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Clark County

August 14, 2009

Sen. Richard Lugar addresses health care, climate debates, but says recession is the most immediate concern while in Jeffersonville

It’s all about the timing

After the 2000 national election, the U.S. Senate was deadlocked — 50 republicans and 50 democrats.

The body was polarized and many of its committees were evenly spilt.

And those 60 votes it takes to stop a filibuster were far from obtainable.

“And it’s been hard to come by until this last election in 2008,” said Sen. Richard Lugar, the Senate’s most senior Republican.

“It’s now 60-40,” he said, describing the number of Democrats to Republicans in the Senate. “The magic 60 has arrived. And some Democrats, they would say ‘this gives us an opportunity … to get on with what we believe is the important business of the nation.”

That brief bit of history was how Lugar, Indiana’s senior senator, framed a lunchtime discussion on national affairs that ranged from health care reform to energy and foreign relations.

The senator’s speech — in front of economic development agency One Southern Indiana at the Sheraton hotel — was buttoned-down and cordial, a far cry from the clamorous town hall meetings on health care making news across the country.

The senator explained the current debates, health care reform and carbon emissions — two of the major priorities that President Barack Obama has pressed for since taking office — by putting them in perspective with events of the recent past.

“[Obama] starts this situation with a very large worldwide recession going on,” Lugar said.

Late last year, unemployment was rising and the gross national product was declining, he said. And then president George W. Bush and other lawmakers had to come up with a way to bring capital to various banks to rescue the financial system.

Before Bush left office, the automobile industry was facing trouble, as well.

“I can remember Dick Cheney coming over to the Senate and saying, ‘we’re not going to let these companies fail on our watch,’” he said. “Still, it’s an iffy proposition as to whether the recession has concluded.

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