If the 2014 congressional election started today (I found a page showing incumbent Congressman Derek Kilmer has raised $15.55 so far. I’m guessing the total is actually more than that, but we have nothing official yet.) here is a campaign charge you might hear.
“Derek Kilmer has voted with his party 97 percent of the time.”
Or maybe this one:
“Derek Kilmer has voted with Nancy Pelosi nine out of 10 times.”
Both quotes are true, but they lack context. There have been 30 votes in the U.S. House of Representatives since Kilmer joined it earlier this month. Some are procedural and don’t deal with issues at all, like voting to approve Congress’ journal or to adjourn. If either of those mattered we might hear this one:
“Doc Hastings was the only Washington member of Congress with the guts to vote to adjourn.”
We’ve addressed this before, but it’s worth repeating. Context matters. Of the 30 votes taken in Congress, the two parties agreed with each other 11 times. Again, those were procedural issues. The first vote after the roll call was on who should be named House speaker. Republicans voted for John Boehner. Kilmer voted with Democrats for Nancy Pelosi. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Kilmer is a Democrat, after all, and he wanted to see his party’s leader holding the gavel. Everyone knew it wouldn’t happen and it didn’t.
On the other 19 votes, many were questions on the same issue, and Kilmer agreed with the majority in his party on all but one of them.
That one is critical. Of the 30 votes taken, two were considered “key votes” in the Washington Post vote database. One was the race for speaker. I guess I agree that one probably should be considered “key,” but not like the other one on the list of two. That was the one to suspend the debt limit until May and to suspend Congressional pay starting April 15 if there is no budget. On that one a majority of Republicans voted “Yes,” and a majority of Democrats voted “No.” Kilmer, in this case sided with Republicans. He issued a statement saying why he thought the measure was a good one.
“I believe America should pay its bills even if they were racked up before I came to DC. This plan prevents the immediate threat of default that could cause harm to our nation’s economy. Hopefully, this is the first step toward a real bipartisan effort to forge a balanced solution to our long-term fiscal challenges. This plan also forces Congress to live by the same principle that all folks in our region live by: if you don’t do your job, you shouldn’t be paid. I’m supporting this bill today because I’ve always said I’ll do what’s right for the families and employers of our region, regardless of whether it’s a Democratic or Republican idea.”
Kilmer wasn’t alone among Washington Democrats, joining fellow freshmen Denny Heck and Suzan DelBene. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Camas Republican, voted contrary to her party on the same vote.
Just as it’s almost worthless to draft statistics that include meaningless votes on procedure, it’s way too early to form conclusions on a voting record that only includes two votes that seem to matter. Nonetheless, stay tuned to the “key” votes tally and see if bipartisanship spreads.