Kuhl Speaks on MoveOn

In a press conference yesterday, Randy Kuhl came to his own defense against the MoveOn ad campaign.  In addition to repeating that the ads have been pulled (a claim denied by MoveOn and one area station), Kuhl added a new defense.  He said that MoveOn's claim that he voted four times to let defense contractors "off the hook" is "based on procedural issues that had nothing to do with the substance of the legislation."

That quote is a summary of Kuhl's position by the Star-Gazette's reporter at the press conference.  Assuming that's a fair summary, it deserves a closer look, because it will probably be part of Kuhl's defense against similar attacks later in the campaign.

According to MoveOn's backup document [pdf], Kuhl voted four times to spare defense contractors, twice on motions to recommit, and twice on amendments.

A couple of MoveOn's examples support Kuhl's position. HR 1751 is a bill to "protect judges, prosecutors, witnesses, victims and their family members".  It passed on a bipartisan vote.  During the debate over the bill Rep Higgins (D-NY) moved that the bill be sent back to committee (a "motion to recommit") to add an amendment prohibiting profiteering and fraud in military actions and disaster relief. This motion failed on a strict party-line vote. (The Congressional Record pages are here [pdf] and here [pdf].)

Kuhl can reasonably argue that this vote was right.  The amendment proposed wasn't relevant to the bill, and sending the bill back to committee would have slowed down its passage.  Kuhl can make a similar case for another of the votes MoveOn cited.  In this case, Kuhl voted against a similar motion to recommit on HR 1279, a bill "to reduce violent gang crime and protect law-abiding citizens and communities from violent criminals".   Again, this motion had nothing to do with the bill in question.

But Kuhl can't make this same claim for two other votes MoveOn cited.  The first was an amendment to HR 4939, an emergency supplemental appropriation bill. It sought to prohibit appropriations to contractors that have had audit exceptions totaling more than $100 million.  The second sought to amend another emergency supplemental to establish a committee to investigate the reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Both amendments were germane, and both votes were on the amendments, not on procedure.

Some would argue that the use of these latter votes to attack Kuhl is also unfair.  After all, they're merely part of the partisan Kabuki of the 109th Congress.  The Democrats want to make oversight of the spending in Iraq a major campaign issue.  To show that Republicans have resisted adding additional oversight, they've used these amendments and motions, which have no hope of passage, solely to get votes on the record.

But if you accept that argument, it's hard to see how he Kuhl has any responsibility for any of his votes.  Moreover, there's the broader issue of accountability for his party's positions, regardless of the specifics of individual votes.  Kuhl has voted with his party on almost every issue, including continued (and sometimes wasteful) funding of the war in Iraq.  He sits on no committees relevant to the war.  Other than his public pronoucements on the war, these votes are all his constituents have to judge him by.   And, in real votes on germane amendments, he's voted against increased oversight of defense contractors twice.