In an absolutely riveting midterm election, few races are being watched more closely than the contest between U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and his challenger, Mike Braun. The race could help determine control of the Senate for the rest of President Donald Trump's term, and among the issues that could hang in the balance is the future of your health care.
These are sharply different candidates. Both Braun and Donnelly have stressed their willingness to work with Trump, but don't be confused. Donnelly is a Democrat who's proven willing to defy his own party if he thinks it's in the best interest of Hoosiers to do so. Braun is a Republican who appears willing to follow whatever policy Trump points him toward.
That, unfortunately, could include crucial choices on health care, an issue that rightly appears to be at the top of Indiana voters' concerns.
Braun believes he could help Congress fashion market-driven solutions to the high costs of medical treatments and drugs and protect pre-existing conditions by using his experience crafting a self-insurance plan for his southern Indiana company.
But though he's now critical of last year's failed congressional plans to replace Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, Braun still advocates repeal and has supported a lawsuit filed by Indiana's Curtis Hill and other Republican attorneys general aimed at ending guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Donnelly helped vote the ACA into existence when he was in the U.S. House. He has been open to modifying the plan but strongly defends the pre-existing conditions requirement and the act's expanded Medicaid provision, which allowed creation of Indiana's HIP 2.0. That program provides medical coverage for hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers.
Donnelly was also in line with Hoosier values when he voted against a tax cut plan skewed toward the wealthy. “It exploded the deficit, and increased it by over $2 trillion. For every dollar that went to wages and bonuses, 37 went to stock buy-backs,” he told our editorial board in September.
The savageness of TV campaign ads on their behalf notwithstanding, both Braun and Donnelly are polite, personable candidates who say they want to see civility return to national politics. Donnelly, though, has earned his chops in that area. In December, the Lugar Center-McCourt School, reviewing performance records over the past 25 years, ranked him the second most consensus-building senator.
That evenhandedness showed most clearly in Donnelly's approach to evaluating Trump's two choices for the U.S. Supreme Court, defying his own party to vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch, and defying conventional political wisdom this fall to vote against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
“The promises I've made, I've kept,” Donnelly told us a few weeks before the vote on Kavanaugh. “I've worked in a bipartisan way, on a constant basis. When the president's right, I'll be with him. When he's not, I won't. ... It is how do we make our country stronger?”
America needs more senators like Joe Donnelly. Indiana needs to re-elect him.