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.
* 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
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