Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Richard Mourdock are running hard for the U.S. Senate.
Today, Oct. 29, the two main-party hopefuls, who visited The Elkhart Truth earlier this month, offer their take on the Affordable Care Act, political gridlock and their political leaning. In an article Sunday, they offered their views on jobs, balancing the budget and spending.
The contest is generating plenty of attention and will factor in which party controls the U.S. Senate next year. Donnelly, a Blue Dog Democrat from Granger, serves as U.S. representative to Indiana's 2nd District while Mourdock, a fiscal and social conservative from Darmstadt, serves as Indiana's treasurer.
Mourdock visited Elkhart before his controversial comments last week expressing opposition to abortion in rape cases.
Donnelly: He voted for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and despite strong opposition from Republicans, “a lot of people want to keep it, too.”
It needs fixing, and he thinks some measures should be removed, like a controversial medical device tax, viewed by foes as a deterrent to northern Indiana's orthopedic industry. But he doesn't want to repeal it, start over from scratch.
“Is it perfect? No. Can we continue to fix it? Absolutely. Any good ideas that come along, I'm all in,” he said.
The good parts of Obamacare, in his view, include measures allowing people to stay on their parents' insurance plans until the age of 26.
He disputes critics' frequent contention that Obamacare would reduce Medicare funding by $716 billion. That figure, he said, doesn't reflect a reduction in funds going to beneficiaries. Rather, it represents government savings resulting by reducing the profit margin for insurance companies handling Medicare Advantage patients, from 21 cents per dollar to 14 cents.
Mourdock: He favors repeal of Obamacare.
“But I also get cranky with Republicans who don't want to suggest any type of replacement,” he added, because there's plenty in the health care sector that needs fixing.
Health care costs are on the rise, he said, because of overregulation. Some doctors tell him that they can't see as many patients as they'd like in a day because of government requirements, paperwork.
If health insurance could be sold across state lines, like auto insurance, that would help, bringing about competition and allowing providers to increase their pools of customers, spreading risk and cutting costs.
One aspect of Obamacare he likes, he said, is the provision requiring companies to provide insurance even if a customer has a pre-existing condition. However, allowing companies to broaden their pools of customers by operating across state lines, thus potentially allowing them to cut costs, could be the spur to make them offer the feature, without the need of legislation.
Mourdock also expressed support for the notion of allowing young adults to remain on their parents' health care plans until they're 26.
Mourdock: He's all for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.
“You know, I will work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who wants to make government more efficient, more accountable, more transparent and do more to live within its means,” he said. “I mean, I think that is reasonable bipartisanship.”
At best, bipartisanship in the current scheme of things, though, has meant Democrats and Republicans making bad compromises — agreeing to $75 billion in excessive spending instead of $100 billion. “They came to an agreement,” he said, “but it was still bad policy.”
More to the point, he wonders if common ground is even possible between the two main parties.
Republicans think the way to address the nation's financial woes “is to make government smaller, reduce regulations and let people keep more of their own money,” he said. “The Democrats believe, sincerely, to the marrow of their bones, the only way we can fix this problem is to make government bigger, put more regulations in place and to tax more.”
Confronted with such a scenario, there's little wiggle room for a meeting of minds, as he sees it. “Where is the compromise between those two positions?” Mourdock said. “There is none that's really potentially there.”
Donnelly: Working with the other side is key to get things done, he thinks, and he cited some of his efforts as U.S. representative working with Republican lawmakers.
He worked with GOP leaders to solidify plans for a new U.S. Veterans Administration health care facility in South Bend. Indiana's legislative delegation, both Democrats and Republicans, worked together to assure the state's fair share of transportation funding.
Working together “we can get so many things done. That's what I've tried to do in Congress time after time after time and I think this is one of the clearest differences in the race,” Donnelly said. Mourdock, by contrast, “has said his view of bipartisanship is Democrats doing what Republicans want them to do, that he doesn't plan on working with Democrats, and I can't think of a more unproductive, more dangerous way to approach a job.”
Donnelly: He may have voted with President Obama as U.S. representative 70 percent of the time, Donnelly said. But he voted with U.S. House speaker John Boehner, a Republican, 60 percent of the time.
“When President Obama has a good idea, I'm with him. When he doesn't, I'm not. I don't work for them, I work for the people of Elkhart,” he said.
Republicans have derided him as too Democratic, he added, and those on the far-left have blasted him as too Republican.
“You know, I think I vote like a Hoosier,” he said. “I try to use Hoosier common sense and apply it to what we need done.”
Mourdock: Though conservative, he laughed when asked about critics' view that he's an unyielding partisan.
He served two terms as county commissioner in Vanderburgh County, where he says Democrats have the upper hand.
“I didn't get re-elected because I didn't work with people, and I've spent 31 years in the business world, working with people, bringing people together,” he said. Prior to his election as state treasurer he worked in the energy and construction sectors.
As state treasurer, he continued, he worked with Democrat lawmakers to get reform in college savings programs and to implement measures to better protect public money in Indiana banks.
“There's a perception out there that gets built and people buy into it,” alluding to the many attack ads funded by Donnelly and the Democratic forces aligned against Mourdock. Donnelly can't defend his vote for Obamacare and other measures “so he's got to destroy me.”
Follow Tim Vandenack on Twitter, @timvandenack