Marlin Stutzman, Bernie Sanders and Angus King are:
A) Members of Congress.
B) Political independents.
C) Both A and B are true.
D) Neither A nor B is true.
To listen to Stutzman, the correct answer is C.
A lot of people put me in that category of tea party, but I see myself more as an independent thinker that realizes that I dont know everything and that working with others youll get more done. Anybody that wants to work with me, Im willing to work with them, Stutzman said in a recent interview.
Independent Sens. Sanders of Vermont and King of Maine, who typically vote with Democrats, werent standing shoulder to shoulder with Rep. Stutzman, R-3rd, at a tea party rally outside the Capitol on Aug. 1. He was with conservative Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, and they were calling for their colleagues to eliminate funding for the federal health care law.
Stutzman became the first member of the GOP-controlled House to demand that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act be defunded, although his caucus has voted dozens of times to repeal the law. It was the latest in a series of statements, votes and positions by Stutzman that has raised his public profile and suggested he is becoming ever more conservative.
Since January, when the LaGrange County farmer began his second full two-year term, Stutzman has voted against federal assistance for Hurricane Sandy victims, co-sponsored legislation to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, offered a bill requiring states to honor one anothers concealed-carry gun permits, invited two gun manufacturers to move to Indiana, persuaded colleagues to strip food stamps from the five-year farm bill and voted against reducing interest rates on loans for college students.
Along the way, he wrote a commentary disclosing that his mother had considered aborting him when she was a pregnant unmarried teenager living in Michigan. The news caused him to wonder how many more fathers, wives, business owners, doctors and public servants are missing today because of abortion.
His positions have attracted national media attention. Fox News interviews him frequently. Twice recently he has been a guest on the talk radio show of conservative commentator Sean Hannity. A Wall Street Journal columnist, Stephen More, called Stutzman one of the major forces behind the defeat of the farm bill on its first go-around, when the legislation contained food stamps, and praised him for making a courageous stand at cutting costs.
A progressive blogger, Paul Buchheit, used a Stutzman quote – Most people will agree that if you are an able-bodied adult without any kids you should find your way off food stamps – to take Stutzman and the House to task for not passing legislation that Buchheit claims would create jobs, including clean-energy development, a much higher minimum wage and the elimination of tax dodges for U.S. companies.
Stutzman, who turns 37 the last day of this month, rejected the notion that he has grown more conservative.
I try to look at things in the perspective of what folks in northeast Indiana tell me and what the problems they deal with on a daily basis are, and then how do I go to Washington and try to fix that problem, he said during an interview in his office at the E. Ross Adair Federal Building in downtown Fort Wayne.
He listed examples. Farmers urge him to update the farm bill and get rid of direct federal payments to cover crop losses (which Stutzman and his farming family have received for many years). Food pantry leaders tell him about abuses in the food-stamp program for low-income people. Constituents complain that their health insurance premiums are increasing and their benefits decreasing as the Affordable Care Act unfolds.
Stutzman does, of course, represent a particularly conservative swath of Indiana. Voters in the Fort Wayne-based 3rd District, which consists of 10 counties in northeast Indiana and parts of two others, overwhelmingly backed him, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and far-right U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in the 2012 election. Of the 18 state legislators who represent counties in the district, 17 are Republicans.
Theres no intention of turning right, Stutzman said about his recent congressional record. I believe people are expecting the status quo to change, because the status quo has gotten us in trouble. And if we dont start working together across party lines and working together as Americans, were only going to go further into debt, and at some point it is going to be too late to recover.
Some of those people met with Stutzman last week during a two-hour open house at his local office suite. One by one, visitors walked in, chatted for a few minutes with Stutzman and posed with him for photographs taken by staff members.
Busting up the farm bill – thats great, thats great. And defunding Obamacare, Neil Hartmann told Stutzman.
I agree with 99 percent of what you do, another man told Stutzman. Asked later by The Journal Gazette what he didnt agree with, the man couldnt think of anything but asked that his name not be published.
Im probably preaching to the choir, Rod Berger said to Stutzman before the two talked about strengthening U.S. borders against illegal immigrants.
Other people were not as supportive.
I dont know what you have against the Affordable Care Act, Roy Macke said to Stutzman, who offered a couple of reasons (such as the employers that are cutting workers hours or hiring part-time employees to avoid having to insure them under a federal mandate). Macke declined to have a photo taken with Stutzman.
Judith Steckly said later she had complained to Stutzman about his views on the Affordable Care Act and the farm bill. Steckly wrote in an email that Stutzman has a dismal voting record – against everything that involves federal money – a true obstructionist!
Fort Wayne resident Curt Sylvester, president of AARP Indiana, an advocacy group for people older than 50, and AARP volunteer Nancy Gemmer had a friendly discussion with Stutzman, even though AARP has opposed House budget proposals favored by him. The organization contends this years budget plan would force seniors to pay more for health care.
Sylvester later said his relationship with Stutzman is very cordial, very good. It might not have been at first. He listens. We may disagree but Ill be back with the next issue and the next issue.
Fort Wayne native Tim Berry, the new Indiana Republican Party chairman and former state auditor and state treasurer, has known Stutzman since his election to the Indiana House in 2002. Stutzman was elected to the state Senate in 2008 and to Congress in 2010.
In each of those roles he has played a role in bringing debate on many important issues to the surface, Berry said in an email. His role in the current farm bill debate was a perfect example.
John Zody, the chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, sees Stutzman in a different light, accusing him of leading the charge to deny basic services to Hoosier families while accepting farm subsidies.
During his short time in Congress, he has shown his true partisan colors by voting with his obstructionist leadership more than 90 percent of the time, Zody said in an email.
Stutzman by all appearances has been on solid footing with such House leaders as budget writer Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor visited Fort Wayne in April to appear at a fundraising reception for Stutzman and speak at the Allen County Republican Partys Lincoln Day Dinner.
As a deputy whip in the House, Stutzman is responsible for keeping track of how party members plan to vote on legislation and whipping up support for leadership positions. The whip team is a good place to be. You get good info and access, said a person close to the Indiana congressional delegation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
That person said Stutzman is seen as a team player although not a likely candidate for a committee chairmanship anytime soon (Stutzman is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and a former member of the Budget, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs committees.) And some of his legislative causes were essentially handed down to him by previous lawmakers, the person said.
But Stutzmans successful effort to separate food stamps from the farm bill has definitely given him some standing within the fiscal conservatives, the person said. While Stutzman parted ways with leadership by spearheading the fight against the combination bill – and was helped by minority Democrats who thought its food-stamp cuts of $2 billion a year were far too great – he did not anger the GOPs chiefs, who never saw the defeat coming. The House would vote 216-208 in favor of splitting food stamps from agriculture programs, what Stutzman said at the time was the first true farm-only farm bill in more than four decades.
Zody said that Stutzman has been positioning himself for higher office throughout his political career. Stutzman sought the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in 2010, finishing a strong second to former Sen. Dan Coats in a crowded field, and speculation is he could try again if Coats, 70, were to decide against seeking re-election in 2016. Reps. Todd Young, R-9th, and Todd Rokita, R-4th, are regarded as likely candidates should Coats retire.
Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine dismissed the speculation. Coats is planning a wave of fundraisers soon, he said, and his hiring of former state Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb as Indiana chief of staff shows that Coats is engaged.
I have no doubt that Senator Coats will run again, and I will encourage that, Shine said. I think all signs point to an aggressive, well-run, well-funded Coats campaign in 2016.
Shine did say that Stutzman is setting the table perfectly for any future openings that might come in our Washington delegation. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is in his first year of office; he is up for re-election in 2018.
The Atlantic Wire recently posted a map portraying feuding factions among Republican officials, conservative advocacy groups and right-wing media commentators. Of the 45 faces on the map, Stutzmans was the only one from Indiana. Stutzmans circle of 18 like-minded politicians included tea party rally cohorts Rubio, Cruz and Lee and eight other senators, as well as talk radio commentator Rush Limbaugh.
No one questions whether Stutzman is deeply conservative. News media and interest groups do not, however, agree on how deeply conservative he is.
The website Business Insider ranked Stutzman the seventh-most conservative member of the 435-person House during the 2011-12 Congress. Heritage Action of America, a right-wing policy advocacy organization, has pegged him 31st most conservative this year. The nonpartisan National Journal ranked him 90th for his votes in 2012.
He was among 34 House Republicans to receive a 100 percent score from the American Conservative Union for 2012, and he has a lifetime 93 percent from the anti-tax Club for Growth. Tea party organizer FreedomWorks gave him an 85 percent last year but just a 62 percent for the first half of this year, marking him down for voting to increase the national debt limit, to fund government programs and to let the National Security Agency have wide range in collecting data on U.S. citizens.
I dont let their scoring push me one way or the other, Stutzman said of advocacy groups. Now their activity may push me to find out more information. Do they know something that I should know or dont know? But I have to do what I think is right from my experiences and the people I represent in northeast Indiana and not what national groups think.
To see my vote kind of bounce around from group to group shows more of an independence, he said.
Stutzman said another example of his independent nature is his willingness to work with Democrats, including Donnelly on issues affecting military veterans and Delaware Rep. John Carney on financial services legislation. He said he also had gotten on well with former Democratic Reps. Hansen Clark of Michigan and Heath Shuler of North Carolina.
Youre never going to get something completely the way you want it, Stutzman said of his positions. I would like a little bit more than Washingtons offering, even within our own (House Republican leadership) conference. But at the same time, you just have to take victory as you get it.
At the end of the day, were responsible for our vote, for the policy thats passed, and its never going to be as pure as what some people want it.
No, Im not going to compromise all my principles, Stutzman said. But I find when you start communicating with other folks, whether theyre on your side of the aisle or the other side of the aisle, that we actually agree on more things than what we think. Party politics has isolated a lot of people from talking to each other.