Political Notebook

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Donnelly quiet about role in bipartisan fiscal talks

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was being tight-lipped Monday about his involvement with a bipartisan group of senators trying to arrange an agreement to fund and reopen the federal government.

The Washington Post on Sunday identified Donnelly as being among 12 senators – six Republicans and six Democrats – working on a plan developed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“Senator Donnelly is participating in bipartisan discussions aimed at reopening the government and ensuring we continue to pay our bills,” his communications director, Elizabeth Shappell, said Monday in an email. “He is hopeful that there will soon be an agreement on a common sense path forward so Congress can get back to the business of helping, not hurting, our economy.”

Shappell declined to elaborate.

The Post reported that the group met for two hours Monday.

The Post also reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., met in his office with the Democrats on Sunday after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he supported the Collins plan. Her proposal would increase the debt limit through January, fund the government for six months and suspend the medical device tax for two years. The 2.3 percent tax helps finance the Affordable Care Act.

The six Democrats working with Collins later issued a statement saying that while involved in the discussions with her and other Republicans, “we do not support the proposal in its current form.”

The Post identified the bipartisan group’s Democrats as Donnelly and Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and independent Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats.

Republicans in the group reportedly include Collins, Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John McCain of Arizona, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Donnelly has worked with Collins previously. In June, they sponsored legislation defining full-time work as at least 40 hours a week. Their bill was in response to an Affordable Care Act provision, since delayed until 2015, requiring large employers to provide health insurance to their full-time employees – considered by the health care law as those who work at least 30.hours a week.

The Democrats who have been meeting with Collins on her fiscal plan voted in March in favor of repealing the medical device tax, with Donnelly and Klobuchar among co-sponsors of the amendment. The Senate approved the nonbinding measure by a 79-20 vote, with Reid and 19 other Democrats opposing it.

Indiana is among states with the largest number of medical device manufacturers and workers. About 20,000 people work for device makers in Indiana, many of them at orthopedic device companies based in Warsaw.

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