If you’re one of the many who is seemingly highly frustrated by the lack of positive activity in Washington, you’re joined by Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman. The special guest during Friday’s monthly Indiana Chamber Policy Call, Stutzman expressed the following at different times about his first 10-plus months on the job in D.C.
"What bothers me is there is no sense of urgency."
"The federal government is so large, so bureaucratic, so over-reaching. It’s the blanket that is suffocating the economy right now."
"The government is in the way, and we can’t get it out of the way fast enough."
Stutzman described the competing philosophies of government creating jobs by spending money with the preferred approach for him (and many others) of providing the climate to allow the private sector to be the job creator. He also noted the regulatory hurdles, with more than 3,200 rules passed by "unelected bureaucrats" in 2010 and that number already above 4,000 for this year.
On a more positive note, Stutzman did cite recent legislation that increases the tax credit for hiring veterans and a farm bill proposal (in which he teamed with Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar) that delivers a potential $40 billion in savings over 10 years while still protecting those in the agriculture industry.
Like others, Stutzman hopes for some progress out of the "super committee" dealing with debt and deficit recommendations. He notes that tax reform and simplication is generating interest, but will still be difficult to pass in the partisan environment in Washington.
Check out more about Stutzman and his work. The next Policy Call for Chamber members will be Friday, December 9, with the topic being right-to-work.
We asked what your top priority was for Washington leaders to accomplish. You responded:
Debt reduction: 43%
Reform tax code: 26%
Less intrusive federal regulations: 14%
Long-term transportation bill: 6%
In the "other" category, several respondents liked each of the options and chose "all of the above." Others opted for "reduce unemplyment" and "stimulus bill."
With primary season just around the corner, and we mean that with the initial votes expected to come just three days into 2012, the new question asks you to choose your GOP favorite at this point. Cast your unofficial vote today — top right of this page.
A simple yes/no question generated a large response in the latest informal Indiana Chamber poll.
We asked: Should online retailers (on a national basis) be required to collect sales taxes? Your responses: 61% yes, 39% no.
It’s a complicated topic. As we’ve shared earlier, the Chamber’s Bill Waltz has written an excellent analysis that identifies some of the key issues as a national solution (not a state-by-state approach) is required.
Coming off the Chamber’s annual D.C. Fly-in, our new question asks: What is your top priority for Washington policy leaders to accomplish? The choices include reform tax code, debt reduction, less intrusive federal regulations, long-term transportation bill and other (you tell us).
Check out the top right column of this page to register your vote.
A few weeks ago we got a short-term debt reduction solution (although solution doesn’t really seem to be the appropriate word here; let’s try compromise) that left few people happy, It basically punted the ball down the road, requiring a new "super committee" of 12 members of Congress to come up with recommendations by November 23.
I’ve read various analyses of what to expect. Greg Casey, president of D.C.-based BIPAC, offers some excellent points in describing the makeup of the group and its prospects:
The Super Committee is a witch’s brew of personalities. It will be co-chaired by Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Senate Democratic Leadership team. Hensarling is as conservative as Murray is liberal. Both have the ear of their caucuses but are also charged with being the keeper of their party line. The key is whether this eclectic group of perspectives, philosophies, and seniority can forge any agreement at all or if their anointing leadership even wants them to.
None of the Senate appointees were part of the Senate Gang of Six, who labored for months on a bipartisan "grand bargain." However, four of the twelve, Hensarling, Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), did in fact serve on the original National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson/Bowles) that spawned the Gang’s efforts. Even though all four of them voted against the Fiscal Commission’s recommendations, their opposition seemed conditional. Becerra came to the final meeting of the commission with two speeches, one for it and one against it. Both Congressmen Camp and Hensarling were inclined to support the Commission report had it been offered under different circumstances. The circumstances are certainly different now. But is it enough?
The Super Committee has the gravitas. If inclined to act, they have some of the critical players in critical positions. Senator Max Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee and Representative Dave Camp chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. These are the Congressional committees charged with writing tax law. Both of these Chairmen served on the Fiscal Commission and know the extent of the problem. Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Representative Xavier Becerra is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is the number two GOP Senator and James Clyburn (D-SC) is the number three House Democrat. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) is a very close ally of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Although Senator Rob Portman(R-OH) may be a freshman in the Senate, he was the budget director for President George W. Bush and may know more about the numbers than any other member of the Super Committee.
The other two members of the Super Committee have slightly murkier portfolios. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee and was one of the first to label the credit downgrade the "tea party downgrade." Conversely, freshman Republican Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is as close to the tea party movement as any U.S. Senator except Rand Paul (R-KY). These last two players may be the bookends within which the others will operate. It is unlikely that any agreement would get them both and any likely agreement will not get either. It will take seven votes to make the deal so at least one member of twelve will have to cross the party line. Both Congressman Camp and Senator Toomey have indicated they are willing to consider changes in taxes, a necessary first step on the right if a grand bargain is to be struck. To create real hope for a grand bargain, one or more Democrats need to signal a willingness to consider entitlement reform.
The cynic in me is pessimistic a majority of this group could agree on anything. The optimist in me, however, sees a bit of the deal maker in each one of them. Is it possible the concept of saving the Republic is sufficient motivation for twelve good men to do the right thing? We shall see.
Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar comments on today’s announcement by Sen. Evan Bayh to not seek a third term:
“Senator Bayh has enjoyed a long and distinguished career serving Hoosiers. He has done many positive things for Indiana, both as governor and U.S. senator, and we wish him and his family nothing but the best going forward. I believe he is quite genuine with his comments that the hostile political atmosphere and partisan bickering were the tipping points for his decision. When he was governor, he was known for his fiscal conservatism and made a point of working with both sides of the aisle to get results. Not being able to see that happen in the Senate and Congress in general, where it is sorely needed, must be a source of frustration and disappointment for him, as it has been for Hoosier employers and their workers the Chamber represents.
“In particular, the events over the past six months in Congress obviously have changed the senator’s belief that meaningful, positive outcomes for issues like health care, debt reduction and job creation could be achieved. In August, when he spoke to the Chamber’s board of directors, he was quite optimistic that Congress would deal with these issues in a bipartisan, productive way to get things done for Americans. Unfortunately, things appear to have gone in the exact opposite direction.
“From the Chamber’s standpoint, we have always found Sen. Bayh to be thoughtful and consistent in his decisions and a willing listener to the business community’s position. During his time in Washington, the senator has routinely participated in our annual D.C. Fly-in trip, meeting in-person with business leaders from throughout the state to discuss the issues important to them. While Sen. Bayh did not always vote with the Chamber position, we respected his stance and felt that courtesy was returned to us.”