bayh said, he will announce quickly, avoiding his acknowledged mistake in not announcing his Senate decision back in August of ’09, when he told Obama.
    
When Obama asked if he was 100 percent certain, Bayh related, “I made a mistake. I said it’s 98 percent.”
    
Thus, the president and Rahm Emanuel, then White House chief of staff, kept urging him to put off any announcement and reconsider. He put it off, “procrastinating, going back and forth,” until the filing deadline was upon him.
     
Now, some Democrats are angry with Bayh for waiting until it was too late for another candidate to get on the primary ballot. Congressman Brad Ellsworth finally was picked as the nominee by the Democratic State Committee. Ellsworth, who would have won for re-election for his 8th District House seat, was instead trounced Tuesday in a statewide race with Republican Dan Coats. And Democrats lost the 8th District seat.
    
Democratic chances for the Senate wouldn’t have brightened if he had announced much earlier that he wasn’t running, Bayh theorized, because it would have brought a divisive Democratic primary and “Republicans would have had a stronger nominee” than Coats.
    
Bayh noted that I have written he would have won re-election. He said he probably could have, but he would have had to concentrate from May to November on “destroying my opponent” and suffer “personally unpleasant” attacks from the opponent, not very satisfying for someone sick of partisan warfare in the Senate.
    
It’s not his father’s Senate.
   
He said that when his father, Birch Bayh, was in the Senate, “some of his better friends were Republicans. They’d come over for dinner.”
    
He recalled how Sen. Everett Dirksen, then Senate Republican leader,  “came up to him (Birch Bayh) on the floor of the Senate and asked what he could do to help with his re-election. That would never happen today.”
    
Bayh said he is “independent, moderate” and found fewer and fewer on either side of the aisle who would abandon partisan bickering to seek reasonable compromise.
    
“Some of this was unavoidable,” Bayh said of Democratic losses.
    
After financial panic and severe recession, slow recovery was certain, Bayh said, but the slowness was blamed on the president and Democratic-controlled Congress.
    
Usual mid-term election losses for the president’s party were made worse, he said, by Democrats who pressed to do too much on health care reform “in the teeth of the worst economy” and brought on “resurrection of the ‘big taxer, big spender’ image.”

Not Enough Time on Their Hands in D.C.?

Quirky Congressional calendars and policy stalemates are nothing new in Washington. For those of that mindset, it appears the rest of 2010 won’t be too upsetting. And with some of the damage Congress has inflicted on businesses of all sizes and their employees over the last few years, maybe that isn’t all bad.

In the House (which doesn’t return until Tuesday), it’s less than three weeks until the August break (starting a week earlier than normal). House members will not be back in Washington until mid-September, with a targeted adjournment date of October 8 in order to hit the campaign trail fulltime in the weeks leading up to the November 2 election. Are we looking at a lame-duck session in November or December — or no action on major items until 2011?

For the Senate, the legislative backlog includes:

  • Seeking two votes (Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe are the top targets) to move the financial regulatory reform conference report
  • A lending pool/tax incentives increase for small businesses, which was originally seen as an opportunity to address other financial issues — including the expiring Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003
  • A $75 billion war supplemental that faces a White House veto over issues unrelated to the original intent. The House added $16 billion, including $10 billion to local school districts to help avoid teacher layoffs. Part of the offsets feature recissions in education programs (among them Race to the Top); hence, the White House opposition

CongressDaily reports the following on that bill:

Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye did not include funding for teachers in the measure the Senate approved in May because it was unclear if there was enough support to pass the bill. 

Supporters of the teacher funding will also have to overcome opposition from a group of 13 Democratic senators led by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who called the proposed cuts to education programs "unacceptable" in a letter to Inouye earlier this month.

"Choosing between preserving teacher jobs and supporting vital education reforms is a false choice and would set a dangerous precedent," the letter said.

Or school districts could utilize any number of other cost reduction methods instead of simply cutting teachers. If only that suggestion would become part of the common practice.

Gerard: Democrats Hoping to Capitalize on 2008 Momentum

RJ Gerard is communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party.

Indiana went Democratic blue in 2008 for the first time in 40 years because like the rest of America, Hoosiers wanted change. The Indiana Democratic delegation has worked feverishly to bring that change to Indiana. And while the upcoming primaries should not bring any significant surprises for Democrats, the Indiana Democratic Party is poised to field a solid slate of candidates from federal to local elections this fall.

Democrats are keenly focused on holding on to all of their Congressional seats at the federal level, and feel it’s critical to maintain control of the Indiana State House of Representatives. Equally important is the Indiana U.S. Senate race, which will be in the national spotlight with former Vanderburgh County Sheriff and U.S. Congressman Brad Ellsworth working hard to replace retiring Sen. Evan Bayh.

Hoosiers saw change become reality with the passing of health care and insurance reform. Showing courage and leadership, all Hoosier Democratic members of Congress, including Sen. Bayh, voted for the measure, while the entire Republican delegation voted against it.

This one issue provides insight into this upcoming election; whether to continue on the path of hope and change, or turn back to the failed policies of the past.

Repealing health care reform would be disastrous for Hoosier families; 820,000 Indiana residents would lose health care, 76,800 small businesses would lose existing tax credits and appalling insurance practices of the past – such as denying coverage due to preexisting conditions – would be reinstated.

Let us not forget that it was the Republican Party, during eight years of GOP control, that turned record surpluses into record deficits and favored the special interests and lobbyists over the interests of ordinary Hoosiers.

Even today, Hoosier Republicans are still standing with Wall Street and opposing the reforms that would protect Americans and prevent future bailouts. To the contrary, Indiana Democrats are looking out for Hoosier families and demanding accountability from Wall Street.

In response to these failed Republican policies of the past, President Obama and Hoosier Democrats have provided tax cuts to 95 percent of working Americans through the Recovery Act, tax cuts to small businesses and instituted polices that are helping to get our deficit under control, turn our economy around and create jobs.

The Indiana GOP and its candidates represent the failed ideas of the past. The time for change has come. Hoosier Democrats are working diligently to make sure it happens.

————–

EDITOR’S NOTE: Out of respect for our guest bloggers, we will not be allowing anonymous comments on their blogs this week. Additionally, the Indiana Chamber does not necessarily share the opinions of our guest bloggers.

Primarily Speaking, It’s a Crucial Voting Period

Primaries have always been my favorite. In most districts, the primary election is the election that will decide who gets to raise his or her right hand and take office. The pressure is generally more intense and often more personal given that the political parties see them as “their fights.” Not us. We represent the business community (employers and employees) and recognize the opportunities presented by a good primary fight no matter the party. Primaries are usually the best, if not only, chance to take out many of those incumbents who say they are pro-business, but their voting record and actions indicate otherwise.

Just a few months ago, the only race in town was for control of the Indiana House. With only eight days to go until the last day of the primary election voting season, there are several others that are just as compelling. What was once a cakewalk U.S. Senate re-election race for Evan Bayh has turned into a competitive Republican primary that people are paying close attention to and a November contest that will be one of the most watched in the country. There are highly competitive primaries in the fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth Congressional districts. And of course, there are a bevy of state legislative primaries that are hotly contested.

After the 2008 failure of the political parties to recruit enough pro-jobs, pro-economic development candidates, (even leaving several competitive districts uncontested), we decided to fully implement our own candidate recruitment and development program. Since December 2008, we have met with well over 100 potential candidates and recruited several who decided to run.  Following this effort, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG) is now leading or playing a significant role in no less than seven highly competitive Indiana General Assembly primaries.  

This post kicks off an impressive lineup of guest bloggers we have assembled this week. They include state chairmen, a former state chairman, media representatives, popular Indiana bloggers and leaders/communicators from the state’s largest three political parties.

Please check back this afternoon as one of the most insightful and respected individuals in Hoosier politics weighs in. Robin Winston is a former Democratic state chairman, Indiana Week in Review panelist and key strategist for Hoosier Democrats. Grab a nice hot tea or caffeinated drink of your choice and enjoy. I certainly will.

Indiana Democrat Starts Facebook Movement to Choose Bayh’s Replacement

Sen. Evan Bayh’s surprising move last week to announce he was not running for re-election was stunning, even to many most familiar with Indiana politics. However, the timing of said move (just before the candidate filing deadline) struck some the wrong way, even in his own party. The Democrats’ inability to field a candidate via signatures leaves the ultimate decision to the party’s State Chair and Central Committee. Janette Surrisi, a Democrat in Culver, has started a Facebook group (which has 55 members as of this writing) to rally state Dems in demanding that convention delegates be the ultimate deciders. In an e-mail, she writes:

The people of Indiana deserve to choose the democratic candidate for Evan Bayh’s senate seat. Evan Bayh announced only a day before the deadline to get on the primary ballot that he would not be running for election in 2010. Many speculate that the timing was a political maneuver to make sure that the Indiana Democratic Chairperson and Central Committee could hand pick the candidate of choice for the senate seat and in doing so leave many primary voters in the cold.

To remedy this, we believe that the more than 2,000 Indiana Democratic State Convention Delegates should pick the candidate for Bayh’s seat. Delegates are elected in the primary to go to convention. If not enough candidates are elected to delegate spots, county party chairman can appoint citizens of the party to the position. Currently, democratic delegates pick their Secretary of State, State Auditor, and State Treasurer candidates at convention.

We petition that Dan Parker and the Indiana Democratic Party Central Committee allow the delegates to vote for the democratic senator candidate at convention in June. We believe that the candidate that earns the most votes from the delegates should be named by the Central Committee as the candidate on the ballot for the democrats in November.

This group is dedicated to giving Indiana voters a voice. All voters Democrat, Republican, or Independent deserve to pick their candidates.

The Impact of Bayh’s Departure

The Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter sat down with Gerry Dick to discuss the impact of today’s surprise announcement, though the true repercussions remain to be seen:

As political observers scramble to assess the impact of Senator Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek re-election, the vice president for federal affairs at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce believes it’s too early to tell what it could mean for business in the state. In a Studio(i) interview, Cam Carter says Bayh has been under the chamber’s microscope for voting to place a labor law attorney on the National Labor Relations Board, who appeared to favor proposals including card check legislation.

Carter says the Democratic Party will have to scramble to pick a candidate to run for the Senate seat in this year’s election.

Tomorrow is the deadline to gather 4,500 signatures from around the state to get a name on the ballot and Friday is the deadline for candidate filings.

Inside INdiana Business has video here.

Pence: Support is Humbling, but Will Not Run Against Sen. Bayh

Think Rep. Mike Pence can defeat Sen. Evan Bayh this November in one of the most talked about Senate races in the nation? Well, it doesn’t really matter, because according to Pence, he’s staying put in the House of Representatives. The following is a letter from Pence posted on his Facebook page (and relayed via Inside INdiana Business):

As many of you are aware, I have been approached about running for the United States Senate in 2010. Karen and I have been humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement which we received from across Indiana, especially since there are several capable and qualified candidates already seeking the Republican nomination. After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the House and to seek reelection to the 6th Congressional District in 2010. I am staying for two reasons. First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010. One year ago I was unanimously elected chairman of the House Republican Conference, the third ranking position in House Republican leadership. I accepted that responsibility because I believed that if Republicans returned to their conservative roots, they could win back the confidence of the American people. And I see it happening every day. As a Republican leader, I have the opportunity to shape the policy and strategy that will return a Republican majority to the Congress in 2010. So my duty is here, in the House, serving my constituents and my colleagues as we fight to restore a conservative majority to the Congress of the United States. I am not going to leave my post when the fate of the House hangs in the balance. My place is here, in that fight, with the brave men and women who will be winning that victory for the American people. I also am staying because I believe we will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010, and I am excited to be a part of it. While the opportunity to serve in the United States Senate is significant, I believe the best chance this nation has to restore fiscal discipline, common sense and common values to Washington, D.C., is for conservatives to retake the House in 2010. When we win back the House, we will make history and we will have the power to stop the big government plans of this administration and to steer our nation to a more secure, free and prosperous future. Last fall, Karen and I completed our first full marathon. We finished the 26.2 miles in just under seven hours despite the rigors on this 50 year-old body and despite many opportunities to step off the track and call it a day. Our inspiration for the day came from a verse in the Bible that reads, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I believe the race marked out for me in 2010 is in the House of Representatives. I believe that if we run that race with conviction and endurance, we can win back the Congress for the common sense and the common values of the American people, turn this tide of big government back and set the stage for a boundless American future. Thanks to you all who prayed our little family through this difficult decision. I hope that God will someday permit me to perform some wider service to the people of Indiana and the country, but for now my focus must remain on finishing the job I was elected to do by my constituents and my Republican colleagues; representing conservative values in Congress and winning back the House of Representatives.

D.C. Bound; It Should be Eventful

Put most of a state’s congressional delegation in the same room (it doesn’t happen very often), throw in some of the most contentious issues in years (health care reform, cap and trade, etc.) and it’s bound to be interesting.

The Indiana Chamber brings these pieces together Wednesday night in Washington as part of the annual D.C. Fly-in. More than 70 business representatives from across the state will be there. Typically Sen. Richard Lugar and nearly all of the congressional representatives join in for a roundtable discussion, dinner and an opportunity to hear from the folks back home. (Sen. Evan Bayh, by the way, usually prefers taking part in the second-day office visits).

The attendees will also receive updates from policy experts in the nation’s capital and hear from Stan Jones, former Indiana commissioner of higher education who went east earlier this year to start a new organization focused on college access and graduation for at-risk students.

I’ll be there to assist with the event and plan to let you know what’s going on through the Chamber’s Twitter feed and hopefully a blog or two. All signs point to the business reps being ready to speak up on how federal decisions are impacting their companies and employees in their local communities.

Bayh Urges Democrats to Restrain Spending

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) offered this advice to Democrats in a Wall Street Journal column today:

Last month the Office of Management and Budget predicted that the national debt will increase by $9 trillion over the next decade—$2 trillion more than forecast just four months earlier. Government net interest payments exceed $1 trillion in 2019, up from $382 billion this year. Because projected deficits exceed projected economic growth, the gap will be self-perpetuating.

The consequences of all this will not be benign. A world saturated with U.S. currency will eventually look elsewhere to invest, causing the dollar’s value to drop; foreign creditors, their confidence shaken by our fiscal profligacy, will demand higher payments to keep holding our debt. The net effect will be "stagflation," that pernicious combination of slower growth, higher inflation and interest rates, and lower living standards Americans suffered through in the 1970s.

These events will diminish our global influence, because fiscal strength is essential to diplomatic leverage, military might and national significance. No great nation can rely upon the generosity of strangers or the forbearance of potential adversaries to meet its security needs. America is doing both. China uses its monetary reserves to curry favor in developing countries once in the U.S. sphere of influence; we must borrow to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Worst of all is the legacy we will leave. From the "Greatest Generation" we inherited an America that is the strongest, most affluent, freest nation on earth. On our present course, our children will not. We violate a fundamental part of our national character by taking from our children to satisfy our desires today.

Congress’s initial reaction to our fiscal peril has not been encouraging. The $410 billion omnibus spending bill passed in March increased domestic discretionary spending by 8% and included more than 8,000 earmarks. This year’s budget contemplates domestic discretionary increases of nearly 9%, three times the rate of inflation. If the past is any guide, it will include thousands of new earmarks.

Any serious effort to control the deficit must begin with spending restraint. Efficiency and frugality, common virtues in the private sector, must be incorporated into government. Congress should enact health-care reform that actually lowers the deficit. For the next fiscal year, assuming the economy has gathered sufficient momentum, we should freeze domestic discretionary spending, limit increases in defense spending to the rate of inflation, forgo pay raises for federal workers, and institute a federal hiring freeze.

These steps alone won’t put our fiscal house in order; more difficult action is needed. But by showing common cause with middle-class families facing their own budget crises, we can send an important signal that Washington has the will to chart a more responsible course.