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OR: Congressional delegates show strong voting records despite distance

By   /   September 5, 2012  /   No Comments

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader

PORTLAND — When it comes to showing up for their public duties, Oregon’s congressional delegation is mostly hitting the mark — despite the distance.

Of Oregon’s five sitting U.S. representatives, three have had roll-call voting records above the national median of 2.4 percent, according to GovTrack.us, a nonpartisan research tool that tracks the voting records of lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures.

All five of Oregon’s U.S. House districts are up for election in November. The U.S. Senate seats, held by lawmakers who have voting records below the national median, are not.

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-District 5, had the worst record, missing 5 percent of votes since 2009, or 165 of 3,158. Representatives from Schrader’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

U.S Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-District 3, had the second worst voting streak, missing 4 percent since 1965, or 451 of 11,122.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Blumenauer’s spokesman Arran Robertson said making 96 percent of the votes is nothing to sneeze at. He also said timing and a lack of flights play a factor in getting to Washington D.C.

“Part of it comes with having a West Coast office,” Robertson said, noting the representative has to weigh the importance of the vote. “Maybe it’s just naming a post office. Maybe it’s better to stay in Portland and meet with folks here.”

And U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-District 4, also missed 4 percent since 1987, or 623 of 16,461. His office also could not be reached for comment.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

Since February when she first started serving in the U.S. House, Suzanne Bonamici, D-District 1, has had perfect attendance, casting 519 votes.

“As a Member of Congress, I have a responsibility to my constituents and to Americans to do my job and vote on legislation that impacts our nation,” Bonamici said in an email. “I take that responsibility very seriously, and will continue to do so as long as I have the honor to serve in office. ”

Also below the national median is U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-District 2, missing 2 percent of roll-call votes, or 148 of 9,679  since 1999.

“Voting in the House is a significant responsibility that Rep. Walden takes very seriously when he’s in Washington D.C.,” Walden’s spokesman Andrew Malcolm said. “Rep. Walden gets back to Oregon pretty much every weekend when he’s in Washington.”

Malcolm said Walden has made 465 round trips between Oregon and D.C. since being elected. “He’s very active and busy when he is in Washington D.C. and when he is in Oregon,” he said.

But voting records aren’t the only gauge of how elected leaders are performing.

“It’s important to make sure your representative is showing up,” founder and creator of Govtrack.us Joshua Tauberer said. “I’m not going to say that it’s the most important thing. I don’t want to give it too much importance. It’s one of many.”

Tauberer, who started Govtrack.us eight years ago out of college, said voters should look at what legislation lawmakers are introducing and if it jives with their interests and needs.

He said most of the higher percentages of missed votes come from people with illnesses or other major life events. He said some lawmakers will miss time for campaigning as well.

Robertson could not give specifics over the votes Blumenauer missed but said his worse record — missing 59 percent of the votes in the fourth quarter of 2006 — was a lame-duck period after the U.S. midterm election that consisted of one week of votes.

“I think that kind of distorts it,” he said.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden can boast a better track record than the median, with Merkley missing 1 percent, or 9 of 1,120 recorded votes since 2009 and Wyden missing 2 percent, or 210 of 13,097 since 1981.

Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org, or follow her on Twitter @ShelbySebens.

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Shelby Sebens