WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLFI) - Tippecanoe County leaders in Washington D.C. got a positive reaction from both Indiana senators today.
One of the biggest priorities for this trip is policy changes to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to work on riverbank stabilization along the Wabash River.
Dan Klein is in our nation's capital with the group and reports why leaders say the personal communication is so important and what each Senator says about the looming spending cuts known as the sequester.
It's only a matter of time. In just hours the mandatory $85 billion spending cut will kick in. Some area leaders are hopeful that this helps lead to a change in culture here on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) was a little late Thursday morning, fresh in from an economic committee hearing on the eve of the sequester.
But much of the meeting with the 40-plus member delegation focused on local issues like the riverbank stabilization needs. The meeting here wasn't overly long, but that's not really the point. Local officials say when congressmen or senators and their aides know your names, in part through visits like this one, it makes a difference.
"They know our faces and some of the struggles that we have," West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis (R) said. "That's half the battle right there, because then when we're asking them to give us some assistance, they are not just talking about a particular bill, a piece of papers with words on them, they know they are talking about a person and a community."
"Face to face, people to people, that's the job and I'm always pleased to do it," Coats said.
It's the same story Thursday afternoon with U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).
"There's nothing more important than to be able to spend time face to face."
"Yes, I think this makes a huge difference," Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh (R) said.
It's the first meeting for many with Donnelly, who took office as senator less than two months ago. He says the biggest difference with this job is a much smaller pool of colleagues.
"You have the opportunity to craft more legislation, get things done, not necessarily quicker, but be able to put coalitions together to actually move them forward," Donnelly said.
One thing not moving forward here in Washington: the sequester. One day before it's official, it already seems like a done deal. Coats told the delegation that Republicans must hold the line and not raise taxes.
"The President insists that the only way to solve our problems is to continue to raise taxes," Coats said. "He got tax increases just two months ago and now he wants more. Republicans are saying the real problem is spending, not taxes."
But Donnelly says if revenue must go up, he prefers by eliminating some tax credits.
"With revenue at very low historic numbers, for us to get to a balanced budget, where our children and grandchildren don't have to pay bills we're running up now, we have to significantly reduce spending and we have to have more revenue," Donnelly said.
While there may not be good news on that front, area leaders overall seem happy with what they heard, including Donnelly's belief that the Washington culture could change.
"It was great," Dennis said. "For us local folks, it's always important when one of our federal legislators understands some of our local issues."
"There were several really great things," Murtaugh said. "The fact that the dysfunction could come to an end at some point, that there could be a farm bill, an immigration bill, sounds very encouraging. We look forward to working with him for the next few years."
We asked both Coats and Donnelly about any developments on gun control legislation. Coats, who voted for the Brady Act 20 years ago, says there are too many proposals out there to comment specifically.
Donnelly says committees are currently working out how to strengthen background checks. He says he's also willing to look at requirements regulating high capacity magazines.
On Friday News 18 will travel with the group as it visits the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Tune into News 18 at 6 and 11 for the story.
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