Lawmakers seeking promotions miss votes

Getty Images

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) this year has missed the most votes of any House member seeking higher office while Senate hopeful Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) has logged a perfect attendance record.
 

ADVERTISEMENT
The decision of voting on the House floor versus shaking hands with constituents has long posed a quandary for lawmakers who are pursuing a promotion. Missing votes gives opponents campaign ammunition, but spending time in Washington, D.C. doesn't get votes back home.

 Schwartz, who is running for governor, hasn’t voted since April 4. In 2014, she has missed more than 60 percent of the House votes.
 
Greg Vadala, Schwartz’s communications director, said the five-term lawmaker is committed to meet her constituents’ needs. 
 
“She is listening to Pennsylvania families and fighting to create economic opportunity, protect Medicare and strengthen the middle class,” Vadala said in an email to The Hill.
 
But that is not enough, the editorial board of the Intelligencer, a newspaper serving Doylestown, Pa., wrote last month.
 
“She is denying her constituents in the 13th District the representation they expected when they elected her in 2012,” the editorial states. “She was not elected to Congress to run for governor.”
 
Schwartz is in a competitive primary, unlike some other House members who have launched a bid for higher office. Therefore, comparing Schwartz to these legislators is not an apples-to-apples comparison because they don’t face a challenging race this spring/summer. In the month before the general election, Congress typically adjourns for a month and holds no votes.
 
Missed votes by lawmakers seeking higher office are nothing new. For example, both President Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) missed months of votes when they faced off in the 2008 battle for the White House.
 
Three House GOP members from Georgia running for Senate this year, Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston, have all missed votes this year. Kingston, who is considered a frontrunner for the GOP nomination, has missed the most (43) of the trio. Broun has missed only seven.
 
Broun told The Hill that the “people of Georgia elected me to do my job,” adding that being a candidate comes second. He also chided Kingston for missing a vote earlier this month on holding ex-IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt and another that set up a special committee to investigate the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
 
Kingston did not comment for this article.
 
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is running for Senate, has only missed one vote this year.
 
She said juggling her congressional tasks while running for another office is challenging, but
that’s “what I signed up for when I decided to run….this is the one most important thing that we do.”
 
Hanabusa said she might not be able to keep her perfect attendance record when her primary with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) comes around in August.
 
“I am certain, given the efficiency of my staff on both sides [House and campaign], what they may start to do is [to] look at the votes to make sure the votes that are important to Hawaii are not missed,” Hanabusa said.
 
Cotton, who is running against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), didn’t miss a vote in 2014 until last week. He was attending a friend’s funeral, according to a statement in the Congressional Record.
 
Others Senate candidates who have missed fewer than 10 votes this year are Reps. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.). Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who has launched a gubernatorial bid, has missed only one roll call.
 
Daines noted that he had been in business for 28 years before being elected and that experience helps him multi-task.
 
Lankford, meanwhile, has gone after his main GOP rival, former Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon, on missed votes. The congressman’s office pointed out that Shannon, who still represents District 62 in Oklahoma, has missed a vast majority of votes.
 
In an email to the Tulsa World, Shannon said, “This campaign is about something larger than a few votes at the state Capitol. It's about the future of our country."
 
George Washington University political science professor Chris Deering pointed out there is no punishment for incumbents missing votes, other than campaign fodder for their opponents.
 
“If I am going to know something about my member, what am I going to care about the most? Probably their issue position,” Deering said. “And then am I really going to care about whether they have voted? Probably not.”
 
Senators who are being challenged by their House counterparts have also skipped some votes in 2014. Pryor has missed 25, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) 11, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) 2 and Schatz 1. Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), who replaced Max Baucus in February, hasn’t missed any. There have been 157 roll call votes in the Senate this year.
 

Missed votes by House members seeking higher office*
Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa.
135
Jack Kingston, R-Ga.
43
Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.
27
James Lankford, R-Okla.
17
Bill Cassidy, R-La.
13
Gary Peters, D-Mich.
13
Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
10
Paul Broun, R-Ga.  
7
Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
6
Bruce Braley, D-Iowa
5
Steve Daines, R-Mont.
3
Michael Michaud, D-Maine
1
Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
1
Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii
0

* There have been 217 roll call votes in the House this year.