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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., outlines his 10-point “roadmap for 2014” during a news conference Tuesday.

Give GOP chance to make case, Coats says

– Before plotting his “roadmap for 2014” on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats acknowledged that many colleagues won’t follow it.

Coats, R-Ind., said there is widespread belief on Capitol Hill that Republicans cannot advance their causes as long as President Barack Obama is in office and Democrats control the Senate.

“I refuse to take no for an answer, and I refuse to pack up my lunchbox and say, ‘Well, OK, we can’t do anything until 2017,’ ” Coats said at a news conference at Parkview Field attended by about 50 government, political and business leaders.

He released a 10-point agenda he called “the Indiana way.” Among other things, it would delay the individual insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act, repeal the medical device and federal estate taxes, simplify the income tax code, protect religious freedom, establish public-private partnerships to improve transportation infrastructure, help universities commercialize their federally funded research and provide regulatory relief to coal producers and community banks.

“I’m in there to fight for what I believe in and what you believe in,” Coats told his audience.

Coats locked horns on the Senate floor with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Jan. 9 over Reid’s refusal to hear Republican amendments to legislation for extending long-term unemployment benefits. Coats was asked Tuesday about the “tiff” and whether he thinks his relationship with Democratic leaders will improve.

“It was a dictatorial leadership of the United States Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid. That tiff we went through was really an effort to get that issue out in the open and have it out,” Coats said.

“And several Democrats came up to me afterward and said, ‘You know, we think you had a good point, and we think hopefully this may break the impasse here. We don’t want to repeat what’s happened in 2013. We do think Republicans have ideas and ought to have a voice in this. I’m not going to vote for you, but I’m going to give you a chance to make your case,’ ” Coats said.

“That’s really what we were asking,” he said. “I’m hoping for a much better year. I’m cautiously optimistic based on what’s happened. But the proof will be in the pudding.”

In a later interview, Coats said four of the items on his 2014 roadmap “already have bipartisan support and are backed up by legislation.”

Coats unveiled his agenda Tuesday in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis and said he will do the same in six other Indiana cities today and Thursday. The former U.S. House member from Fort Wayne is beginning the fourth year of his latest six-year Senate term. He also was a senator from 1989 through 1998.

In a conference call with reporters last week, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said he intends this year to “continue to focus like a laser on jobs. We’ve seen the unemployment rate come down, but it’s still not good enough.”

Donnelly, who is starting the second year of his first Senate term, also said he supports an increase in the minimum wage.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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