By Brian Howey
— The Indiana congressional delegation has been bleeding seniority, a coveted asset in Capitol Hill.
Hoosiers lost 78 years this year due to the exits of U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, and Reps. Dan Burton and Mike Pence and 24 years in 2010 when U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh retired and Reps. Baron Hill and Brad Ellworth were defeated.
But in the past week, there was been a restoration of some of the clout, coming from the Republican Class of 2010.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Todd Young landed a seat on the House Ways & Means Committee. This week, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman won a seat on the House Financial Services Committee. Both are so-called "A" committees that aspiring members deeply desire, bringing with them power and prestige for the state.
"These two really set the economic policy for the country," said a jubilant Stutzman, R-Howe, on Tuesday. "For Indiana, I am so proud of Todd. He'll represent Indiana interests and our tax policy, he'll be an ally and a friend for our delegation to go to when it comes to tax issues, trade issues, so many things surrounding that. It's only going to be that more important over the next couple of years as we talk about tax restructuring. And then, when it comes to financial institutions, it's about the money supply issues, the Federal Reserve, the big banks, the small banks, community banks, insurance, how does insurance play its role within the economy. All of these are major factors in what's going to get the economy growing again. To have the two of us on these two committees is a huge gain."
Young, R-Bloomington, explained, "At this critical time, I look forward to working on things like tax reform to make our country more economically competitive, prepare us for faster private sector job creation, and allow middle income Hoosiers to take home more pay. There's also a big role to play on trade issues to help our Indiana farmers and manufacturers export more products."
In a separate statement, he acknowledged the tough competition for a coveted Ways & Means position.
"There were some strong candidates for these seats, so I'm humbled to have been chosen," said Young, a rising sophomore who won his first re-election handily earlier this month.
There hasn't been a Hoosier on the Ways & Means Committee since former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs Jr. served there more than two decades ago.
Stutzman said there was a coordinated effort by the young Republican delegation to land influential seats.
"One of the things Speaker Boehner told me repeatedly throughout the election was that in the past, the Indiana delegation hasn't always been as cohesive as other delegations," Stutzman said. "My goal, and of all the others, is to have a delegation that works together for the state of Indiana. We are more effective when we're working together. We sat down in a room, went through all the committee requests, and submitted them."
He said the competition between Young and Rep. Todd Rokita, another member of the class of 2010, "worked itself out" with Young landing the slot.
"We're behind all the requests by the other candidates," Stutzman said. "So we get the committees that will help our delegation be the most effective for our state."
Rokita was campaigning hard for the Ways & Means slot, emphasizing to his colleagues that he directly contributed and helped raise more than $800,000 for House GOP candidates in the 2012 cycle. Rokita argued that Indiana deserved a Ways & Means seat because of the importance of the state to the Midwestern economy.
Although Young, rather than Rokita, will be helping to make up the seniority deficit, Rokita said he was happy for his home state colleague.
"Everyone in the delegation was positive about everyone else and what they wanted," Rokita said in an interview. "This is another building block in the pillar of cohesiveness we're trying to build for the state."
For Stutzman, with his farming background, the Financial Services seat will lend a familiar perspective.
"Growing up as a farmer, I've often sat at the farmer's side of the desk whenever we go in to see the loan officers," Stutzman said. "I know how it affects small business and I know how important it is for financial institutions which have been solid, like the community banks have done throughout all of this and are getting the bad end of the stick and are getting lumped in with all the big institutions. I feel the value that we have in the state of Indiana and the economy is something that I can bring to the table. I want to be respectful but responsible to that sector."
"It affects people's lives," he said.
- Brian Howey publishes online at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.