|United States Senator|
January 3, 2013 - January 3, 2019
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Indiana's 2nd district
January 3, 2007 - January 3, 2013
Joseph Simon Donnelly
September 29, 1955
Massapequa, New York, U.S.
Jill Donnelly (m. 1979)
|Education||University of Notre Dame (BA, JD)|
Born in Massapequa, New York, Donnelly graduated from the University of Notre Dame. He began his career on the Indiana State Election Board before working as an attorney in practice. From 1997 to 2001 he was on the Mishawaka Marian School Board, serving as its president from 2000 to 2001. In 2004, he won the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, losing to Republican incumbent Chris Chocola in the general election. In 2006, he challenged Chocola again, and won election with 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 intention 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 with 50% of the vote to Mourdock's 44%; Mourdock's loss was attributed by some to his controversial comments about sexual assault. In 2018, Donnelly ran for reelection to a second term, but was defeated by former Republican state representative Mike Braun.
Donnelly was born and raised in Massapequa, New York. His mother died when he was 10, and he was raised by his father. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts in government in 1977, and earned his Juris Doctor from Notre Dame Law School in 1981. He practiced at the law firm Nemeth, Feeney and Masters until 1996, when he opened Marking Solutions, a printing and rubber-stamp company.
In 2004, Donnelly ran for the U.S. Congress from Indiana's 2nd congressional district. He won the Democratic nomination unopposed, but lost the election to incumbent Republican Chris Chocola, 54%-45%.
On May 2, 2006, Donnelly defeated Steve Francis for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress from Indiana's 2nd district, setting up a rematch against incumbent Chris Chocola. Because of President George W. Bush's waning popularity, the race was expected to be competitive. The website MoveOn.org targeted Chocola and ran advertising against him. Chocola maintained a decisive lead in fundraising, raising $3.2 million to Donnelly's $1.5 million. The campaign was heated, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sponsoring ads attacking Chocola as beholden to moneyed interests in the insurance, pharmaceutical, and energy industries. Chocola returned fire by attacking Donnelly over a late tax filing and 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 lay in the results in St. Joseph County, the location of South Bend and by far the district's largest county. Donnelly won that county with 58% of the vote.
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 reelection to a third term, defeating Walorski 48%-46%.
Donnelly was named to the House Financial Services Committee for the 110th Congress.
On May 8, 2012, Donnelly ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate after acknowledging the difficulty of winning reelection in his new home district drawn per the 2010 census. He faced a Tea Party favorite, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who had defeated six-term incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, and Libertarian nominee Andy Horning.
An issue in the campaign was the auto bailout of 2009, which Donnelly supported and Mourdock said was unconstitutional. Donnelly fashioned himself "a common-sense Hoosier" in the tradition of Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh.
During the campaign Mourdock became embroiled in a controversy after stating that pregnancy from rape is "something that God intended". His remarks were made in a debate on October 23, 2012, during which he explained his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape.
On November 6, 2012, Donnelly defeated Mourdock, 50% to 44%.
On January 3, 2013, Donnelly was sworn into the United States Senate in the 113th Congress by Vice President Joe Biden. Donnelly was the first Democrat to hold his seat since Vance Hartke's defeat by Richard Lugar in 1977. The Lugar Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Lugar founded in 2013, ranked Donnelly the fourth most bipartisan Senator in the first session of the 115th United States Congress as well as the most bipartisan Democrat in the Senate.
Donnelly was considered a moderate or conservative Democrat who "sometimes bucks his party on issues such as abortion, defense spending and the environment". According to Politico, "Donnelly is constantly dogged by Republicans aiming to unseat him" while also facing "disgruntled Democrats who think he's far too conservative". In 2013, the National Journal gave Donnelly a composite score of 52% conservative and 48% liberal. According to FiveThirtyEight, which tracks Congressional votes, Donnelly voted with President Trump's position 54.5% of the time.Congressional Quarterly published a study finding that Donnelly voted with Trump's positions 62% of the time. According to GovTrack, Donnelly was the second most conservative Democrat, after Joe Manchin, and to the right of moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins. He supported progressive taxation and organized labor, but opposed same-sex marriage and abortion, even in the case of rape, during his 2012 campaign (though he supported an exception in the case of rape in the 2018 campaign). On April 5, 2013, Donnelly endorsed same-sex marriage on his Facebook page.
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 favored making the tax cuts permanent for middle-class Americans and temporarily extending the cuts for families making at least $250,000. In 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. "Given our continued economic challenges," he said, "now is the time to keep tax rates low.... 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."
On September 27, 2013, Donnelly voted for the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014 (H.J.Res 59).
Donnelly opposed the Republican tax reform legislation, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, saying in October 2017 that he was open to supporting the plan but wanted to see more detail and be assured it would focus on substantial middle-class tax relief.
During his second term, Donnelly voted for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
A March 2012 letter signed by Donnelly and other Democratic members of the House and Senate, 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.
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. He also joined Republicans in writing a bill to deregulate certain banks. He was one of four Democrats who helped write the bill. In 2018, Donnelly broke with the majority of his party and voted with Republicans to loosen banking regulations.
In 2007, Donnelly co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. The act allowed Congress to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. Donnelly voted in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Donnelly has pushed for the passage of the "Forty Hours is Full Time Act" along with Republican senator Susan Collins, which would define a full-time employment as 40 hours a week rather than 30.
Donnelly, along with 197 members of the House, was a cosponsor of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007. He voted against the Prescription Drug Imports Act, which would have "allowed funds to be used to prohibit the importation of prescription drugs by anyone who is not a legally sanctioned importer of drugs, a wholesaler, or a pharmacist".
In 2007, Donnelly was a co-sponsor of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIP), which would have added $35 billion and 4 million children to the program over five years by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack. After passing the House and Senate, the measure was vetoed by President George W. Bush. Donnelly joined 217 Democrats and 42 Republicans in a failed effort to override Bush's veto.
In March 2010, Donnelly voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act). In 2013, Donnelly proposed changing the Affordable Care Act's definition of full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40. He also supported 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.
After Donnelly voted in 2012 to repeal the medical-device tax that is part of Obamacare, his 2012 election opponent, Richard Mourdock, said: "Joe Donnelly wants to pick apart Obamacare, but that begs the question: Why didn't he just hold out and not vote for it?"
In 2017 campaign messages, Donnelly called President Donald Trump's proposed changes to Obamacare "unacceptable and cruel" and "half-baked", asserting that Obamacare "benefits millions of Hoosiers". In January 2018, Donnelly was one of six Democrats to join Republican senators in voting to confirm Alex Azar, Trump's nominee for Health Secretary.
Donnelly opposed Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. "After reviewing her record," he explained, "I share the concerns expressed by many Hoosier educators, students, and families that Betsy DeVos lacks the commitment to public education needed to effectively lead the Department of Education."
In 2011, Donnelly voted to allow Department of Defense funds to be used for military actions as part of the NATO Intervention in Libya. He 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 July 2007, he 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 seven other members of the Blue Dog Coalition in a 204-215 House vote against an accelerated withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan. He 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 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.
In May 2017, Donnelly co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (s. 720), which made it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if protesting actions by the Israeli government.
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, which would have cut $640 million in a 2% across-the-board reduction in spending from the 2012 United States Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. He voted for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Civil liberties advocates have criticized Donnelly for voting for Section 1021, expanding the president's authority to detain suspected al-Qaeda, Taliban, or associated forces (including U.S. citizens) without a trial. Donnelly has voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, and to require FISA warrants for wiretaps in the U.S., but not abroad.
Donnelly voted against the DREAM Act on December 8, 2010. In 2018, Donnelly voted in favor of the McCain-Coons comprehensive immigration bill, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship but did not include any funding for a border wall; he also voted to withhold funds from sanctuary cities, in favor of Susan Collins's bipartisan proposal that included both a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and funding for border security, and in support of Trump's proposal to allow a pathway to citizenship while funding a border wall and reducing legal immigration. Donnelly said that he supports more funding for the border wall proposed by Trump.
In 2017, NumbersUSA, which seeks to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, gave him a 0% score; in 2015-16, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which also supports immigration controls, gave him a 25% rating.
In 2018, Donnelly was rated a "D" by the National Rifle Association for his vote "to criminalize the private transfer of firearms between close friends and some family members, which according to the Obama Justice Department, is only enforceable through a federal firearms registry. Donnelly also supports ammunition restrictions on law-abiding citizens."
Donnelly was previously one of the few Senate Democrats who had received an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his consistent support of policies that the NRA supports. He has commended the NRA for its work with children on gun safety.
In 2007, he co-sponsored a bill that repealed the requirement in Washington, D.C. to have guns registered. The bill also repealed the ban on semi-automatic firearms and trigger locks. Two years later, Donnelly supported a law that would enact concealed carry reciprocity across state lines.
In 2017, he participated in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster that was intended to persuade Republicans to support legislation that would have barred suspected terrorists and convicted criminals from purchasing guns. "I am a supporter of the Second Amendment," he said. "I'm also someone who believes it's reasonable for all of us to consider smart and responsible ways to reduce gun violence. Those things are not in opposition to each other." Despite Donnelly's participation in the filibuster, a liberal Donnelly supporter, Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully, complained on June 15, 2016, that "Donnelly's overall record on gun policies, first in the House and now in the Senate, and his general avoidance of taking a leadership position on the issue, seems much less tolerable than it did four years ago."
Donnelly opposes abortion, and identifies as pro-life. He has described himself as "committed to protecting the sanctity of life". He has mixed ratings from pro-choice and pro-life political action committees. Planned Parenthood, which supports legal abortion, has given him a lifetime score of 67% in line with their positions.NARAL Pro-Choice America gave him a 0% score based on their 2016 pro-choice positions. The National Right to Life Committee, which opposes legal abortion, has scored him as voting 40% in line with their positions in 2018, 25% in 2015, 70% in 2012, and 83% in 2010, his highest score. The anti-abortion Campaign for Working Families gave him a 38% grade in 2018. He was endorsed by Democrats for Life of America, a pro-life Democratic PAC.
He has voted for a 20-week abortion ban and co-sponsored a bill that would prohibit transporting a minor across state lines for an abortion. In 2011, he co-sponsored HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. He voted to defund Planned Parenthood before 2015, but has since voted in support of Planned Parenthood. In August 2015, his campaign treasurer, Kathy Davis, who had worked on a volunteer basis for four years, resigned from his campaign because he voted to defund Planned Parenthood after videos surfaced of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donations. He was one of only two Democratic Senators who voted to defund Planned Parenthood on this occasion, the other 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.
In November 2017, Donnelly was criticized by pro-life groups when he did not speak out against the DNC's presentation of a lifetime achievement award to the CEO of Planned Parenthood. "Donnelly is making it clear that he's willing to get in line with the party on abortion to maintain his support from Washington Democrats," complained the NRSC.
In 2018, he was one of three Democratic Senators who voted to ban abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
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. In October 2009, Donnelly voted for 2009-2010 Defense Appropriations, which included the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded 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 for the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. He was one of 17 Democratic Representatives to vote for H Amdt 1416 the Prohibits Use of Funds in Contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act in July 2012.
Donnelly received a rating of 80% from the Human Rights Campaign in 2017 for his time in the 114th Congress.
Donnelly was one of four Democrats to vote against the Stream Protection Rule. He was one of three Democrats to vote to confirm President Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and the second Democrat to announce that he would meet with Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's second Supreme Court nominee. He ultimately voted against confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
In April 2019, with fellow former Senator Heidi Heitkamp (who also lost reelection in 2018), Donnelly launched One Country Project, an organization dedicated to helping Democrats reconnect with rural voters. He is also a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.
Donnelly met his wife, Jill, while attending the University of Notre Dame; the two married in 1979. They have two children. They live in Granger, an unincorporated suburban community northeast of South Bend.
As of 2013, Donnelly was the 74th wealthiest member of the U.S. Senate, with an estimated net worth of $781,504.
In July 2017, the Associated Press reported that Donnelly, who had "long blasted free-trade policies for killing American jobs" and, specifically, "railed against Carrier Corp. for moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico" the previous year, had simultaneously "profited from a family business" that used Mexican labor. For over a year, the business, Stewart Superior Corp., which had been owned by his family "for generations", had been "shipping thousands of pounds of raw materials to Mexico" and then transporting finished products back to the U.S. The company was run by Donnelly's brother, and Donnelly was a corporate officer and the firm's general counsel before entering Congress. In 2016, Donnelly owned up to $50,000 in company stock and between $15,001 and $50,000 in dividends. Alejandro Ruelas-Gossi, a Latin America trade expert, accused Donnelly of "hypocrisy" given his opposition to NAFTA. After the AP report, Donnelly agreed to sell his stock in the family firm. In August 2017, the NRSC hired a mariachi band to play at a campaign stop as a way of reminding voters about his hypocrisy on the issue of exporting jobs to Mexico.
|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|
|Democratic||Joe Donnelly (incumbent)||1,023,553||44.84%||-5.20%|
|Republican gain from Democratic|
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd congressional district
|Party political offices|
Title last held byDavid Johnson
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Indiana
| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Indiana
Served alongside: Dan Coats, Todd Young