Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why Four Senators Did Note Vote on HR 83

The CRomnibus bill, HR 83, was the last major piece of legislation in the 113th Congress.

Yet in the US Senate, four senators did not vote on the bill.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Feinstein
Part of the reason I cared was that one of my senators, Dianne Feinstein, did not vote.

I contacted her DC office, and one of the staff informed me that there was a family emergency which she had to take care of.

In her press release, she announced her support for the legislation as a whole:

“Legislating is about the art of the possible and compromise. So while I did not support everything in this spending bill, I recognized it is the result of long, difficult and bipartisan negotiations. It is not the bill I would have written, and I am disappointed that important priorities I care about were not included and other provisions I strongly oppose were. However, on the whole I believe it is important that this got done to provide budgetary certainty for the federal government.

About Dodd-Frank, she commented:

“While I supported the bill as a whole, I strongly opposed the provisions that roll back critical Dodd-Frank taxpayer protections and dramatically expand limits to campaign contribution to political party committees. The historic Dodd-Frank legislation created a much-needed national regulatory regime for the derivatives market for the first time. Four years ago, I was proud to fight hard and pass that legislation, allowing us to protect taxpayers from further bank bailouts But now I am appalled that we are again opening the door to the trading of risky derivatives backed by a taxpayer guarantee.

Her strong support for passing something outweighed her frustration with the Dodd-Frank roll-backs. This ambivalence does indicate whether should we have voted for the legislation on December 13th. At least she should have made her intentions clear by being there to vote.

Associated Image
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia)

When I contacted senator Saxby Chambliss' office, the staffer told me that a scheduling conflict prevented him from casting a vote in the US Senate. Chambliss' office could provide me no other information, and they told me specifically that all staffers were not permitted to say anything more. I understand that US Senators have busy schedules and must manage competing interests. Still, some votes cannot be missed, in my opinion, especially when they have such long-ranging implications for the fiscal stability of our country, as well as informing the American people about the fraught political process which they will witness in Washington for the next two years.

Even though Senator Chambliss retired this year, his decision not to vote on the CRomnibus, is disappointing.

Two other US Senators did not vote on HR 83: Oklahoma Senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)

Inhofe will serve in the US Senate for the 114th Congress, and he did release a statement on the bill:

“I strongly oppose the $1.1 trillion spending package passed by the Senate late Saturday evening without the opportunity for amendments to be introduced or time for adequate debate. Our nation is not a dispensable ATM for unbridled, unchecked spending, and our nation can no longer afford for Washington to operate this way. My colleagues and I plan to revisit our spending priorities in a transparent and prudent manner as we work to restore regular order in the new Congress.

"Rather than playing Majority Leader Reid's game of staying in Washington for procedural votes that don't require a single Republican, I chose to be home with more than 30,000 Oklahomans in meetings and events. I am returning Sunday, eager to vote for the tax extenders package and other serious legislation that awaits passage in the Senate."

Inhofe's argument that the legislation required no Republican votes was not true. HR 83 would not have passed without Republican as well as Democratic votes, since members from both parties, as well as one of the Independents, voted against the legislation. Inhofe could have stood up against former Majority Leader Harry Reid's games and been one more vote against that bill.

His office then informed me that Senator Inhofe was prepared to vote "Nay" on the legislation, but was informed that the vote was going to be delayed. By the time he arrived in Oklahoma, the senator learned that they were casting a vote on HR 83.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma)
The last senator who did not cast a vote was Dr. Tom Coburn. His website did not provide a press release, either.

Coburn is resigning his seat, because of health concerns. As one of the  most ardent fiscal hawks in the US Senate, his presence will be greatly missed. Unfortunately, he did not vote on the $1.1 trillion fiscal deal, either. His DC staff informed me that his non-vote counted as a vote against the legislation, but otherwise they could provide me no other information.

All of this is understandable, considering that like Senator Chambliss, he is retiring from the US Senate, and earlier than expected, because of recurring pancreatic cancer. It would have been great to see him vote a definitive "Nay" to the spending largesse, or at least debate the merits of attaching riders to remove key spending provisions.

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