IN THE NEWS: Joe Donnelly successfully balances moderate credentials with fight against “heartless” budget plan

INDIANAPOLIS – While there may be no one in the Senate more measured than Joe Donnelly, that doesn’t mean he’s afraid to fight against awful policy, Matt Tully wrote yesterday in his latest IndyStar column. Joe has successfully balanced his role as “perhaps the Senate’s preeminent moderate” with aggressive stands against the worst of the GOP’s policies, including a presidential budget blueprint so dangerous that both Congressman Messer and Congressman Rokita have so far refused to say where they stand on it. By fighting back against truly dangerous proposals, Tully writes, Joe is energizing Hoosier Democrats while deservedly keeping his reputation as a calm, bipartisan senator.

From the IndyStar: Tully: The emergence of a feistier Joe Donnelly

It’s always hard to run as a Democrat for statewide office in Indiana, but the Trump administration is making the challenge a bit easier for Sen. Joe Donnelly. It’s also turning Donnelly, perhaps the Senate’s preeminent moderate, into a feistier version of himself. 

After the Congressional Budget Office reported that the rolls of uninsured Americans would jump by roughly 23 million under the Republican health-care plan, Donnelly correctly called the plan “unacceptable and cruel.” He spoke out against possible cuts to addiction services in a state facing an opiod and meth crisis.

The health-care plan received votes from both Rep. Luke Messer and Rep. Todd Rokita. The two House Republicans from Indiana hope to run against Donnelly in 2018. He called the unpopular plan they supported “awful” and a “smokescreen” that would shift costs from the wealthy to the middle class. “It’s unacceptable,” he said, “and I won’t stand for it.”

…But his words carry particular weight because of the way he has conducted himself in Washington, both in the House and during his one term in the Senate. Anyone who accuses him of being a standard partisan hasn’t been paying attention; he was recently ranked the second most bipartisan senator by The Lugar Center and is known more than anything for his work on veterans issues as well as his support for mental health and addiction services.

His fiestier words of late are likely to relieve and even energize Indiana Democrats who have grown used to party nominees who must avoid being seen as too liberal, or liberal at all. But he’s not suddenly a liberal. Rather, he is reacting to a series of ridiculous proposed cuts to environmental protection, education, poverty programs and health care. He’s also creating space between himself and the front-runners for the GOP nomination.

“We need real leaders in the Senate,” Donnelly wrote of his potential challengers, “not cheerleaders.”

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