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U.S. House reps fall short of perfect attendance

By   /   September 4, 2012  /   No Comments

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — None of Pennsylvania’s sitting 19 U.S. representatives achieved perfect attendance for recorded votes, according to records compiled by GovTrack.us.

The representatives cite various reasons for missed votes including district needs trumping legislative duties, illness or personal matters.

And while most Pennsylvania representatives hover near the national median — missing 2.4 percent of eligible votes — there are a few outliers.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-District 2, tops the list. Fattah missed 8 percent of votes in his 16-year career in Congress, or 923 out of 12,206 votes. In 2007, when he was running for mayor of Philadelphia, Fattah skipped 154 out of 1,186 votes. This year, by contrast, he’s missed just 16 votes.

“Congressional duties include more than just voting, and at times he has made the tough decision to miss a procedural vote in order to strategically promote and advance the interests of the region,” wrote press secretary Ron Goldwyn in an email. “These are never easy decisions and the congressman weighs how he can best represent his constituents whenever considering missing a vote.”

GovTrack.us statistics do not specify the type of votes lawmakers missed. The website keeps track of legislation in Congress and the state legislatures.

U.S. Rep. Tom Marino

While serving his first term, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-District 10, was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and underwent surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. His daughter also was treated for cystic fibrosis.

Marino also missed votes after floods in Pennsylvania last summer from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, contributing to a 7 percent missed vote rate.

“Sometimes Tom’s commitment to the people of the 10th District means being in Pennsylvania rather than in Washington, as was the case a year ago when the district experienced devastating floods in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, ” wrote Marino’s press secretary, Sarah Wolf, in an email.

U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach

U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-District 6, has missed 4 percent of votes in his eight-year tenure. Kori Walter, spokesman for Gerlach, said the congressman misses votes only because of illness or family matters, or if he is meeting with Pennsylvanian constituents visiting Washington, D.C.

Walter pointed out that votes are sometimes rescheduled, causing representatives to miss something for which they’re suddenly double-booked.

Pennsylvania’s best attendance record is held by U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-District 8. He’s missed three votes out of 1,497 since began his term in 2011, putting his percentage of missed votes barely above zero. Just 17 other representatives in the House have better records.

U.S. Rep. Charles Dent

In 2012, two Pennsylvania reps have perfect attendance so far, including Charles Dent, R-District 15, and Lou Barletta, R-District 11. Dent sports a better career record, having missed 20 votes in a seven-year period that included 6,248 votes. Barletta, by comparison, has missed 24 votes and is wrapping up his first term.

U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-District 4, did have a perfect attendance record — until this year. In April, Altmire lost a primary for the newly redrawn District 12 against incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, R-District 12, and has since missed a total of 11 roll-call votes.

Altmire first broke the streak when he attended a Medal of Honor ceremony in the spring.

Not all House members are satisfied with the spotty attendance records of their fellow representatives. In July, Republican Louisiana U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany introduced the “No Show, No Pay” Act. The bill would dock a member’s pay for missing a vote.

All Pennsylvania House seats are up for grabs this fall, with redistricting compressing the state into 18 districts.

Here’s the breakdown of attendance records for all Pennsylvania representatives:


Melissa formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.