'08 Watch: Obama Stays Perfect, For Now...
For anyone who's taking attendance on Capitol Hill, last week was a busy one, as a bipartisan collection of 2008 presidential candidates bypassed senatorial duties for the campaign trail.
Sen. John McCain took the moral high ground of blasting as a "purely political stunt" Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to call a cloture vote on Saturday to end debate on a nonbinding resolution of disapproval on the president's Iraq policy. Instead, the Arizona Republican opted for Iowa where he joked about his love of ethanol -- the local product that he once opposed as a waste of federal subsidies.
Across the aisle, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) missed a pair of votes Thursday on judicial nominees so that he could campaign in New Hampshire, a trip that featured a meet-and-greet at the Red Hook Brewery in Portsmouth.
And Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) missed both a Tuesday cloture vote on the $463.5 billion spending bill that funded half the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year and the vote on final passage for the spending bill Wednesday. Biden also missed the vote Wednesday to confirm a U.S. District Court judge, one of three judicial nominations so far this year missed by the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Three of the 10 senators who have missed the most votes so far in the 110th Congress are declared presidential candidates. A fourth, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), is considering running and has in the process missed more votes (9) than Dodd and other officially declared candidates.
Of the half dozen declared presidential candidates in the Senate, Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is the only one with perfect attendance so far. But that's not likely to last much longer, if Saturday is any example of the scheduling hazards that a campaign imposes on one's senatorial duties. Starting at a campaign event in South Carolina, Obama jetted up to Washington for the vote on the Iraq resolution, which took place around 2 p.m. ET. By late afternoon, he was in Richmond collecting the endorsement of Gov. Timothy Kaine (D-Va.) and raising money for the state's Democratic Party, before heading out to California for a string of events Sunday and Monday.
After the Saturday vote, an already haggard Obama told Capitol Briefing he wasn't even sure how he was getting to Richmond. "Driving, I think," he said, then pausing. "Maybe flying -- my staff doesn't tell me."
In no instance so far has a single senator's missed vote been the difference in a bill's passage in the Senate. But the trend of absentee presidential candidates is going to cause headaches for Reid as the year moves forward. He's got four declared presidential candidates on his side of the aisle, while only McCain and Sen. Sam Brownback (Kansas) have so far declared for the GOP nomination.
Brownback has been the most absent senator of those running for president, missing 22 votes this year. While his aides blamed the missed votes on an overseas trip to the Middle East, the Associated Press reported that only nine of those were called during the trip. The other 13 missed votes would still place Brownback at the top of the missed-vote list of 2008 contenders.
Here's the breakdown of the most missed votes among declared (or possible) candidates:
CANDIDATE TOTAL VOTES MISSED % MISSED
Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) 22 42.3 Joe Biden (D-Del.) 12 23.1 Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) 9 17.3 Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) 8 15.4 John McCain (R-Ariz.) 5 9.6 Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) 2 3.8 Barack Obama (D-Ill.) 0 0
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