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Capitol Hill highs and lows

Hoosiers leaving Congress all had storied careers


Richard Lugar is Indiana’s longest-serving U.S. senator, his 36 years in the chamber double that of anyone else from the state.

Dan Burton is among a handful of Hoosiers with 30 or more years of seniority in the House.

With a dozen years under his belt, Mike Pence is a comparative newcomer in Congress, yet he made a national name for himself in conservative circles.

The three Republicans depart Capitol Hill at year’s end – Lugar losing at the ballot box, Burton deciding against another run and Pence having been elected Indiana governor.

Here is a brief summary of their careers as federal lawmakers.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., has been described many times over as a statesman and foreign-policy expert. He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Highs: His signature bill is the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction legislation of 1991, a program that has dismantled thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union.

He was a key player in the strategic nuclear arms reduction treaties with Russia.

He observed the Philippines presidential election in 1986 and found Ferdinand Marcos’ victory to be a sham, a position later supported by President Reagan.

Also in the 1980s, Lugar broke with Reagan and GOP leaders by demanding sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies.

He has been the chairman of the Foreign Relations and Agriculture committees. Lugar in 2007 was among the first prominent Republicans to call on President George W. Bush to draw down combat troops in Iraq.

Lows: He finished third in 1984 in a race for Senate majority leader. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., used his seniority to push Lugar out of a leadership role on the Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar’s 1996 campaign for president went nowhere fast.

And he didn’t just lose this year’s GOP primary election to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, he got walloped by 21 percentage points.

Tossups: Lugar came up short in pushing for the DREAM Act, which would allow a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants; the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would run through the U.S. from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico; and the replacement of farm subsidies and price supports with crop insurance programs – although the next farm bill might contain elements of his proposals.

Quote: “Courage is not a blind insistence on getting your point of view. It’s the ability to face the fact that you may be defeated.”

Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th, has never shied away from conflict and controversy – but then much of it was of his own making.


The Helms-Burton Act of 1996 strengthened the U.S. embargo against Cuba. As chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Burton led a three-year investigation that exposed FBI corruption in organized-crime convictions in Massachusetts. He was chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of the 100 or so most-conservative members of the House.

Lows: Burton shot a “head-like object” – reportedly a melon or pumpkin – in his backyard in an attempt to re-enact what he claimed was the murder of Vince Foster, a Clinton White House official who committed suicide. He insisted on links, disputed by the medical establishment, between childhood vaccinations and autism. In 1998, Burton acknowledged fathering a child during an extramarital affair many years earlier.

Tossups: He hounded President Bill Clinton and investigated Democratic fundraising activities after the 1996 election. Burton has been a leading congressional supporter of Pakistan.

Quote: “This guy’s a scumbag. That’s why I’m after him,” Burton said about Clinton.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, has been regarded as a leading conservative voice, thanks in large part to his comfort in front of a crowd or a TV camera.

Highs: Pence was elected chairman of the Republican Study Committee in 2005 and the Republican Conference in 2008. The latter post is the No. 3 job in the House majority.

Lows: In 2006, he ran for House minority leader and got clobbered, 168 votes to 27, by former – and future – Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. In 2007, Pence visited Iraq and compared a market in Baghdad to “a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime,” drawing scorn and ridicule back home.

Tossups: Pence opposed President George W. Bush’s education bill known as No Child Left Behind and Bush’s Medicare prescription drug bill. He sponsored legislation to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions.

Quote: “A Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” is Pence’s description of himself.