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Members of Congress find writing letters pays off


Children write letters to Santa Claus, telling him what they want for Christmas.

Constituents write letters to members of Congress, telling them what legislation they want passed or defeated.

To whom do members of Congress correspond in an effort to satisfy their yearnings? Indiana’s lawmakers have been sending missives to the leaders of various federal agencies.

On Friday, all seven Hoosier Republicans in the House and Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her for the second time to produce more detailed information on the number of Indiana residents who have enrolled in health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act.

“Although the HHS Enrollment Reports provide the number of individuals who have selected a Marketplace plan, the reports do not differentiate between those actually enrolled in an insurance plan for 2014 and those still going through the selection process. Please provide the total number of insured enrollees in Indiana, as well as the number of insured enrollees in each Indiana congressional district,” wrote the delegation, led by Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd.

On Thursday, the seven House Republicans, led by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to complain about a new regulation requiring banks to divest themselves of investments in collateralized loan and debt obligations.

“In Indiana alone, 16 institutions could face nearly $60 million in losses if these rules are left unchanged,” the group wrote. “The total losses around the country would affect many banks, including small and community-based lending institutions that are the lifeblood of many of our communities.”

On Wednesday, Coats sent a letter to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland. Coats called for the agency to halt a $7.9 million program for collecting saliva and blood samples from motorists at checkpoints in Pennsylvania and Texas. The NHTSA has said participation in its survey on impaired driving is voluntary.

“I am extremely concerned that NHTSA is using federal dollars to both hire local uniformed police and conduct a checkpoint where DNA samples are taken through coercion from drivers stopped without probable cause,” Coats wrote.

On Dec. 13, Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, led a bipartisan group of 31 senators in sending a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that urged them to address foreign trade barriers to American pork exports during negotiations over a U.S.-Asia trade deal.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiation presents an important opportunity to open new markets to U.S. pork in the Asia-Pacific region, to expand several existing markets, and to establish a standard for all future trade agreements involving pork,” the senators wrote.

Do such letters make a difference? Well, a bipartisan group of 19 senators, including Donnelly and Coats, wrote a letter in October asking U.S. International Trade Commission Chairman Irving Williamson to maintain anti-dumping duties on hot-rolled steel produced by China, India and four other countries. Last week, the commission issued a ruling that extends the duties until 2018.

And the inspector general’s office for the Department of Veterans Affairs scrutinized the VA Medical Center in Fort Wayne in late 2012 and early 2013 at the written request of Stutzman and Donnelly. The reviews produced six recommendations designed to improve federal, regional and local VA policies related to clinical care and staffing.