U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly

Congress is focused on creating jobs, reducing the federal deficit, taking care of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and creating an ” American energy bill,” according to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

Donnelly, whose district includes northern Indiana’s RV manufacturing hub, spoke to about 50 people during a fund-raising breakfast Monday morning (Nov. 16) at the Matterhorn Restaurant in Elkhart, Ind.

The fund raiser was sponsored by a group of RV-industry luminaries that included Jim Shea of Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Gregg Fore of Dicor Corp., Pete Liegl and Don Gunden of Forest River Inc., Ed Hussey Jr. of Liberty Homes, Jason Lippert of Lippert Components, Dave Weed of Robert Weed Lumber Corp. and the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association/Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council.

Shea, chairman of Gulf Stream, started the gathering with a moment of silence for Wade F.B. Thompson, the chairman of Thor Industries Inc. who died last week. ”He was a great contributor to our industry,” Shea said.

Regarding Donnelly, Shea noted that the congressman had been an RV industry champion during congressional hearings last summer into formaldehyde levels in travel trailers built to house homeless Gulf Coast residents after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. ”He was there taking some of the slings and arrows from his activated brothers on (Capital) Hill for us.”

For his part, Donnelly praised Shea and other RV industry executives who testified during the hearings. ” They did an extraordinary job representing our area and the product that we make,” Donnelly said.

Rather than the formaldehyde brouhaha, it was the lengths to which the RV industry went to build temporary housing for hurricane victims that ”was the real story,” Donnelly said.

”That was recognized and those people were deeply, deeply appreciative to be in a place where they could have some shelter … and have a clean place to go to everyday.”

Despite appearances sometimes to the contrary, ”the focus moving forward in Congress is about three or four things,” Donnelly said.

He voted against the ”cap-and-trade” energy bill because ”it didn’t really cover energy,” he said.

”One of the most important things for our industry is an all-American energy program so that you have stable gas prices and stable energy prices so that people feel confident,” Donnelly said.

He said such legislation should include nuclear power and exploration for natural gas and oil in the U.S. ”Those are very, very important things,” he noted, declaring the ”cap-and-trade bill is basically dead.”

”My expectation that anything that comes forward in the next year or two will include an all-America energy package,” he added.

Donnelly said that his office has been working with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to increase the guaranteed loan limit for RV floorplan financing from $2 million to $3 million.

”We have very important business to do,” the congressman said. ” That is stabilize this economy, create confidence and jobs and reduce the deficit.”

He reported that he voted for the health-insurance reform legislation only to keep the bill moving through Congress. ”The bill we voted on will not be the final product,” Donnelly said. ” This is a process.”

He said U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., is on the point in the Senate to keep costs of health reform under control ”Their bill is substantially less in cost and that is his job — to make sure all those numbers work,” Donnelly said.

He said he expects a so-called ”public option” provision to be included in final legislation — if there is any — with a trigger to keep insurance companies from raising rates out of proportion to need. ”The purpose of that is to keep the (insurance rates) as low as possible,” he said.

”Your biggest request of (Congress) is to stay out of your way. That’s what we want to do. Our goal is for people to go to work on Monday, pick up a pay check on Friday, have stable gas prices and credit markets. That’s where the focus is going to be.”