Souder’s Tour Guide Days Are Over

When soon-to-be-resigned U.S. Rep. Mark Souder says, "I am so ashamed" when talking about the affair that is driving him from office, I believe him. I can’t say that is often the case when politicians, athletes, entertainers or the like are admitting their wrongdoings.

You won’t find any flippant comments or double entendres here. Just a quick anecdote about Souder that makes yesterday’s development all the more incredulous for me.

I attended the Indiana Chamber’s annual D.C. Fly-in 2009 for the first time in quite a few years. Following the traditional opening night congressional roundtable (as many Indiana reps and senators as you will ever see in one place), I talked to a few of our business participants and caught up on several phone messages. When ready to make the trip back to the hotel, I noticed that most of my Chamber colleagues were gone.

Slightly more than a handful of attendees did remain and two were engaged in a conversation with Souder. When the longtime represenative (he defeated 2008 gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson in 1994 to gain the congressional seat) offered a tour of the U.S. Capitol, I was quick to tag along.

I don’t think any in the group were Souder’s constituents. After a long day filled with a variety of votes, meetings and the Chamber event, he certainly didn’t have to go that extra step. And he didn’t just point out a couple of key locations and send us on our way. The lesson in Washington and American history (Souder was passionate in detailing the statues, artwork, lesser-known passageways and the like) lasted close to two hours. Without exaggeration, it was akin to an artist or playwright explaining the deeper meaning behind his or her work.

Did that make Souder a saint? Obviously not. Did it mean he was a little different than many of his colleagues who serve in Washington for so many years? I thought so then, and maintain that opinion at least somewhat today. Shame on Souder for his mistakes, but give him at least a little credit for admitting his shortcomings, accepting the blame and giving up his position.

Now, an already interesting election season has another bit of intrigue. The secretary of state’s office outlines the procedures for the upcoming special election and November vote.

Busy Hoosier Congressmen Still Manage a Few Good Comments

Washington, D.C. is filled with its share of sirens, whistles and other warning noises. Inside the U.S. Capitol, however, the sound of choice is the bell that signals a vote is about to take place.

There were several post 6 p.m. bells last Wednesday on the House side during the congressional delegation roundtable portion of the Indiana Chamber’s D.C. Fly-in. Indiana’s reps did their job by going to vote, but also hustled back to answer questions and share insights for the more than 70 Indiana business attendees.

Among their comments:

  • Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-2nd District) on the possibility of additional troops in Afghanistan: "Will 10,000 accomplish anything? Do you need 50,000? Do you need 100,000?" Those questions and others, he said, are still unanswered.
  • Rep. Andre Carson (D-7th District) deserves credit for not going the political route and offering a clearly unpopular view when he professed his strong support for the Employee Free Choice Act as well as cap and trade.
  • On cap and trade, Rep. Dan Burton (R-5th District): "I think it will cost a lot of jobs; it will drive a lot of business and industry to go offshore."
  • On the same subject, Rep. Mike Pence (R-6th District) noted the emphasis should be on the GOP’s "all of the above strategy" that includes new technologies, renewables, conservation and 100 new nuclear plants in the next 20 years.
  • And finally on that topic, Sen. Richard Lugar explained how a bill was passed in the House. "There was a tremendous desire from President Obama and the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) to get a bill, any bill. Nearly 300 pages out of the 1,200 pages in the bill came in the early morning hours on the day of the vote. Deals needed to get done (to get more House votes). When Rep. Steve Buyer (R-4th District) questioned with the phrase that "you would never do that in the Senate," Lugar quickly responded with at least it’s "usually during the daylight."
  • Buyer, a late arrival, summed up several issues: "On card check, it’s un-American. On troop levels, we’ve been the provider of security in Europe for 60 years. It’s time for Europe to stand with America. On cap and trade, it’s the wrong debate. It should be about rebalancing our energy portfolio."

There were several comments on health care reform, with Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-8th District) getting the final word. He just returned from one of the House votes with a message that touched on health care and other unrelated frustrations.

"This place is schizophrenic," Ellsworth stated. "The adjournment votes tonight just disrupt business. There are really good, intelligent people here, but people send folks who talk one way back home and do the opposite here. We all wouldn’t last five minutes in a board room if we acted like we do here."

He goes on to tell of a ranking member on a committee considering health care legislation who told him before the August recess, ‘We don’t want to pass anything and make you guys look good.’ "Both parties do it. It’s sad. I came here to try and change it."

Finally, on health care, Ellsworth added, "You can’t do it by printing off more money. Tort reform ought to be part of it. But personal responsibility is the hardest thing to legislate — the person who goes to Golden Corral three times a week or lights up (cigarettes)."