INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., not only is among the senators most likely to work across party lines in today's narrowly divided chamber, but a new analysis finds Donnelly is the second-most bipartisan lawmaker to serve in the Senate since 1993.
The Lugar Center, a think tank led by former U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, regularly rate members of Congress using their Bipartisan Index and compile historical bipartisanship data on the nation's senators.
Donnelly ranked second for bipartisanship among the 100 senators on the 2016 Index. He also moved up to second, from fourth place, on the recently released Bipartisan Index for the 240 senators who served at least 10 months between 1993 and 2016.
"This updated data gives voters and historians, alike, a clearer picture of how the Senate has evolved towards greater partisanship and dysfunction in recent years," Lugar said.
"But the positive scores of many senators with strong ideological views underscore that individual lawmakers can break through the overall partisan trend to work for the good of the country."
The index measures bipartisanship based on how often a member of Congress co-sponsors legislation introduced by a lawmaker of the opposite party, as well as the frequency with which a member's proposals attract early supporters from the other side of the aisle.
Only former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-RI, was found to be more bipartisan than Donnelly in nearly the past quarter-century.
No currently serving senator was as cumulatively bipartisan as Donnelly, according to the index.
"Our country is facing significant political and policy challenges — challenges that require lawmakers to work together," said Michael Bailey, interim dean of the McCourt School.
"We hope the Bipartisan Index encourages them to cross the aisle more often to get things done on behalf of their constituents."
Following release of the latest historical bipartisanship measure, Donnelly reiterated that he's willing to work with anyone who supports policies that benefit Hoosiers and help his state.
"In Indiana, we know that the best results come when we work together, which is how I've been able to advance numerous provisions that have been signed into law since 2013, including efforts to improve military mental health, combat the opioid abuse epidemic, recognize and help veterans and keep our country safe," Donnelly said.
The historical index ranked Lugar 26th for bipartisanship between 1993 and the end of his elected public service in 2013, former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., was 66th out of 240 senators and former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., placed 228th.
U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., was not included in the historical index because he only began serving in the Senate in 2017.
Young placed 120th out of 435 representatives on the 2016 Bipartisan Index that measured his final two years of service in the U.S. House.
Illinois' current and former senators similarly were spread across the historical index with Mark Kirk (R) at 17, Peter Fitzgerald (R) 24, Carol Moseley Braun (D) 101, Paul Simon (D) 129, Dick Durbin (D) 150, Barack Obama (D) 172 and Roland Burris (D) 238.
U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Shelbyville, one of the Republicans vying to challenge Donnelly in the 2018 election, dismissed Donnelly's bipartisanship score from The Lugar Center saying that Donnelly "claims bipartisanship, except when it counts."
"When President Trump looks for bipartisan support in the Senate, Sen. Donnelly never steps up to the plate," Messer said. "He was the deciding vote against repealing Obamacare, and he just voted against the President's tax cut plan ... despite feigning bipartisan interest for months."
In fact, it was U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who delivered the fatal "no" vote on the GOP plan to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act, and 12 House Republicans joined every House and Senate Democrat in voting against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Messer scored poorly on the 2016 Bipartisan Index, placing 309th out of the 435 representatives — the lowest rating among currently serving Hoosier congressmen.
U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Brownsburg, a Munster native also hoping to run against Donnelly in November, ranked 278th.