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The Journal Gazette

  • Donnelly

  • Young

Wednesday, May 02, 2018 1:00 am

Editorial

Aisle-crossers

Hoosier senators rank strong on bipartisanship

How Hoosiers rank

Senate

Joe Donnelly, D....................................4

Todd Young, R.....................................9

House

Susan Brooks, R-5th............................44

Pete Visclosky, D-1st...........................65

Jackie Walorski, R-2nd.......................84

Luke Messer, R-6th...........................137

Larry Bucshon, R-8th........................205

Trey Hollingsworth, R-9th................238

Todd Rokita, R-4th...........................350 

Jim Banks, R-3rd...............................377

Andre Carson, D-7th........................401

The Republican senatorial race, which political observers have been calling one of the nastiest in the nation, is almost over. Given one more chance to offer an olive branch to their rivals at a debate in Indianapolis Monday night, Mike Braun, U.S. 4th District Rep. Todd Rokita and U.S. 6th District Rep. Luke Messer seized the moment to launch one final round of attacks on one another. All of that, thankfully, will end with Tuesday's primary election.

But anyone who would consign Indiana to the scrap-heap of political divisiveness should consider the latest rankings from the Lugar Center Bipartisan Index, which places Indiana's Joe Donnelly and Todd Young among the top 10 most consensus-building U.S. senators.

The center is headed by Richard Lugar, who represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. A Republican, Lugar was known as a statesman willing to work with  lawmakers from both parties to seek the best results. The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University produce the Bipartisan Index, ranking each member of Congress according to how hard they work at compromise and cooperation.

Neither party has had a monopoly on such virtues. In the latest edition of the index, which covers the 2017 session, the three highest-ranking senators are Republicans: Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Capito of West Virginia. But Donnelly, a Democrat who won his Senate seat in 2012 after serving three terms in the House, was ranked fourth among the Senate's 100 members. Young, a Republican who also served three terms in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2016, was ranked ninth.

Indiana was the only state with both senators in the top 10.

And what of the squabbling trio of contenders in this spring's Republican race? Messer, who was rated 309th of 435 House members in the index two years ago, moved up to 137th in the latest rankings, passing Rokita, who dropped from 278th to 350th. Braun has not been ranked in the Bipartisan Index because he has not held a seat in Congress.

The index measures how often each senator or representative cosponsors a bill introduced by a member of the opposite party, and how often his or her bills are cosponsored by others from across the aisle. In an introduction to this year's index, Lugar contends the willingness to reach across the aisle at the beginning is essential to crafting and introducing bills that have enough appeal to become law.

But “too often the opposite is happening. Bills are being written not to maximize their chances of passage, but to serve as legislative talking points. Taking a position is not the same thing as governing. For Congress to be successful, the parties must work together at the beginning of the legislative process,” Lugar wrote.

Willingness to work with the other party is not the only measure of a lawmaker's effectiveness, of course. As Lugar points out, bipartisan bills are not always superior to partisan ones. But “a consistently high score (on bipartisanship) is a strong indication that a legislator is prioritizing problem-solving and open to working with the other party when possible.”

Campaigns fueled on partisan politics are not much fun to watch. Such divisiveness moves from discouraging to dangerous when Congress grinds to a halt because its members dig in their heels. In such times, the efforts of Indiana's Republican and Democratic senators to find common ground are heartening, and offer an example that all who aspire to Congress should emulate.