Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another Look at Minnick's Record

[Editor's Note: Comments on this post have been closed. Explanation to follow.]

Open Congress lists Rep. Mike Castle (R-Delaware) as the member of Congress that Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) most often votes with. An interesting comparison given that Rep. Castle votes with his party, the Republican party, 85% of the time. The member of Congress that Minnick votes with least often? Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) who happens to vote with her party, the Democratic party, 97% of the time. Walt Minnick is listed as the Democrat she votes least often with and the Republican Rep. Lee votes least often with? Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. Yes, the Virginia Foxx who referred to Matthew Shepard's legal label as a hate crime victim a "hoax." This may seem like the political version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but the truth of this is that Walt Minnick's voting record is a disappointment to progressives.

Rep. Minnick has not turned out to be the guy the Democrats, especially the Idaho Democratic Party, said he would be. Minnick's supporters and staffers will contend that this is what Minnick campaigned as and he has held true to his independent values. The problem is, progressives who had their doubts about Minnick during the campaign were assured that when votes came up that really mattered to progressives and the Democratic party, Minnick would vote the party line when it counted.

The difference between the Minnick we saw campaigning last year and the Minnick we see on the floor of the House is that last year Minnick was campaigning against Bill Sali's absurdity and the Minnick we see now is campaigning against a soon-to-be-named conservative. Without question, Walt Minnick has been on the re-election campaign trail since the day he was sworn in. He apparently is not at all concerned about Idaho Democrats who voted for him, to provide the base of the votes that swept him into office.

Recently, Minnick's office released a "closer look" at the congressman's voting record, votes representative of key Democratic successes thus far in the 111th Congress. As you'll notice, the "closer look" seems to completely ignore some of Minnick's key votes against his party. Here is a list of legislation that Minnick did not vote with his party on, including legislation that our Republican congressman was able to vote with the Democrats on:

H.R. 1-American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
(Stimulus Bill)
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 31-Lumbee Recognition Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, Yes
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 626- Federal Employees Paid Paternal Leave Act of 2009
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 911-Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, Yes
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1018- Restore Our American Mustangs Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1299-Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009

Minnick, No
Simpson, Yes
Democratic party, Yes
(This vote was 416-1, Minnick was the lone no vote.)

H.R. 1575-End Government Reimbursement of Excessive Executive Disbursements (End GREED) Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1586-To impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1664-Pay for Performance Act (Grayson-Himes Act of 2009)
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes


H.R. 1886-Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2009 (PEACE Act)
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 2454-American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 2749- Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

In baseball there is little doubt that players pay close attention to the numbers--batting averages, on-base percentage, etc.--and in politics with the statistics that are available, it is more than possible that congressmen are keeping close track of their voting records. Open Congress and other congressional statistic machines list exactly how often a member of congress votes with his/her party. That percentage for Minnick has certainly not been ignored and in many circles Minnick's supporters have countered that Democrats shouldn't complain (hey, we finally got a Democrat elected, right?) about Minnick's record as long as he is voting 50+1% of the time with the Democratic party. As of today, he is voting with the Democrats 65% of the time.

Does Walt Minnick have a formula for how often he can vote with the Democrats and still be re-elected in his conservative district? If so, that might explain why he has voted against his party on numerous procedural votes leading up to the final votes on particular pieces of legislation, only to vote with his party on final passage (e.g. the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010, H.Res. 371-hate crimes legislation, and SCHIP reauthorization).

If there is a formula he's using and surely a guy who has been running for re-election from day one has a formula, then a few votes have been for appearances as well (e.g. the vote against Nancy Pelosi for the speakership and votes against approval of the House Journal).

The only votes that appear to come from a deeply principled place in the psyche of Minnick are on appropriation bills. Appropriation bills riddled with pork projects must be the reason he votes almost consistently with other fiscal conservatives and the self-described Blue Dogs against major agency and department appropriations. Minnick has to realize that in voting against fat appropriations bills he'll be voting against a few Idaho projects or the opportunity for them.

With a voting record that is clearly so two-sided, Minnick is putting himself in a precarious situation. Surely there will be some of those Republicans left who voted for Minnick over the insane antics of Bill Sali. Surely there will be some of the moderates who chose a fiscally conservative Democrat over a clown. But will there be any Democrats left to vote for Minnick?

[Update: Randy Stapilus points to an interesting study that finds Walt Minnick to be the most conservative House member in the Northwest. More conservative than the Republican lawmakers. Response from Minnick's office? He's an independent and it's Jeff Flake's fault. Also, Dave Neiwert of Crooks & Liars has a great piece on Minnick and Left Side of the Moon has a roundup of sorts.]

16 comments:

Wordsmith said...

Whoa - you GO, girl!

idaho-dem said...

Your logic is completely flawed. Minnick is the only democrat who can win in Idaho---and if we ever want to build a stable of competitve democrats in Idaho, it helps to have at least one in office. How many dems are in the legislature? 7? Wow, great work. Would Bill Sali/Vaugh Ward/Ken Roberts have voted for Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Act, Hate Crimes, Clean Water, Mortgage and lending reform, FDA regulation of tobacco, SCHIP coverage for an 11 million children without health insurance, or the most progressive consumer reforms of the credit card companies? Hell no they wouldn't have...but Minnick did. So if you want to go back into the wilderness as a party by attacking and undermining Minnick (aka "the only show in town"), then have at it. You'll just hurt yourself. Do the Math: Minnick is with you 65% of the time and looks like he'll get re-elected. Sali/Ward/Roberts were with you 0%. Get serious. Read Minnick's bio: top of his class in business and law school at harvard, resigned in protost from the nixon white house and switched parties, ceo of a public company, board member of the idaho conservation league and key leader in trying to reform Idaho education (compare this to Sali/Ward/Roberts who have never created a job or taken an intelligent look at these policies). Don't be silly.

MountainGoat said...

What are you talking about idaho-dem? Turning a blind eye to Minnick's voting record simply because he's a Democrat and "the only show in town" doesn't help anyone. The Political Game has done a service by providing a more complete picture of his record and keeping Minnick's feet to the fire on important Democratic issues like healthcare reform. If you are satisfied and believe that acting like a Republican (calling a public option "socialized medicine" for example) is the only way a Democrat can get elected in Idaho then you've set your sights way too low.

Wordsmith said...

I wrote about Walt's vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Act...

So, Walt Minnick voted FOR the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, but AGAINST the Paycheck Fairness Act. Can you explain THAT one? Do you understand what the act is about?

Tara A. Rowe said...

Flawed logic is not being able to vote for H.R. 911 because it expands government.

Wordsmith, I remember you writing about the Paycheck Fairness Act and I don't have an answer for you on how his vote on that made any sense. Still don't have an answer for you months later...

The Dead Acorn said...

Minnick did vote for the final passage of SCHIP, but on two procedural votes to try to stop (or delay) it, he voted with the Republicans (1 of 5 Dems on one, 1 of 2 Dems on the other).

Tara A. Rowe said...

I wasn't suggesting that Minnick didn't vote for SCHIP, he did vote for it, I was simply outlining exactly what you said--he voted with the Republicans on the procedural votes.

The Dead Acorn said...

Tara ... oops. I missed the part where you said, in your original post, exactly what I did in my comment. This is why I shouldn't be allowed on the interwebs.

Tara A. Rowe said...

No worries, I had to check back and make sure that what I said made sense... Wouldn't be the first time I thought something and wrote the opposite.

Wordsmith said...

Jeff Flake truly lives up to his name.

idaho-dem said...

As an avid C-Span watcher and close follower of the House, I have a few respectful responses to some of these posts that I don’t think have been considered:

1) Procedural Votes: Some of you have criticized Minnick voting for or against certain procedural items leading up to final passage of bills…like SCHIP. A Quick thought: some of these preliminary procedural votes are very important and don’t necessarily mean that a Member opposes final passage. For example….
a vote on the “Previous Question (PQ)” is offered by the Majority Party. If you vote for it, a Member is arguing to cut off debate on the issues. If Minnick voted against the PQ, he’s essentially saying that he wants a chance to speak on the issue or thinks that the House needs more time to alter the bill. Sometimes, the minority will use these as stall tactics---other times it is an effective tool to improve the bill. Another procedural vote on a major bill is the vote on a “Rule”. The rule can be “open” and any Member can offer an amendment, “closed” where no Members can offer amendments, or structured where the Rules Committee will arbitrarily set an amount of time for debate (usually an hour) and how many amendments each side can offer (usually anywhere from 1 – 10 amendments per side). It is important to note that any rule can be “self executing” and include new language to the bill that a Member (like Minnick) might opposes---even if he or she supports the underlying bill. Many interest groups that support a bill look at all of these procedural votes as “stalling legislation” and “votes of opposition to a key issue”. On the contrary, they are highly substantive matters that should be weighed separately from a vote on final passage. Another typical procedural vote is the Motion to Recommit (MTR). It is the minority’s final chance to amend the bill. Sometime it’s a good, substantive idea that can be adopted right on the floor (and the Majority accepts it). Other times it is just a GOP hack-job to hijack the bill. What matters is where the Member is on final passage---that’s how we should judge them. Minnick voted for SCHIP to expand health coverage to 11 million kids, Clean Water, Hate Crimes legislation to expand civil rights and protection to gay Americans and people with disabilities, expanded foreign aid and diplomatic activities, mortgage and lending reform, green school modernization, FDA regulation of tobacco, Credit Card Holders bill of rights, Lilly Leadbetter fair pay act, Exec Compensation Reform, a new GI Bill, and 32 of the 36 “Top Priorities” of the Obama Administration and Speaker Pelosi. The facts are the facts.

2) Lilly Leadbetter vs. Paycheck Fairness: I looked both of these up. Minnick voted for “Lilly Leadbetter”, a bill that had a negotiated agreement between key labor and small business groups to open up the ability for women to file workplace discrimination lawsuits against their employers over a longer period of time with reasonable caps and timetables on lawsuits. This bill passed the House twice (with Minnick’s support both times) and has been signed into law by President Obama. The Paycheck Fairness Act is stuck in the Senate. It was more of a hard-line bill that would lead to unlimited class action lawsuits for a few reasons: 1) it would change current law where an affected employee would have to “knowingly opt-in” to a class action suit with certain limitations to a new system where all “affected employees” would automatically be included in the class action suit (with no limits) and would have to “opt-out” of the suit. This is unreasonable and would tie struggling businesses in constant litigation. Bottom line, Minnick supported the better bill---Obama and Pelosi agreed. It’s law.

idaho-dem said...

3) Public Option: The Speaker’s and President’s claim that a “Public Option would act as a free-market competitor with existing insurers” is laughable. Imagine if you’re a business and your competitor across the street has the ability to underwrite HUGE losses by printing money and issuing bonds to cover their limitless costs. How long do you think you’d stay in business? The Public Option will swell, driving out the competition it would need to reduce costs and increase efficiency in delivery systems. Who covers these massive losses? The American taxpayer. The House Tri-Committee bill does nothing to address the 800 lb gorilla in the room: “Massive Health Care Costs”. The government needs to set the rules of the game, find hundreds of billions of dollars in savings in the existing system to cover more of the 47 million uninsured Americans, and promote critical programs for preventative care and basic insurance for every American. The National Debt is now 80% of our GDP. This is real and it matters. All Democrats, including Minnick, want to cover everyone. But we can’t be ignorant to the facts----we’re broke. And we need to fix the proximate cause of the broken health care system that W. left us: out of control costs!

4) Votes with the Party: Idaho’s 1st CD is the 14th most conservative district out of the 435 in the U.S. House and the first 13 are all held by Republicans. So let’s be a little more realistic with how far to the left Minnick can go---remember, his title is “Representative”, not “Professor”. Think about how much you love having some mental midget GOP hack come around to your town telling you what “values” you should have. Awesome, right? According to the Washington Post and Congressional Quarterly, Minnick has the most independent voting record of any Member in either party. He thinks these things through---again, would you rather have someone with you 65% of the time, or never? So what he doesn’t request earmarks? Obama campaigned against them and said he wanted them banned. He went back on that. Minnick did not. Jeff Flake serves an important purpose in the House and he annoys Republicans even more than Democrats by calling Members on the floor to defend pork projects they submitted. It’s good governance. Idahoans deserve that much.

Look, I obviously think Minnick is doing a good job and think a lot of these criticisms are unrealistic. This is a democracy---blogs promote a healthy forum for debate. We’d all like to see Members vote the way we want to on everything. But, seriously, look around Idaho and see what’s coming if you let Minnick go. And ask yourself, will any of those GOP jokers vote for 32 of the President’s first 36 priorities?

Take what you can get.

MountainGoat said...

Gee, idaho-dem, it's obvious that you not only closly follow CSPAN and the U.S. House, you have very close ties to Minnick. You know it would be very unethical to be working for Minnick while portraying yourself as just another Idaho Democrat. I'm just sayin'....

Tara A. Rowe said...

idaho-dem, I too find it suspect that you have all of this at your fingertips and took a maximum of 6 minutes on the site before posting your cut-and-paste diatribe. You need not be so condescending...I have the House Rules Manual sitting here at my desk (have one on my desk at home and one on my desk at work), you know the nice, bound leather copies each member of Congress is given when they're elected? I've read it, cover to cover, I don't need a lecture on how the House operates.

Tara A. Rowe said...

And on Lillyledbetter--so what you're saying is Minnick only supports the bills the Democrats will send to the Senate if they're going to make it through the Senate quickly and without a fight? Interesting.

"Think about how much you love having some mental midget GOP hack come around to your town telling you what “values” you should have. Awesome, right?"

Funny, the GOP hack that comes to my town and tells me what my values should be is Rep. Simpson and he and Minnick are lockstep, with their joint press releases and all.

Wordsmith said...

Wow...that's quite the response up there. Pretty darned knowledgeable - who could it be? Most likely it's NOT Mike Simpson, Tara.