By The Hill Editors - 11/16/07 07:43 PM EST
After 1,085 votes this year, things got a bit testy Wednesday on the House floor.
Irked that his colleagues are taking their time to come to the well of the House to register their votes, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pointedly reminded them that a 15-minute vote is meant to last 15 minutes, no longer.
Voting late, he said, is becoming too common and “is inconsiderate to every member who comes in a timely fashion.”
Hoyer’s message was presumably directed at the senior members of his caucus. Nervous that missed votes could be used against them in the next election, legislators in their first few terms are more likely to be on time than veterans of the lower chamber. Furthermore, lawmakers with a significant amount of seniority have been known to get a heads-up from leadership that a floor vote is about to be closed so they can hurry up and record their yea or nay.
Perhaps leadership is getting tired of making those calls.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), an outspoken Armed Services subcommittee chairman who is in his 10th term, did not take kindly to Hoyer’s comments.
He advised Hoyer to do something about the Capitol Hill elevators, noting that some tourists ignore the “members only” sign above them.
The banter went back and forth a bit longer and then the House went back to its business.
The Hoyer-Abercrombie exchange is an indication of several things. First, members, aides and lobbyists are going on fumes. It’s been a long year, as evidenced by the record-setting number of votes in the lower chamber.
But floor time is precious and there is still plenty left to do this year. Hoyer wants to maximize that time while ensuring that his members are there for a tight vote.
It is worth pointing out that four members of the House (not counting special-election winners) have made it to every vote this year: Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) and Ralph Regula (R-Ohio). That is an impressive feat.
Meanwhile, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) have missed only one vote each, according to a count on WashingtonPost.com.
Missed votes are something that leadership officials always track. They don’t like to be surprised when a member fails to show without explanation.
At the top of House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) daily whip notice, which is a rundown of the floor’s anticipated vote schedule, it states in bold letters, “Any anticipated Member absences for votes this week should be reported to the Office of the Majority Whip.”
Running the House is not easy. Hoyer and Clyburn have made themselves clear to their members: Make sure you vote and be on time. And please don’t make excuses.