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SCHELLINGER: Green delegation should work hard on influence

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SchellingerRoll Call reported several weeks ago that Indiana’s clout in Washington, D.C., has slipped in the rankings from 27th to 42nd. This is certainly no surprise in the wake of Sen. Richard Lugar’s departure, in addition to former Sen. Evan Bayh and former congressman and now Gov. Mike Pence.

Several Associated Press stories indicated in November 2012 that “Indiana lost 78 years of congressional experience among its senators and representatives.”

The loss of congressmen Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill in 2010 started the downward trend.

To break it down, Indiana boasted an average of 13-1/2 years of experience per member after the 2008 election. Just four years later, the Hoosier delegation averaged 3-1/2 years.

The wave of Republican freshmen and sophomores has taken a toll on the influence Indiana can muster in national policy matters on Capitol Hill. Clearly, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky carries some weight, but as a member of the minority, he will have difficulty affecting big outcomes for Indiana.

Sen. Dan Coats is the leader of the Indiana delegation, has the most significant committee assignments, and will be the most accountable when it comes to looking after Hoosier interests.

New Sen. Joe Donnelly can certainly be helpful to the president by forging coalitions of folks who are motivated to move important public policy initiatives forward, especially those that can be embraced by more moderate members of Congress interested in getting things done for the American people.

I think we can all agree that Congress needs more consensus-building and less political posturing. I remain hopeful that President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can advance job creation, debt reduction, retirement security, immigration policy, education transformation, college and health care affordability, and gun safety legislation in the next year or two.

The Hoosier delegation must stand together to protect our state’s interest when it comes to securing our fair share of federal dollars. But, we also must remember we are one of 50 states seeking to form a more perfect union. With that many cooks in the kitchen, I think we all understand the need to play nicely.

This is truly a moment for our newer members of Congress to work hard and distinguish themselves in particular areas of specialty. Energy, agriculture, technology, defense and transportation come to mind as important for Indiana.

Yes, we may have lost some juice in the halls of Washington, but now is the time to begin rebuilding and for some members to become leaders and consensus-builders for all of us. New faces should translate into new ideas, and better ways of doing business in the federal government.

Susan Brooks, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita are seasoned public servants, and many folks in central Indiana have tremendous confidence in Andre Carson, as well.

These days, the stakes are simply too high for partisan gridlock and unsophisticated approaches to some of the toughest economic problems America and the world have faced in over 30 years. We’re all in this together, and we had best start acting like it.•

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Schellinger, chairman and CEO of CSO Architects Inc., ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2008. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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