On The Road To 2008 - Commentary on issues as we countdown to the next opportunity to change the direction of America

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Truth Behind Reichert's Voting Record - Part 5

This is the fifth in a series of postings that seek to look more closely at Dave Reichert's voting record. You can read the first four postings here:
  • Part 1 - H.R. 1, Implementing the 9/11Commission Recommendations Act, and H.R. 2, Fair Minimum Wage Act
  • Part 2 - H.R. 6, Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act
  • Part 3 - H.J.Res 20, Further Continuing Appropriations for FY 2007
  • Part 4 - H.R. 1361, Relief for Entrepreneurs: Coordination of Objectives and Values for Effective Recovery Act
You can also read my past comments about why these vote switches matter.

This bill, which would expand the federal law against hate crimes to include offenses based on sexual orientation, gender or disability, as well as existing categories of national origin, religion and race, was panned by the Christian right, and by Bush, who declared he would veto the bill, and praised by the ACLU, and represented another hot potato for Dave Reichert last year. What should he do? Should he vote with his party, and as his Religious Right base would want, against the bill, or should he vote for it because his constituents have been trending liberal and because, as a former Sheriff, he wouldn't want to be seen as soft on crime?

Well, as we've seen before, when faced with such a quandary, Reichert decided to do both.

For this bill we're focusing on roll calls 296 through 299 taken May 3, 2007.

After an hour of debate, consideration of the bill was approved by a 217-196 vote, with no Republicans in favor. H.RES. 364, providing for consideration of the bill then passed 213-199, again with not a single Republican vote in favor. As a Party, they simply didn't want this bill to be voted on.

H.R. 1592 was then debated on for a couple of hours. Republicans attempted to kill the bill by recommitting it with instructions. The motion failed 189-227, and while a few Republicans voted against the motion, Reichert wasn't one of them.

Finally, the vote on passage of the bill was taken, and the bill passed 237-180. Reichert joined 24 other Republicans in voting for the bill.

So in effect, Reichert did what he could to oppose the bill, and he will be able to point to that when talking to his Religious Right constituents, while hanging his hat on a vote in support of the same bill on final passage. Very convenient, although his choices raised the ire of some, and the kudos of others. Locally, readers of the Seattle Times would only know he voted for the bill, with no mention of his opposition to it.

Last week, Seattle Times political reporter David Postman, in a disjointed blog entry, made reference to my analysis of Dave Reichert's voting record:
Last week Reichert was named one of the greenest Republicans in Congress. That was met with harrumphs from Burner backers. Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer has done much analysis of Reichert’s voting record. He argues that the congressman shouldn’t get as much credit as he does for his voting record because he has a practice of voting against environmental and other bills during procedural motions and backing them on final passage.

The fact is that Reichert does have one of the strongest environmental records among Republican members of Congress. In a piece debunking Reichert’s environmental record, the Stranger’s Erica Barnett said this,

Clearly, Reichert’s better than other Republicans on some environmental issues, such as wilderness protection and fuel-economy standards.

It was not meant as a compliment. She pointed out it’s not hard to be among the best Republicans on an issue like the environment. But Barnett got to the essence of Reichert’s claim. He’s telling voters he’s different from many Republicans. That doesn’t make him an environmental champion in the Seattle model. He hasn’t yet shown that he has the long-term commitment to the issues to make him a true Dan Evans Republican.

The argument that Reichert’s votes are cheap bids at looking moderate, I think, will be a tough sell with voters if Burner needs to say Reichert voted against the bills before he voted for them.
The tenor of his comments suggests that my analysis is tainted by my bias as a supporter of Darcy Burner. However, my analysis, biased or not, is about a voting record that any reporter can study. The votes Reichert has taken in opposition to bills he then supports are not the figment of my imagination, nor have I invented this voting record for my own benefit. Yes, my conclusions are my own, but they are based on Reichert's own admission regarding the fact that his party leadership tells him "to vote a certain way". If Postman and other reporters want to suggest other explanations for his voting pattern then I'd like to hear what they have to say. Instead they appear to either ignore the fact Reichert is seemingly gaming his votes for his own self-preservation, or dismissing the fact it is happening as unimportant.

Either way, as I commented at Postman's blog, since most everything people know about Dave Reichert they know through what the media tells them, any detail they don't report that may be pertinent results in a distorted perception of the congressman, based on an incomplete picture. So if the media isn't going to cover this, or has willfully decided they know better than their readers and viewers that it isn't important, all I can do is hope that enough people will read about it here. Then they can at least make up their own mind about whether this pattern of voting is of a concern or matters to them.

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