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October 21, 2013

Maureen Hayden: Donnelly among bipartisan 'gang of 14' moderates

INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly likes to joke that the way he learned to embrace negotiation and compromise was by growing up in a big family where everyone had to give up something for the common good.

“I’m the fifth of five kids,” Donnelly says. “If I didn’t act that way when I was growing up, I wasn’t going to get dinner.”

As the second oldest of 10 siblings, I can relate. When you have that many people coming to table, nobody gets everything they want.

So the Democrat Donnelly contends he’s a centrist by nature, which is how he got involved with the bipartisan “gang of 14” moderates that worked quietly behind the scenes to forge a framework that led to the deal that reopened the federal government late Wednesday.

Details of Donnelly’s involvement emerged in a Washington Post story published last Monday. In it, the writer described the group as “not the Senate’s usual impact players.”

Five of the 14 – Donnelly included – are in the first term in the Senate. A place, the writer went on to say, where “traditionally, time turns into power at roughly the speed that dead plants turn into oil.”

Donnelly isn’t claiming he has the power to end the powerful polarizations that define Congress these days. But he and his fellow comprising compatriots may be onto something when they claim that Americans want them to seek more answers in the middle.

A new Esquire-NBC News poll released this past week found that more Americans are in the vast middle than on the narrow sides of left or right. Among the interesting findings of the study: Centrists disagree with each other on a multitude issues, but their disagreements come in moderate degrees and not in big yawning gulfs.

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