Big shocker many US Senators careless about voting

By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog

ST. LOUIS — Former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin missed nearly 55 percent of congressional votes during his last two months in office — high numbers, but better than his tally from the previous quarter.

Missouri Watchdog reported in August that Akin, who lost his U.S. Senate bid to Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, was absent for 85 percent of votes during the third quarter of 2012, (a number that grew to 87.5 percent by quarter’s end.)

That occurred during the pre-election campaign season, in the weeks after Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” ignited a firestorm of controversy. McCaskill’s campaign used those statistics against her Republican opponent.

But Akin’s post-election attendance didn’t improve much, and his numbers look worse when compared to others. Three of his Missouri congressional colleagues — U.S. Reps. Billy Long and Blaine Luetkemeyer and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt — didn’t miss a single vote in the last half of 2012.

Akin’s term ended earlier this month. Watchdog could not reach him for comment.

But Missouri’s contingent on Capitol Hill continues to lag behind peers in showing up for work, as only Luetkemeyer and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler have missed fewer votes during their time in Congress than the median number for sitting members of the House (2.2 percent) and Senate (2.0 percent.)

It’s notable the two members of the delegation who missed the most votes during the last two months of 2012 were lame ducks. U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, who missed 11.8 percent of votes, also left office this month.

While he can’t point to specific data on whether lame ducks miss more votes than their peers, University of Missouri political science professor Peverill Squiresaid he’s not surprised.

“If they don’t think they have to face the voters, they may not care that they open themselves up to criticism,” he said

Recent and career totals for Missouri’s 2012 delegation include:

Senators

Roy Blunt –  Q4 0 percent, career 2.3 percent

Claire McCaskill – Q4 10 percent, career 2.7 percent
Reps

Todd Akin – Q4 54.9 percent, career 5.4 percent

Russ Carnahan – Q4 11.8 percent, career 2.3 percent

Lacy Clay – Q4 20 percent, career 7.1 percent

Emanuel Cleaver – Q4 7.8 percent, career 3.5 percent

Jo Ann Emerson – Q4 5.9 percent, career 3.3 percent

Sam Graves – Q4 7.8 percent, career 4.4 percent

Vicky Hartzler – Q4 3.9 percent, career 1.8 percent

Billy Long – Q4 0 percent, career 3.2 percent

Blaine Luetkemeyer – Q4 0 percent, career 0.9 percent

Over his 12-year congressional career, Akin missed 5.4 percent of the votes, more than all of the sitting Missouri delegation except William Lacy Clay, who has missed 7.1 percent in his dozen years in office.

An unusual quirk of the numbers is that nearly all of those listed missed more votes in November and December than they did between July and September. The exceptions were Akin, Blunt, Long and Luetkemeyer.

“There are usually more missed votes while members are campaigning, but quarter four goes past election season,” said Josh Tauberer, who tabulates various congressional statistics at GovTrack.us.

Akin’s numbers are high, but others have missed more. Texas congressman Ron Paul was absent for 92 percent of votes during a good portion of 2012 as he campaigned for president.

After she was seriously injured by an assassin’s bullets, Arizona DemocratGabrielle Giffords missed 98.5 percent of votes in 2011. She returned to the House floor that August during her recovery to cast her only vote to help pass a bill to raise the debt limit.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Louisiana, introduced a bill last summer that would dock a day’s pay for members of the House who missed any votes that day, but H.R. 6085 died in the Committee on House Administration.

Most members of the House and Senate receive an annual salary of $174,900, although those elected to higher positions within those bodies receive more.

While not all votes are the same — perhaps a procedural vote doesn’t carry as much weight as the vote to extend the Bush tax cuts, for example — Squire said most constituents wouldn’t categorize them.

“Voters tend to think their elected officials should be on the floor casting votes when they have the opportunity,” he said.