Why senior members of the House skip many votes



CNN

While campaigning for the Senate, Ted Budd has often been absent from his day job: a member of the US House.

The North Carolina Republican lost more votes than any member of the three chambers since January 2021, and more than any other lawmaker who will be on the ballot in next Tuesday’s election, according to an analysis by the Moonlight Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group. Budd lost 119 votes in this Congress, which was 13% of the total votes over the past two years, mostly because he campaigned in North Carolina this year to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr.

It’s not uncommon for members to skip votes in an election year when campaigning for top office, though doing so opens them up to criticism from rivals. GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor in New York, missed 115 of the 926 votes cast in this Congress — the sixth-most missed votes in the House, according to the analysis.

Retiring members are often among the most likely to skip votes. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican member of the Jan. 6, 2021 select committee, who announced last year that he would not run for office in 2022, was absent by 298 votes over the past two years, most in the House. Other retiring lawmakers — like Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle — also made the top five.

“While no one is asking for a perfect voting record, eroding public trust in the political system by not showing up to vote is impossible,” said Moonlight Foundation Executive Director Karen Goll.

The analysis also highlights another problem with the functioning of the Chamber: the system of representative voting.

Under rules pushed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and as the country has returned to normality, lawmakers can vote while outside Washington by allowing another member to vote on their behalf. They sign a letter to the Secretary of the Chamber stating that they cannot participate in the vote due to the “ongoing public health emergency”. But members of both parties often abuse the system and falsely make this claim so that their colleagues can vote on their behalf and stay in their constituencies or engage in personal matters.

This means that members who would normally be marked as absent are registered to vote that day, obscuring their concealment from the public and ensuring that their leaders have enough votes to deal with a bill.

Both Reps. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who retired, and Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, who was also defeated in the Jan. 6 committee primaries this summer, lost the second and third House votes in the latter two. years, respectively. But neither Cheney nor Brady has submitted a letter of representation to this Congress asking members to vote.

“Congressman Brady does not vote for delegation and there were votes almost every day he served in Congress,” said Janet Montesi, Brady’s spokeswoman. “In a long series of unnecessary votes on dozens of non-controversial suspension bills, Congressman Brady chose to continue the vital work of Biden and the Ways Committee to pass misguided tax increases and inflation-inducing spending in President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.”

A spokesman for Cheney declined to comment.

Budd has a similarly negative view of proxy voting and even sponsored legislation to withhold pay from any member who votes remotely, saying his campaign is “putting money where its mouth is.” But on four occasions, he submitted letters to the Secretary of the House to nominate a member to vote on his behalf because of the Covid-19 pandemic, even though he voted remotely several times in late September.

Pelosi and her Democratic leadership team have worked out a relatively light voting schedule in Washington this year, as weak Democrats are much more eager to campaign back home and try to hold onto the House. And often when they are in Washington, the House’s time is consumed by roll call votes, largely on non-debatable issues that would otherwise be dealt with quickly, with a handful of conservative lawmakers using parliamentary motions to tie up the floor for hours. a time

But sticking to the proxy voting system ensures that Pelosi can block enough votes to pass bills in the divided chamber even when members aren’t in Washington. In fact, Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat running in a competitive Ohio Senate race, submitted 49 letters asking a colleague to vote on his behalf because of the pandemic, the second most in the House, the analysis said.

Asked about his delegation votes, Ryan’s spokesman Jordan Fuja said the congressman “will never apologize for spending more time” in his state.

“It’s 2022, and members of Congress should be able to do their jobs and vote remotely using the technology at their disposal while meeting face-to-face with the people they serve,” Fuja said.

The other members were not represented or voted in person.

Among the bills Budd lost, for example, were those dealing with cybersecurity grants to schools, oversight of veterans programs, awarding the National Hockey League’s first black player the Congressional Gold Medal, and protecting whistleblowers.

In a statement, the Budd campaign attacked CNN, the national media, the Moonlight Foundation and its analysis, and defended Budd’s voting record.

Jonathan Felts, Budd’s senior adviser, cited a report in McClatchy that said the congressman had “one of the best attendance records” in North Carolina’s 13-member House delegation before launching his Senate campaign. The same report said Budd had lost more than 100 votes since running for Senate, “above the lifetime record average for lost votes.”

Felt said the North Carolina media “has pointed out that Ted Budd had one of the best voting records before the final months of his US Senate campaign.”

Representatives of the other members of parliament mentioned here did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.

While most lawmakers remain in their seats, campaigning for higher office despite losing a lot of votes – as presidential candidates from Barack Obama to Ted Cruz have done – some have resigned their seats to focus solely on their campaigns. Charlie Crist resigned his House seat last August after winning Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, for example, and Bob Dole also resigned in 1996 when the Kansas senator and Senate GOP leader ran for president. But that is far from the norm.

“The vote is a sacred bond between legislators and their constituents,” Goll said. “All too often lawmakers violate this trust by not voting in Congress, and millions of Americans lose their voice in Washington and lose confidence in the system.”