Senate freshmen: What the 14 new members bring to Capitol Hill

Joe Donnelly (D) of Indiana

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    Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly (D) of Indiana walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill in November.
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Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana vowed to bring “Hoosier common sense” to the Senate during his campaign, a promise the moderate Democrat is likely to keep during the 113th Congress.

Mr. Donnelly comes to the Senate after a three-term tenure in the House where he was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition – a group of conservative-leaning Democrats more likely to vote against the party line on issues such as the budget and national security.

“I want to be a senator for everyone, and that’s what our tradition has been,” he told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette after his win.

His willingness to work across the aisle will be a refreshing quality for a Senate that has been marred by partisan gridlock.

Donnelly defeated Richard Mourdock, who received ample support from the conservative super-PAC American Crossroads, by 5.6 percentage points. Fellow Republicans, including Mitt Romney, tried to distance themselves from contentious comments Mr. Mourdock made about his anti-abortion stance.

“I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during a debate with Donnelly on Oct. 23.

Donnelly replaces Sen. Richard Lugar, a moderate Republican who held the seat for 36 years. Mourdock defeated Lugar in the state primary by appealing to anti-Washington attitudes within his party.

But where Mourdock’s remarks polarized voters, Donnelly stuck to a bipartisan mantra.

Donnelly pointed to his political record as evidence of bipartisanship: he opposes abortion, worked with Republicans on the farm bill (though it didn’t pass), and takes a tough stance on China’s trade practices.

Donnelly is also a pro-gun Democrat, but after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., he told CNN that he is now open to gun-control legislation.

“You know, I’m a dad too,” Donnelly said. “My kids are a little older now, but I think of when they were 6 and 7 years old, and I think we have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”

Donnelly will serve on the Agriculture, Aging, and Armed Services committees.

“I am going to remain first and foremost focused like a laser on jobs,” Donnelly told the Journal Gazette. Other issues he says he will focus on include education, energy independence, reducing the national debt, and infrastructure improvement.

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