WASHINGTON (Talon News) — The job of an elected official is, in part, to vote on legislation put before them. The job of a political candidate is, in part, to campaign so as to meet as many people as possible. Therein lies the conflict. Several Democrat presidential candidates have missed a significant number of votes on Capitol Hill, including important votes dealing with Iraq, while campaigning for the White House and attacking President George W. Bush for his handling of the Iraq conflict.
Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) on Sunday was in New Hampshire explaining to voters how Democrats are better at handling the economy. “When Democrats hold office, we do better; the pie grows for everybody,” he reportedly told voters in that first-in-the-nation primary state. Last Friday, Gephardt told voters Bush was the “worst” president he had served with during his time on Capitol Hill.
The Union Leader quoted Gephardt as saying, “George [W.] Bush is the worst president I’ve served with, and I’ve served with five. I’m becoming nostalgic even for Reagan. … I might even be nostalgic for Nixon.”
What hasn’t Gephardt been doing? Casting votes on Capitol Hill. Congressional Quarterly has been tracking votes in both the House of Representatives and the Senate during this session. There have been 397 votes cast in the 108th session in the House and 290 votes cast in the Senate. So far, Gephardt has missed 356 (90%) House votes.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) campaigned last Wednesday in the Bronx. Kerry attacked Bush’s record on fighting terrorism and protecting Americans from terrorists. “Nearly two years ago, President Bush came to New York and stood at Ground Zero and gave his commitment. I wish the President would come back now and ask first defenders whether the commitment has been kept,” Kerry said. “We cannot afford to leave the frontlines of homeland security without the resources they need anymore than we can afford to leave our soldiers vulnerable to enemy attack in Iraq.”
Kerry continued, “And let me state it plainly: Just as we did not have a viable plan for Iraq after the capture of Baghdad, today we still do not have a real plan and enough resources for preparedness against a terrorist attack.”
Kerry and his fellow White House hopefuls have been pressing hard against the Bush administration on Iraq and the war on terror. Kerry, however, missed votes this year that dealt with Iraq’s reconstruction and the Iraqi Intelligence Commission. In total, Kerry has missed 52 percent of the votes cast in the Senate this year.
CQ did not include the two votes Kerry missed due to surgery and recovery in February.
Most of the others among the Democrat field have also missed votes this year. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) has missed 115 votes as of Monday. Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who announced his candidacy in May, has missed 72 votes. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) has missed 20 percent of the votes cast this year.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), though not as dominant as the others in recent national polls, has not missed a single vote this year. Kucinich has been an outspoken critic of the administration and was one of the few legislators who voted against supporting the military action against Iraq.