|United States Senator
January 3, 2013
Serving with Todd Young
|Preceded by||Richard Lugar|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd district
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Chris Chocola|
|Succeeded by||Jackie Walorski|
|Born||Joseph Simon Donnelly
September 29, 1955
Massapequa, New York, U.S.
|Education||University of Notre Dame (BA, JD)|
Joseph Simon "Joe" Donnelly, Sr. (born September 29, 1955) is an American politician who is the senior United States Senator from Indiana. A member of the Democratic Party, Donnelly has served in the Senate since January 3, 2013.
Born in Massapequa, New York, Donnelly graduated from The University of Notre Dame. He began his career serving on the Indiana State Election Board before working as an attorney in practice. From 1997 to 2001, he was a member of the Mishawaka Marian School Board, serving as the board's President from 2000 to 2001. In 2004, Donnelly ran for the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, losing to Republican incumbent Chris Chocola in the general election. He challenged Chocola to a rematch in 2006, prevailing in the general election and earning 54% of the vote. He represented Indiana's 2nd congressional district from 2007 to 2013, winning reelection in 2008 and 2010.
In May 2011, Donnelly announced his intentions to run for the U.S. Senate, winning the Democratic nomination one year later in an uncontested primary. He then faced Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who had defeated 36-year incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary. On November 6, 2012 Donnelly defeated Mourdock in the general election, securing 50% of the vote to Mourdock's 44%.
Donnelly was born and raised on the South Shore of Long Island in Massapequa, New York. Donnelly moved to South Bend, Indiana in 1973 when he was accepted into the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Government in 1977, and earned his Juris Doctor from Notre Dame Law School in 1981. He practiced law at the Nemeth, Feeney and Masters law firm until 1996, when he opened Marking Solutions, a printing and rubber-stamp company.
Donnelly held one public and one private position before deciding to run for U.S. Congress. From 1988 to 1989 he served on the Indiana State Election Board, which was charged with ensuring accurate election results. He served on the Marian High School Board from 1997 to 2001, serving as president of the board of the Catholic school from 2000 to 2001.
In 2004, Donnelly ran for Indiana's 2nd congressional district. He won the Democratic nomination unopposed. Incumbent Republican Chris Chocola was helped by several fundraising visits from President George W. Bush, and was able to outspend Donnelly by a two to one margin, $1.4 million to $700,000. Donnelly lost the election, 54%–45%. Due to his relatively late entrance into the contest, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) did not offer much support to Donnelly's 2004 campaign. This would change in 2006, when the race was identified by the DCCC as a "Red-to-Blue" contest and extra funds were sent from out of the district in an effort to win back control of the House of Representatives.
On May 2, 2006, Donnelly defeated Steve Francis for the Democratic nomination, setting up a rematch against Chris Chocola. Because Chocola was a strong supporter of George W. Bush, the race was expected to be more competitive than in 2004 in light of Bush's waning popularity. The website Moveon.org identified Donnelly as a top contender to defeat a Republican incumbent in the house, and began running its "Red-Handed" ads against Chocola early in the campaign. Chocola still maintained a significant money advantage over Donnelly, but in 2006, Donnelly had enough to maintain a competitive advertising presence throughout the campaign. The campaign was heated, with the DCCC sponsoring ads attacking Chocola as being beholden to moneyed interests in the insurance, pharmaceutical, and energy industries. Chocola returned fire by attacking Donnelly over a late tax filing and by attempting to link him to liberal House leader Nancy Pelosi.
On November 7, 2006, Donnelly defeated Chocola 54%-46%, a difference of 15,145 votes. The key difference between the 2006 and 2004 elections for Donnelly lay in the results within St. Joseph County, the location of South Bend and by far the largest county in the district. Donnelly won that county with 58% of vote, generating a 14,000-vote margin.
Donnelly ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination. In the general election, he was challenged by Republican nominee State Representative Jackie Walorski. Despite the Republican wave in the 2010 midterm elections, Donnelly won re-election to a third term, defeating Walorski 48%-46%.
Donnelly was named to the House Financial Services Committee for the 110th Congress.
In the House, Donnelly was a member of Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats. In March 2007, he was recognized as "Blue Dog of the Week" for his work on helping small businesses. He broke with the Democratic leadership on several budgetary issues, including the 2008 fiscal budget proposal. In June 2007, he was ranked as one of the ten most independent Democrats by a Congressional Quarterly report.
On May 8, 2012 Donnelly ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. He faced Tea Party favorite, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who defeated 6 term incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, and Libertarian nominee Andy Horning.
During the election, Donnelly framed Mourdock as "the Wall Street candidate," saying that "the difference between me and Mourdock is, I represent the middle class, while he represents the special interests." Donnelly said he would bring "Hoosier common sense" to the Senate while Mourdock would only "contribute to partisan gridlock".
Donnelly's Senate campaign also focused on closing tax loopholes for corporations, cutting taxes on small businesses, investing in American energy production, and cutting spending to balance the national budget. Donnelly was endorsed by every major newspaper in Indiana, and the Louisville Courier Journal, whose readership extends into southern Indiana.
During the campaign Mourdock became embroiled in a controversy after stating that pregnancy from rape is "something that God intended." His remarks were made during a debate on October 23, 2012 while explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape.
On November 6, 2012 Donnelly defeated Mourdock 50%-44%.
On January 3, 2013, Donnelly was sworn into the United State Senate in the 113th Congress by Vice President Joe Biden. Donnelly is first Democrat to hold this seat since Vance Hartke was defeated by Richard Lugar in 1977. Donnelly has said that he will continue the “common-sense Hoosier tradition of Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh.” Matt Tully praised him for his willingness to reach across the aisle. Donnelly has also received praise from his predecessor Richard Lugar for his bipartisan efforts in the Senate. The Lugar Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that was founded by Senator Lugar in 2013, released a Bipartisan Index in cooperation with Georgetown University, ranking Donnelly as the #2 most bipartisan member of the 114th Congress.
Donnelly is a moderate-to-conservative Democrat. In 2013, the National Journal gave Donnelly a composite score of 52% conservative and 48% liberal. While he supports progressive taxation and organized labor, he opposed abortion and same-sex marriage during the campaign. On April 5, 2013, Sen. Donnelly endorsed same-sex marriage on his Facebook page.
In 2007, Donnelly cosponsored the SAFE Commission Act, calling for a commission to develop legislation designed to reform tax policy and entitlement benefit programs. He also supported attempts in the House to patch the Alternative Minimum Tax, and co-sponsored H.R. 976, The Small Business Tax Relief, Act.
Donnelly voted against the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 (a two-month extension of an expiring provision from the American Recovery Act, forestalling an increase in the payroll tax from 4.2% to 6.2%); he voted for the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (a one-year extension of the same provision). In 2012 Donnelly also voted for H.R. 9, the Small Business Tax Cut Act, which would allow businesses with fewer than 500 employees to receive a tax deduction equal to 20% of their domestic business income.
Donnelly was one of 276 members of Congress who voted for the Tax Relief and Unemployment Insurance Act of 2010, extending the 2001 and 2003 Bush-era tax cuts and a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. In an interview, Donnelly said that he favors making the tax cuts permanent for middle-class Americans and temporarily extending the cuts for families making at least $250,000. During a speech at the 2012 Indiana Democratic Convention, Donnelly said that he would support a temporary one-year extension of all Bush-era tax cuts, declaring "Given our continued economic challenges, now is the time to keep tax rates low, the last thing our economy can afford is more uncertainty. We need to create jobs, we need to help the middle class and support small businesses, and we need to avoid partisan bickering and delay."
During his second term, Donnelly voted for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Donnelly helped write three amendments to the final bill: amendment 1 helps provide adequate tools to a new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission division that regulates credit rating agencies; amendment 2 prevents the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from being used in the future to purchase equity shares of troubled banks as a rescue attempt, and ensuring that the FDIC is used only to protect customers' savings; amendment 3 prohibits the Consumer Financial Protection Agency to act on manufactured housing retailers.
In a March 2012 letter Donnelly signed with Democratic members of the House and Senate, he urged Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler to curb oil speculation in the commodity market through new provisions in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Which, according to a publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, oil speculators dominate 80% of the energy futures market and adds $.56 per gallon of gas. In the letter to the Chairman, it read: "We have a responsibility to ensure that the price of gas is no longer allowed to be driven up by the same Wall Street speculators who caused the devastating recession that working families are now experiencing. The CFTC must do what the law mandates and end excessive oil speculation."
In July 2012 Donnelly voted in favor of H.R. 459, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, sponsored by Texas Congressman Ron Paul. The bill requires a full audit of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and Federal reserve banks by the Comptroller General. H.R. 459 is now pending before the Senate.
Donnelly has supported increases in the minimum wage and protection of collective bargaining. In Donnelly's first term he co-sponsored H.R. 2: The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. The act allows Congress to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25, and cuts taxes on small businesses by $12 Billion. After The Fair Minimum Wage Act was signed, Donnelly said in a statement that, “A decent wage is essential for a working family to get by in America. This is not only good social and economic policy, it's just plain fair.” Donnelly voted in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law was based after the Supreme Court case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., when the court decided employers cannot be sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 over gender pay discrimination if the claims are based on decisions made by the employer 180 days ago or more, The Fair Pay Act amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allowing women to file a lawsuit against their employer if they are paid less than men for doing the same work.
Serving on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Donnelly supported the Fiscal Year 2008 Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs Appropriations bill, increasing VA funding by $4 Billion, it was the largest funding increase for them in U.S. history. Since taking office, he has worked to improve the conditions at Walter Reed Hospital by supporting H.R.1538, The Wounded Warrior Assistance Act.
He has worked across the aisle with Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) to introduce H.R. 1490, The Fairness in Veterans Disability Benefits Act, which reduces waiting time for veterans deserving disability benefits. Donnelly has introduced legislation to create a rural advisory board for veterans aiming to improve private-care options for veterans struck with traumatic brain injury.
Donnelly joined Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in offering an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that would enhance the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The amendment would protect service members and their families from improper foreclosures, evictions, and other negative financial consequences of military service. He has also worked to open outpatient clinics in South Bend, Indiana and Elkhart, Indiana.
On September 27, 2013, Donnelly voted to restore funding for the Affordable Care Act as part of an amendment to legislation funding government operations for 45 days, and which also omitted House-passed language prioritizing debt payments if Congress fails to increase the nation’s borrowing limits.
Donnelly has voted to requiring insurance companies to expand coverage, and to cover children on their parents' health insurance plan until they're 26. He has also voted to prohibit health insurance companies from Denying coverage to patients with Pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men on health insurance premiums, and establishing an annual and lifetime cap on insurance payments to individuals. Donnelly has also voted to expand Medicare and Medicaid coverage and eligibility. Donnelly has supported the Hyde Amendment of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits federal funding from being used on abortions other than in cases of incest and rape.
Donnelly has said that the Affordable Care Act can be improved. He has proposed changing the act's definition of full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40. Donnelly has also advocated repealing the medical device excise tax (a 2.3% tax on the sale of certain medical devices by the manufacturer, producer or importer of the device). In 2012 Donnelly cosponsored The Protect Medical Innovation Act, which would repeal the tax. When asked about the tax, Donnelly said that, “We fought very hard to keep the medical-device tax out of the bill, and the pledge was we will continue to fight very hard to have it removed." On September 30, 2013, Donnelly voted to remove a provision which would repeal the medical device tax from a government funding bill in opposition to the provision being used as a condition in keeping the government open.
In 2007 Donnelly was a cosponsor of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIP). Appropriating over $60 billion over 5 years by matching federal funds to states that provide health insurance to children and pregnant women, and raising the federal cigarette tax from 39 cents to $1. After CHIP passed the House and the Senate, President George W. Bush vetoed the bill over a $30 billion spending difference between what he and congress proposed, saying that “Because the Congress has chosen to send me a bill that moves our health care system in the wrong direction, I must veto it,” and that lawmakers should “produce a good bill that puts poorer children first.” After Bush's decision on CHIP, Donnelly joined 217 Democrats and 42 Republicans in a failed measure to override Bush's veto. In 2009 after Bush left office, the House passed a new version of CHIP, and President Barack Obama signed it into law. The new version including the original expansion of coverage to 4 million children, and along with raising taxes on cigarettes, a new provision was added to raise taxes on other tobacco products.
Donnelly, along with 197 members of the House, was a cosponsor of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007. Requiring federal officials to negotiate with prescription drug companies for lower prices for seniors covered by Medicare Part D, repealing the original text of Medicare Part D, banning the government to negotiate with prescription drug companies. Donnelly has voted against the Prescription Drug Imports Act, allowing imports of Prescription Drugs from FDA inspected plants in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and European countries.
In 2011 Donnelly voted to allow Department of Defense funds to be used for military actions in support of the NATO Intervention in Libya. Donnelly also voted in support of the failed resolution to authorize the President to continue the limited use of U.S. Forces in Libya. The resolution stated that Congress does not support deploying, establishing, or maintaining the presence of units and members of U.S. Armed Forces on the ground in Libya unless the purpose of the presence is limited to the defense of U.S. government officials or NATO member forces from imminent danger.
Donnelly voted against the Iraq War troop surge of 2007. In addition, in July 2007, Donnelly joined 221 other House members in voting for HR 2956, the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act. This legislation contained a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
In 2011 Donnelly aligned himself with Republicans and 7 other members of the Blue Dog coalition in a 204-215 house vote against an accelerated withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan. Donnelly reaffirmed opposition to an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan in voting against the Lee amendment, proposed in H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The Lee amendment, if passed, would have prohibited the military spending any money in Afghanistan except for non-combat humanitarian activities, and on activities leading to the withdrawal of American military forces from the country.
Donnelly is a staunch supporter of Defense spending and has a consistent record of voting with conservatives in spending increases in the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. In 2011 Donnelly voted against H.R. 2219 which would have cut the U.S. military budget by $8.5 billion, stipulating that no cuts were to be taken from pay or benefit programs supporting members and veterans of the armed forces. These cuts would have reduced the emphasis of the U.S. budget on weapons programs. Donnelly also voted against the failed Polis amendment, cutting $640 Million in a 2% across-the-board reduction in spending from the 2012 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. Donnelly voted in favor of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Civil Liberty advocates have criticized Donnelly for voting for Section 1021, expanding authority to the President to detain suspected al-Qaeda, Taliban, or associated forces (including U.S. citizens) without a trial. Donnelly has voted in support of reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act, and requiring FISA warrants for wiretaps in the U.S., but not abroad.
Donnelly voted against the DREAM Act on December 8, 2010. The interest groups English First, Federation for American Immigration Reform, and Americans for a Better Immigration have all been supporters of Donnelly's work, while the National Latino Congreso has adamantly criticized his efforts.
Donnelly helped promote a project that would get rid of gun registration and the trigger lock law in Washington, DC. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has disapproved of Donnelly's views and actions since 1998, based on his gun control voting records. Donnelly was one of seventeen Democrats in the U.S. House to vote with the Republican majority for the criminal Contempt of Congress measure against United States Attorney General Eric Holder in the aftermath of Operation Fast and Furious. More recently, Donnelly has expressed support for background checks for all gun purchases. On April 17, 2013, Donnelly joined three other Senate Democrats in voting against the proposed ban on assault weapons .
Donnelly is pro-life and is trying to make adoption more accessible to families. Donnelly said “As a pro-life congressman, I am committed to protecting life at all stages.” In 2011, he co-sponsored HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The bill contained an exception for "forcible rape," which opponents criticized as potentially excluding drug-facilitated rape, date rape, and other forms of rape. The bill also allowed an exception for minors who are victims of incest.
In 2011 Donnelly received a 20% rating from abortion rights political action group NARAL. Before 2011, Donnelly had consistently received a 0% rating every year from NARAL during his time in the House. Donnelly has received high scores from the pro-life group National Right to Life Committee, never receiving a rating lower than 70%. In August 2015, Donnelly was one of only two Democratic senators who voted to defund Planned Parenthood, the other senator being Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
On March 30, 2017, Donnelly voted against H.J.Res. 43, which, when signed by President Trump, nullified a pending federal regulation that would have disallowed states to withhold money from abortion providers.
Donnelly has an overall mixed voting record on LGBT rights, receiving a rating of 30% from the Human Rights Campaign in 2010. In 2007, Donnelly cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but in 2009, he voted against the Matthew Shepard Act. However in October 2009, Donnelly voted for 2009-2010 Defense Appropriations, which included the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the federal hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities. On May 27, 2010, Donnelly voted against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell after military review and certification, though the next day, he voted for the 2010-2011 Defense Appropriation Authorizations bill which included a provision repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. In December 2010, Donnelly voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. Donnelly was one of 17 Democratic Representatives to vote for the Prohibits Use of Funds in Contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act in July 2012. On April 5, 2013, Senator Donnelly announced his support for same-sex marriage.
In 2015, Donnelly voted yes for CISPA. 
Donnelly met his wife, Jill, while attending the University of Notre Dame, the two later married in 1979. They have two children, Molly, and Joe Jr. They reside in Granger, Indiana and have a house in Michigan City, Indiana off the shore of Lake Michigan. Donnelly is one of the least wealthy members of the U.S. Senate, with an estimated net worth of $174,000.
Donnelly is a practicing Roman Catholic, and attends Saint Anthony de Padua Parish in South Bend, Indiana. He previously served as the church's Chair of the Bishop's Appeal Campaign from 1994 to 1996.
|Republican||Chris Chocola (incumbent)||140,496||54.2%|
|Indiana's 2nd congressional district Democratic primary election, 2006|
|Republican||Chris Chocola (incumbent)||88,300||46.0%|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
|Democratic||Joe Donnelly (incumbent)||187,416||67.1%|
|Democratic||Joe Donnelly (incumbent)||91,341||48.2%|
|No party||Write-Ins||18||0 %||n/a|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joe Donnelly.|
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd congressional district
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Indiana
|United States Senate|
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Indiana
Served alongside: Dan Coats, Todd Young
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority