Political Notebook


Donnelly opposes trade deals

Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, is reminding voters, constituents and the media that there are more than two candidates in the 2012 race for an Indiana seat in the U.S. Senate.

Most of the attention has been on the Republican primary election, where state Treasurer Richard Mourdock is running against Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. Mourdock is the first Republican to challenge Lugar in a primary since he took office in 1977, and their contest has attracted national interest.

Donnelly tried to steal the spotlight Tuesday when he announced he will vote against free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. His statement came the day after President Obama said he would submit the proposals to Congress.

“I disagree with the president’s decision to move forward with these trade agreements at a time when too many Americans are still out of work,” Donnelly said in a statement Tuesday morning. “We need fair trade, not more so-called ‘free trade’ agreements that ship American jobs overseas. Too many companies in Indiana have already had to shutter their operations because of unfair trade agreements negotiated in the past.”

Less than an hour later, his Senate campaign organization issued a similar statement by Donnelly. A campaign spokesman declined to comment on why Donnelly was staking out his ground a week before the House votes on the trade proposals.

Donnelly clearly is setting himself apart from both Obama and the Republican Senate candidates. Lugar and Mourdock, like many other Republicans, have endorsed the three free-trade deals.

Donnelly, the only candidate for Senate in next year’s Democratic primary election, also said Tuesday he supports a Senate bill that would impose tariffs on Chinese goods if China continues to manipulate the value of its currency, which makes Chinese exports cheaper and that country’s imports more expensive.

The Democratic Senate voted 79-19 on Monday to move the bill to a floor vote. Lugar and Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., voted against advancing the legislation, which was being debated Tuesday afternoon.

Coats, by the way, issued a statement Tuesday in favor of the trade agreements, saying they “will provide fair access to new markets for American producers and service providers.”