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House GOP Faces Reversal of (Absentee) Fortunes

Senators aren't the only ones missing votes, these days.

In a reversal of fortunes that makes life that much more difficult for the minority party, House Republicans are having a hard time keeping some of their players on the field.

In the first six weeks of the 110th Congress, more Republicans have been laid up on the injured-reserve list than Democrats. Of the 10 House lawmakers who've missed the most votes this year, nine are Republicans. (This breakdown does not include Rep. Charlie Norwood, the Georgia Republican who died last week after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.)

As Capitol Briefing documented Wednesday, plenty of senators are also missing votes, with the main reason being White House aspirations. But what's interesting about the House situation is that the absentee data represents a complete reversal from the 109th Congress, when over the entire two-year period eight of the 10 most absent House members were Democrats, one of whom was battling Parkinson's Disease (former Rep. Lane Evans) while three others were running for higher office.

In the 108th and 107th Congresses, the lawmakers who missed the most votes were split almost evenly between the two parties and were members who were either running for higher office or in extremely tight reelection battles at home.

Just as in the Senate, none of the House absentees has changed the outcome of votes on legislation this year, but the missing GOP lawmakers did skew the vote totals just a bit more in the Democrats' favor.

Health problems in the caucus are the big challenge facing House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and his top vote counter, Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.):

* Rep. Jo Ann Davis (Va.), who last year underwent a successful mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, has missed almost half of the 102 roll call votes recovering from subsequent surgery to unblock her urinary tract.

* Rep. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), a few weeks after surrendering the speaker's gavel, had gallbladder surgery that he reportedly had been putting off for a few years. He's been home in Aurora, Ill., recovering since late January, placing him in a tie for the second-most votes missed. (This is nothing new for Hastert, because the House speaker, by tradition, rarely votes in the chamber except during very close votes and on highly symbolic votes. For this reason, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not listed here.)

* Rep. Steve Buyer (Ind.) missed almost every vote in January and early February while recovering from a bad knee injury the occurred during a December ski trip.

But medical problems can't be blamed for all the GOP absences. Take Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.), who missed 19 votes last month while he played in the celebrity pro-am golf tournament in the Bob Hope Chrysler Desert Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. After it was reported Burton apologized on a conservative talk radio station in Indianapolis.

With the caveat that absentee trends could change dramatically over the full two years of the 110th Congress, Capitol Briefing presents the breakdown of the top 10 House members in terms of votes missed so far this year:

MEMBER                     TOTAL VOTES MISSED       % MISSED
Steven Buyer (R-Ind.)            69                    68
Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.)             50                    49
Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)          50                    49
Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)            31                    30
George Radanovich (R-Calif.)     28                    28
Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)           27                    27
Jim McDermott (D-Wash.)          26                    26
Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio)           26                    26
Sam Johnson (R-Texas)            22                    22
Dan Burton (R-Ind.)              22                    22

By Paul Kane  |  February 22, 2007; 7:10 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

Interesting how Mr. Hastert is "still recovering" from gallbladder surgery. I had my gallbladder removed while in the Air Force in '82 in a procedure that was far more intrusive than that done today. I had the surgery on a Friday, was sent home on Tuesday with two weeks convalescent leave that was extended an extra two weeks due to the inscision becoming infected. My total time out of work was 30 days. I've had friends and co-workers who have had the current laproscopic procedures who were back at work within two or three days. Of course, they (and I) actually had to work for a living.

Posted by: Richard Taylor | February 22, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Interesting how Mr. Hastert is "still recovering" from gallbladder surgery. I had my gallbladder removed while in the Air Force in '82 in a procedure that was far more intrusive than that done today. I had the surgery on a Friday, was sent home on Tuesday with two weeks convalescent leave that was extended an extra two weeks due to the inscision becoming infected. My total time out of work was 30 days. I've had friends and co-workers who have had the current laproscopic procedures who were back at work within two or three days. Of course, they (and I) actually had to work for a living.

Posted by: Richard Taylor | February 22, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post. After sitting and seeing nothing happening (i.e., no response AT ALL), I clicked a second time before giving up...

Posted by: Richard Taylor | February 22, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Of course, Mr. Burton only apologized after the local paper, historically sympathetic to him, finally woke up to this routine, and even then only addressed the issue on a very sympathetic radio show. He's been playing in that golf event for years--he mostly got away with it when the Republican Congresses took January off--and he was the lone vote against the new lobbyist-paid travel restrictions, which he's often used to find time to golf.

Posted by: Ex-Indy resident | February 22, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Imagine the carnage and disabled list of top missed voters after this year's congressional softball game!

Posted by: Chester West | February 22, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

re: gallbladder surgery ---

Sometimes even today this type of surgery is done the "old-fashioned way" (laproscopically). So we might cut the convalescing gentleman some slack.

Posted by: Steve Krause | February 22, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Taylor,

Chill out on Hastert, he's an older man and he has had health problems in the past. Give him some time to get better.

Posted by: Hastert Fan | February 22, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I can sympathize somewhat with Mr. Hastert after having had the intrusive surgery. But I was commenting mainly on the double standard that allows him to convalese at home at his leisure while most of the world is pushed to come back to work far too soon after these procedures. Beyond that, I would also imagine that many of his ills are of the self inflicted nature due to bad diet, lack of exercise, and so forth. So the sympathy only goes so far

Posted by: Richard Taylor | February 22, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm no Hastert fan, but in all fairness, I had my gallbladder out about a year ago. It took me a good 6 weeks to feel completely functional, and at that, the scar still twinged a lot for several months.

Posted by: Dee | February 22, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm no Hastert fan, but in all fairness, I had my gallbladder out about a year ago. It took me a good 6 weeks to feel completely functional, and at that, the scar still twinged a lot for several months.

Posted by: Dee | February 22, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Hassert - I could see the time for convalesing from work if he job was physically demanding. All he has to do is go to the house chambers and pull a lever. I bet if he didn't get paid for time off work I bet his big butt would be there voting.

Posted by: Steve | February 23, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Republicans missing votes is a no story. Their votes are needless and make no difference. They should just go home and revamp their ridiculous agenda and stop supporting a totally useless war and stop attacking Mexicans. From: a former Republican headquarters worker in Florida.

Posted by: mascmen7 | February 28, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

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