The Journal Gazette
Thursday, March 10, 2016 10:02 pm

Bridging the gap

First, the good news for the forces of moderation and reason: Despite the bluster on the presidential campaign trail, the second edition of The Lugar Center’s Bipartisan Index shows some improvement over last year. And a number of Hoosier lawmakers, led by Sen. Joe Donnelly, have improved their positions over the first survey.

The bad news is that our congressman, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, has dropped into a tie for second to last – 435th – among House members.

The Bipartisan Index, issued by the center, which was founded by former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, ranks each member of Congress according to how hard they work at compromise and cooperation. Senators and representatives are measured by how often he or she 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.

The results show that neither party has the corner on building consensus these days. For the second time, Republican Susan Collins of Maine leads the Senate list. Donnelly, a Democrat, was ranked fourth last year and now ranks second. Among 98 senators rated, Republican Sen. Dan Coats moved up from 87th last year to 75th this year. Other Republicans who moved up on the list included Rep. Todd Young, from 193rd to 138th. Young is challenging Stutzman for the Republican nomination to run for the seat held by Coats, who is retiring.

In this rancorous political year, it’s really no surprise that independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is running for the Democratic nomination, is last on the Senate cooperation scale, and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is second to last.

Stutzman’s spokeswoman, Kelsey Knight, shrugged off his poorer ranking this year (He was 365th last year.).

“More often than not,” Knight wrote in an email to The Journal Gazette’s Brian Francisco, “Republicans have the preferred solutions to getting Washington off the backs of Hoosier businesses and to help drive economic growth.”

But Lugar, a widely admired Republican who represented Indiana in the Senate for 36 years, contends that bipartisanship is essential and achievable.

“The Bipartisan Index shows that strong conservatives and strong progressives can score well when they search for common ground,” wrote Lugar and Edward Montgomery, dean of the McCourt School, in Monday, “and Congress – and the country – are stronger when both sides make the effort to forge legislation that produces results for the American people.”

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