Previewing Buttigieg's confirmation hearing & Young's bipartisan moves

Plus: An interview with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Transportation Secretary-designate Pete Buttigieg will appear before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Thursday at 10 a.m. for his confirmation hearing, the next step on his glide path to become the first openly gay Cabinet official in the nation’s history.

Introducing Buttigieg: None other than fellow Hoosier Republican Sen. Todd Young, a quiet coup for both figures, and a potential harbinger of an easy path to confirmation for Buttigieg. On Saturday, Buttigieg’s freshly filed personal financial disclosure raised no eyebrows. Of note, Buttigieg earned between $100,000 and $1 million from royalties from Liveright, his publisher. He earned $150,000 for his iHeartMedia podcast series “The Deciding Decade.” The University of Notre Dame paid him $36,667 from his visiting professorship. And he also pocketed a $1,825 honorarium for guest-hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live! in March.

For Young, who is likely to announce his 2022 re-election bid for the Senate soon, the moment gives him bipartisan bonafides—something he’s seen no shortage of in recent days. President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan praised Young’s statement on the declaration of the Houthi movement in Yemen as a terrorist organization—leading Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to hail Young as a “smart guy.”

Paired with Young’s vote to certify the Electoral College count, the Democratic praise of Young could lead to a primary challenge on his right flank. Fellow Republican Sen. Mike Braun, for example, has given Buttigieg’s nomination a much colder reception.

But the money Young will raise and his conservative record over the last several years will make him a difficult target for both Republicans and Democrats.

Good Monday morning, and welcome back to IMPORTANTVILLE.

FOR YOUR RADAR

  • 7 p.m. Tuesday: Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his State of the State address.

  • 12 p.m. Wednesday: Protestors are expected at the Indiana Statehouse as President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. Meanwhile, the General Assembly will have no legislative activity this week as a safety precaution, though no specific or credible threats against the Statehouse exists.

  • 10 a.m. Thursday: Buttigieg takes part in his Senate confirmation hearing.

IMPORTANTVILLE READS

Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post: “Vaccine reserve was exhausted when Trump administration vowed to release it, dashing hopes of expanded access

When Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced this week that the federal government would begin releasing coronavirus vaccine doses that had been held in reserve for second shots, no such reserve existed, according to state and federal officials briefed on distribution plans. The Trump administration had already begun shipping out what was available, starting at the end of December, taking second doses for the two-dose regimen directly off the manufacturing line.

IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: His role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic could hamper any political future Azar hoped to have back home in Indiana. A number of politicos expect him to explore a 2024 bid for governor.

Ian Duncan, The Washington Post: “In South Bend, Pete Buttigieg challenged a decades-old assumption that streets are for cars above all else

In the coming days, the Senate is expected to confirm Buttigieg as secretary of transportation. He will bring experience taking on the car-centric street designs that have dominated the American landscape, but which many urban leaders are striving to undo in the face of rising pedestrian fatalities and a reckoning with transportation policies that bored highways through neighborhoods home to Black residents.

Buttigieg said his experience building support for the program will shape how he approaches his new job in Washington.

“It feeds my perspective on the value of local work around mobility,” he said in an interview. “I think a successful department is one that really empowers local leaders to make and drive decisions that work in their communities.”

THE IMPORTANTVILLE SITDOWN

Gov. Eric Holcomb recently fielded some of IMPORTANTVILLE’s questions, his answers to which have been lightly edited for length and clarity below:

IMPORTANTVILLE: What’s your vision for the Republican Party nationally?

HOLCOMB: My vision for the party doesn’t necessarily extend outside our state borders. And I am happy to share outside our state borders what is working here; what has contributed to our momentum; what has been part of the Indiana story since I've been around for the last, you know, in different capacities, 10 to 15-plus years.

And that has been a vision that's focused on not just identifying root causes of the problems but then solutions to them. And having the organization and courage to promote those prescriptions. And that has not certainly solved all our problems. But it’s put us in a unique position. I don't mean to filibuster here but you've kind of pressed one of my buttons here. Rewind the tape back to last spring. We were very quick to react to this pandemic in a very aggressive and immediate way.

As you recall, I want you to know went to our agencies and said you got to rein it in by 15% we went to higher education and so you got to rein it in 7%. We took other measures and what turned out to be a shock to our system wasn't of the likes of 2008 2009. Now for sure others have described it as a K-shaped recovery and some are just crushing it here in the state of Indiana: advanced manufacturing, etc. and thankfully, life sciences, ag, bio sciences, those sectors; but others, and hospitality, obviously, restaurants, conventions, hotels, not the case.

Folks on the lower rungs for all the gains that were being made over the last four years slipped again. And so we know what our assignment is now. Thankfully, our revenues are not in the $2 or $3-billion shortfall range. And we're going to be able to make investments in key areas like education, etc.

I'm trying not to get off course to answer your question, but the simple response is, we have to be a party that doesn't only propose solutions rhetorically. We have to be able to follow through, and [those solutions] have to make a difference in people’s lives.

That seems in stark contrast with other national GOPers at the moment, who seem to be focused on negative partisanship—merely opposing what the other side suggests.

I don't think long term it’s a strategy for success. I think short term it might be helpful to point out someone's deficiencies or failings. But I just went through a campaign where I never said an ill word or bad, negative word about any of my opponents. And at the very outset, there were some folks that said, “that just doesn't work in today's environment.”

Your predecessor and former boss, Mitch Daniels, kept an oops list of things he got wrong each year. What did you get wrong last year?

I mean, clearly I didn't get everything right. You know, this past year was a year unlike no other, so I'm not trying to make excuses for myself. But I would say that the balance of not overreacting [is something I got right]. I mentioned, you know the moves that we made. And immediately, thinking that this could be like, 2008 or 2009. And it turned out [not to be that way]. And you could look at this in a positive way that we overreacted early. Now, having said that, I think I'd do it again because it was such an unknown.

At the very same time over this last year there was a campaign going on. Some wouldn't know it, but that that maybe interfered at times with my personal life and I probably didn't get the rest that I probably needed. And if I was short with anyone or if my impatience was [worn] on my sleeve then I would apologize to folks, but you know, it was hot in the kitchen.

You know, I get a little bit emotional about the number of lives that we've lost. And you know that that tends to lead to a frustration that you're trying to back solutions that take buy-in from 7.7 million Hoosiers who are understandably and rightly so independent-minded, that I wish that I could have done a better job, early on, trying to be more expressive about the efficacy of wearing a mask.

And by the way, here’s an oops for you: I walked into a Brown County restaurant without a mask on. And, you know, stupid on my part.

I feel like I've been on the couch and just been interviewed by a psychiatrist. I got some things off my chest there and feel better.