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Thursday, March 23, 2017
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Thursday, October 15, 2015 9:20 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    
INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence kicked off the infrastructure debate with a $1 billion proposal to repair state highways, interstates and bridges. Local government officials want the governor and General Assembly to take it several steps further, and provide what the Indiana Association of Cities & Towns calls a “sustainable” funding source. IACT President Matthew Greller told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that the Pence plan is a good start. “The big thing is it’s good the administration is addressing infrastructure in a very serious way with a very serious proposal and a lot of money. But it includes no money for city and town streets and county roads. I’m disappointed because the vast majority of road miles in Indiana are maintained by local governments.”
  • Gov. Holcomb says RyanCare changes could avert special session

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Eric Holcomb had warned Indiana legislators last December that the Trump administration could throw a mid-session curve ball. With a potential repeal of Obamacare coming tonight, Holcomb told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that a potential special session might have been put off due to action in the House Energy and Commerce Committee that delays Medicaid changes that could impact the Healthy Indiana Plan until 2020.

  • Atomic: Pence's epic vote; Messer's list; Chamber and Joe
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Pence faces vote of his career: Vice President Mike Pence spent 12 years in the U.S. House and never got one of his bills passed. But on Thursday, he faces the biggest vote of his political career on the American Health Care Act, with the credibility of the Trump administration hanging in this deal-make-or-break balance. Both NBC and CBS are reporting that at least 27 House Republicans are voting no even after President Trump told them, “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don't get this done.” The New York Times is reporting it could be up to three dozen, including U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who told Elizabeth Beilman of the News & Tribune, “Any viable plan needs to ensure that coverage is actually affordable and embraces a free market system where providers compete for our business.” The rest of the Indiana GOP delegation appears to be in the fold and united with Pence and whip counter Luke Messer.

  • Atomic: Trump cloud; Messer & Pences; RyanCare whip counts

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. FBI and Trump presidency under a cloud: Three times in the television age of American politics we’ve witnessed an FBI investigation of a presidency: President Nixon and Watergate, President Reagan and Iran/Contra and President Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal. Two of the three ended on a hard track toward impeachment. So Monday’s testimony by FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers was explosive on several fronts. He confirmed that the FBI began probing a link between the Donald Trump campaign and the Kremlin last July, just as Gov. Mike Pence was coming on board, thanks to the Indianapolis airport intervention of then campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was far more than the bit player “Baghdad Bob” Spicer portrayed.

  • FBI Director Comey confirms Trump/Kremlin probe
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. A sensational week builds in Washington: FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency head Adm. Michael Rogers are testifying before the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference this morning. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings get underway, and the U.S. House is expected to vote on the epic American Health Care Act on Thursday. How’s that for a high-stakes week? The RyanCare bill is the first big congressional test not only for President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and legislative liaison Marc Short, but also for Speaker Paul Ryan, who has a lot at stake. The White House is squeezing hard line conservatives.
  • IU searches; JD Vance moves home; Medicaid slashed
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. A Hoosier basketball dilemma: As an IU alum (BA History, 1978), here are my two cents after the firing of basketball coach Tom Crean. I understand why AD Fred Glass made the move, but I still don’t like it for a reason I stated the other day: Paying coaches not to coach. I also believe in redemption after a season like this one. Crean resurrected this program to a respectable level after the Kelvin Sampson debacle and a full decade would have been proper. I thought Crean deserved another year to coax game out of stars like Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both go pro, and perhaps that figured into Glass’s decision. Perhaps they were gone anyway, Crean was facing a tough rebuilding without that talent and a contract extension. That’s the scenario for a program tailspin. Where to go now? I am intrigued by bringing back UCLA’s Steve Alford. My second choice would be Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, though the Koch Brothers will make him a potentially expensive acquisition. My third choice would be Creighton’s Greg McDermott.
  • Trump budget winners/losers; Director Coats; saving Pvt. RyanCare
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. President Trump’s slashing budget: President Trump unveiled his first budget today and there are the inevitable winners and losers. If you’re at the Pentagon (10% increase), Homeland Security (6.8%), Veterans Affairs (5.9%) or the National Nuclear Administration (up 11.4%), you’re in a good mood today. From an Indiana perspective with our opioid epidemic, there’s a $500 million increase for prevention and treatment via Health and Human Services and Justice. Losers? The EPA faces a 31.4% cut, or $2.6 billion, slashing 3,200 jobs. HHS faces a $12.6 billion cut, or 16.2%.  Folks at Foggy Bottom have long faces, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development, down 28%, or $10 billion. The National Institute of Health faces a 19% reduction. The Department of Agriculture faces a 21% cut at $4.7 billion. Labor faces a 20% cut and Transportation 13%. So long, Amtrak. Oh, and this one: IRS down $1 billion. Axios reports that since 2010, the IRS has lost 17,000 employees, noting, “Chances of getting audited have rarely been so low.” President Trump is under audit, but not so much for the rest of us.

  • A Trump tax division; Graham AHCA punt; Crean slips to bottom
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Muncie

    1. A Trumpian tax diversion: Five talking points before your hump day power lunch. A tried and alternative fact modus operandi of the Trump administration and campaign is if the heat is turning up, divert. So you have to wonder if “John Miller” leaked two scant “client copy” pages President Trump’s 2005 federal tax returns in order to take the eyes off the growing RyanCare debacle that is cleaving that loose confederation we call the Republican Party. The White House blamed the “dishonest media,” but then said in a statement, presumably approved by “John Miller”, “You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.
  • Holcomb seeks HIP 2.0 save; 4 Demless counties; Bucshon reacts
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Holcomb appeal amidst a historic rollback of benefits: The dilemma facing President Trump and congressional Republicans is that the loss of health coverage to 14 million Americans in 2018 and 24 million over the next decade if anything like RyanCare passes will be the unprecedented rollback in benefits in American history. Not with Social Security, Medicare or the GI Bill. Never before have Americans experienced what they face under the RyanCare plan. The problem for Trump and the GOP is that they’re on record promising “coverage for everyone” (Trump) and “nobody will be worse off financially” (HHS Secretary Tom Price), when the opposite will happen.

  • Rep. Rokita 'strongly considering' 2018 U.S. Senate race

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita all but declared his candidacy for the 2018 Republican U.S. Senate nomination which will likely pit him against U.S. Rep. Luke Messer. It could set up the second consecutive cycle where two GOP members of Congress square off for a Senate seat, this one held by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly. Rokita has been telling Republican insiders that polling he conducted last summer when he ran a 12-day campaign for governor showed him within 5% of Donnelly. Rokita lost the Indiana Republican Central Committee vote to now Gov. Eric Holcomb. On Friday, Rokita political strategist Tim Edson told HPI, "Rep. Rokita is strongly considering challenging Joe Donnelly and is making preparations to hit the ground running if he decides to launch a Senate bid. He is receiving a lot of encouragement to challenge Donnelly from Hoosiers across the state whom he has known for years.

  • Rokita Senate bid coming? Gipper & Tip; shooting at the HIP
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Rokita appears to be moving toward Senate run: Here are your Friday power lunch talking points: The telltales appear to be pointing to U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita joining U.S. Rep. Luke Messer in the 2018 U.S. Senate race. We’ve asked Rokita’s office for a statement, and one is said to be forthcoming, though it is cloaked in mystery at this writing. Our Republican sources tell us Rokita is scheduling Lincoln dinner appearances in Messer’s 6th CD. And newly elected county GOP chairs got a friendly congrats last weekend from the Draft Rokita for Senate Facebook page.

  • HPI Interview: Messer talks Senate race, repeal, Trump
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    SHELBYVILLE – About the time House Republicans were releasing the long awaited Obamacare repeal/replace plan, the fifth-ranking Republican joined Howey Politics for a beer at the Riverfront Brewery in the heart of the conservative 6th CD. U.S. Rep. Luke Messer didn’t have a recent town hall during the last recess, but he consistently talked about the attitudes and perceptions of 6th CD constituents, and there is no doubt in his mind that they are firmly in President Trump’s corner. “Back home, people are excited by Trump’s leadership, they’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and they are waiting to see the results from his promises,” Messer said. While he has some concerns about Trump’s rhetoric and wants to answers to the Kremlin ties to the Trump campaign, Messer is preparing to latch his political career through the prism of Trump. By May, he is expected to announce he will challenge U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly.
  • HPI Analysis: Obamacare repeal via the 2nd, 6th CD prism

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – When it comes to the long-awaited Republican repeal and replace of Obamacare, my stare is transfixed on two Hoosier environs, the 2nd and 6th congressional districts. Up in the 2nd, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski seemed to exult in the imminent repeal of Obamacare. “We’re doing exactly what we said we would do,” Walorski told the South Bend Tribune. “It’s what people have been asking for.” And from the Indiana perspective, she is right. Obamacare has never been popular here and President Trump’s vow to repeal and replace it with something “terrific” that will provide “good coverage at much less cost” and “a much better healthcare plan at much less money” resonated with voters here in 2016 in emphatic fashion.
        

  • Gov. Holcomb resists raiding Rainy Day Fund for roads
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    WEST LAFAYETTE - Gov. Eric Holcomb and Purdue President Mitch Daniels made one of their first public joint appearances at the Purdue Road School on Wednesday, with both focused on infrastructure funding. Holcomb served as a deputy chief of staff under Gov. Daniels, before Daniels appointed him to head the Indiana Republican Party. Holcomb called for the need for a long-term road funding program, similar to Daniels Major Moves program which he often touted as a “fully-funded 10 year road plan” that was forged in 2006. It was funded by the $3.8 billion Indiana Toll Road Lease. “We’re talking about a 20-year plan, and it’s more than a $20 billion question,” Holcomb said, who is pushing a 10 cent a gallon gasoline tax, as well as an increase in the diesel tax. He is finding resistance in the Indiana Senate, which takes up HB1002 in the coming weeks. “I am not one who wants to raid our rainy day fund for a one-time high and jeopardize our AAA credit rating,” Holcomb said. “I’m not one who wants to borrow and bond, and simply tax someone else in the future.”
  • Pence, McIntosh split; IN delegation studies; Twitter trolls
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The 6th CD Obamacare repeal/replace conundrum: It was fascinating to watch the Indiana 6th CD caucus parse and position on the House Republican American Care Act. There was Vice President Mike Pence, who declared “This is the plan,” though conceding that it faces a “very open process on Capitol Hill.” Pence’s friend and CD predecessor, Club for Growth’s David McIntosh who represented the old 2nd CD, panned the plan, saying, “If this warmed-over substitute for government-run health care remains unchanged, the Club for Growth will key vote against it.” McIntosh added: “Republicans should be offering a full and immediate repeal of Obamacare’s taxes, regulations, and mandates, an end to the Medicaid expansion, and inclusion of free-market reforms, like interstate competition.” And Pence’s successor, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, told Howey Politics on Monday that he believes there will be Republican consensus, saying, “There is a legitimate debate within the Republican Party and our caucus about which way is best. But I think there is consensus we’ll be on the same page and pass a repeal that meets the four principles I described.”

  • Messer rolls with Trump; ACA markers; a pre-emptive nuke strike
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Shelbyville

    1. Messer rolling with President Trump: Here are your talking points prior to your Tuesday power lunch. HPI spent 90 minutes drinking a beer with U.S. Rep. Luke Messer at the Riverfront on Monday. He’s willing to roll with some of President Trump’s “unconventional” tactics for one good reason: His constituents in the 6th CD like what they’re seeing, even if it’s disruptive. “People are telling me they like what they see and hear,” Messer reports. “They are giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

  • Buncich breaks Lake chair tie, Trump wire taps, Pence emails
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Lake Democratic tie and other chair stories: This was sooooooo Lake County! When the first ballot for Democratic county chair between Commissioner Mike Repay and attorney Jim Wieser was tallied Saturday, it ended up in a 305-305 tie. There were boos and catcalls and, according to the Post-Tribune, chants for a revote. That’s when indicted sheriff and Chairman John Buncich pronounced himself “stunned,” then cited state party rules and cast the deciding vote for Wieser. You would have never seen anything so close in the Pastrick/Stiglich era. Of the 939 eligible to vote, 625 registered for this caucus. Our sources had been saying that Buncich was packing the deck for Wieser while Repay had the support of recently freed Bobby Cantrell. A good politician knows how to count and Buncich gave himself a margin of one. "We are a product of the process as politicians. The process was as fair as I would expect," said Repay in the quote of the day. "That's the way the cookie crumbles." Wieser was magnanimous, saying, "I told Mike before the vote I don't think the party could go wrong with either one of us.” At the other end of the state in Jeffersonville, City Councilman Josh Rodriquez defeated Diane Swank 61-38 for the Clark County Democratic chair, then suffered a heart attack and ended up in ICU.

  • HPI Analysis: The Obamacare town hall firing line revives
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    BLOOMINGTON – There are occasions in American politics where brewing issues foam up to the point where the public becomes angry and impassioned. Politicians end up on the rhetorical firing line. Two examples in my career stand out. One occurred in the mid-1980s at an Elkhart Baptist church. Conservative activist Eric Miller invited legislative candidates, had them stand on an “X” taped to the floor, and each candidate was encircled by folks who were firing off torrents of angry questions. One of the candidates confided that he found the experience rattling. The second occurred in August 2009. Then U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly hosted a town hall in Kokomo. It was a sweltering evening, the event was moved outside to accommodate the several hundred folks who showed up, many donning placards and flags, and Donnelly took a barrage of questions as what we know as Obamacare was beginning to take form.
  • HPI Interview: Rep. Banks's 'whirlwind' in the era of Trump
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – For more than a decade, Jim Banks has been widely seen in a variety of Republican circles as a rising star.  After seven weeks as U.S. Rep. Banks, the Columbia City Republican enters Congress under the most surreal circumstances since Evan Bayh joined the U.S. Senate in 1999 just in time to participate in President Clinton’s impeachment. Banks finds a Washington under assault from President Trump’s populist movement that brought the stunning upset last November. Unclear is how the Trump administration will mesh with the congressional majorities. Banks not only has a front row seat, he joins ascendant Vice President Mike Pence, whom he runs into in the U.S. Capitol frequently, and has found an Indiana delegation that is also on the rise. U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks and Luke Messer helped Banks land a seat on the Armed Services Committee, and he joins Congress as the most recent member who has served on a battlefield in Afghanistan. “I want to be a leader on national security issues and the most significant military buildup in a generation,” he said. “It’s a remarkable place to be.”
  • Witch hunt talking points; Pence hacked; Young & war
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Bloomington

    1. From Russia, with love and unified talking points: The Kremlin/Trump campaign story is just one of the strangest political stories in modern times. Now Attorney General Jeff Sessions joins former national security adviser Michael Flynn as a high ranking White House appointee compromised by revelation of talks with influential Russians. Sessions testified at his confirmation hearing that he "didn’t have communications with the Russians” while acting as one of President Trump’s top surrogates and closest advisers during the 2016 presidential race. Once his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak came to light at the same time Russian hackers were probing state election systems in Arizona and Illinois last September, Sessions explained, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss the issues of the campaign.” The problem with that is the Sessions was inextricably part of the Trump campaign.

  • Gov. Holcomb contrasts style with Pence during session
    By THOMAS CURRY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – As Vice President Mike Pence sat looking into the camera at Tuesday’s Congressional address, former colleagues at his former stomping grounds at the Indiana Statehouse closed the first half of the 2017 session. Just a few short years ago, it was then- Gov. Pence who played fast and loose with the state legislature, his mind always focused on that next step into the history books. RFRA, unsubstantial tax cuts and controversial cell phone tower leasing deals dominated Hoosier headlines and discussions at 200 W. Washington St. Now it is Pence’s successor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, who holds sway in the halls of the Statehouse. Although the players in the state legislature and the party super majorites stay the same, the way state government has functioned under the first half session of Gov. Holcomb differs in its fundamental approach to politics from that of Pence. While Pence made decrees and politically motivated maneuvers, Holcomb has been more  hands-off behind the scenes.
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  • Sen. Lanane warns of HIP 2.0 trigger and the Obamacare repeal
    “HIP 2.0 is a critical piece of public health policy for the state, and it is being put at risk under the Republican healthcare plan due to a ‘trigger’ in our state law. We are here today to urge our Republican colleagues in the Statehouse to remove this trigger, and work to safeguard Hoosiers’ health care coverage should the AHCA become law. HIP 2.0 health coverage is put at risk due to Indiana law automatically triggering a repeal of HIP 2.0 should federal funding be reduced. Without the enhanced federal matching funds for HIP 2.0, Indiana would have to allocate an extra $500 million per year in state funding to maintain the current program.” - Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, on the Obamacare repeal and a potential reduction of Medicaid funding that is part of the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0. Some 430,000 Hoosiers get health coverage through HIP 2.0.
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  • Trump and truth
    The Obamacare repeal is teetering in the House. Why? Remember the old story of the boy who cried wolf? President Trump’s penchant for lies is beginning to take such a toll that NBC reporter Kasie Hunt said this morning that some members wonder if he’ll even be around in a year. So when Trump threatened retribution against recalcitrant House members on Tuesday, its impact was dubious. The Wall Street Journal editorialized today: “If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago.” The other emerging dynamic is that the Pence/Marc Short legislative team hasn’t done the legwork on the RyanCare bill. It could all come down to Vice President Pence, HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to round up about eight votes and keep Republicans like Rep. Hollingsworth in the fold. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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