Kuhl's Contradictory Votes Make the Paper

Today's Elmira Star-Gazette carries a story about Randy Kuhl's recent votes against major appropriation bills. As mentioned here last month, Kuhl voted against two appropriation bills that included earmarks he sponsored. Even though he voted against the bills, he still touted the earmarks on his website.

Kuhl's explanation for this apparent contradiction contains some topsy-turvy logic:

"The point is the bills passed, so why shouldn't I tell people about the local projects that were in them?" Kuhl said. "They wouldn't have been in there if I hadn't requested them."

Kuhl said he didn't vote for the bills -- with the exception of one that increased spending for veterans and military members -- because he thinks the Democratic majority is increasing spending too much.

As the article points out, Kuhl is clearly trying to have it both ways by saying that only his pork is worthy. One theory, offered by University of Rochester Professor Gerald Gamm, is that Kuhl will get away with this because "constituents are not paying attention to all the details". That may be true, but I think Kuhl will have a second explanation available later this year, after the Senate amends the spending bills.

Kuhl's vote against H R 2669, the College Cost Reduction Act, is another example of a vote against a popular bill. This bill was opposed by a majority of Republicans, for a variety of reasons. Like last month's vote against the Homeland Security bill, voting against an increase in funding for financial aid financed on the back of banks seems like a stone loser for Kuhl. However, like the other appropriations bills Kuhl opposed, this bill has yet to pass through the gauntlet of the Senate.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been making heavy use of cloture rules and the party loyalty of his fellow Republicans to control the agenda of the Senate. The ability of Republicans to block debate on bills is a powerful lever that the Republicans will use to force compromises on the appropriations bills passed by the House. After those bills have been amended, they will go back to the House for a vote. I'll wager that they'll get Kuhl's support the second time around.

The combination of Bush's veto threats, the loyalty of Republicans like Randy Kuhl in the House, and the lack of a 60-vote Democratic majority in the Senate is one that allows the Republicans to exert significant control over the legislative process. When Kuhl is challenged by the press or his opponent to explain his initial no votes, he'll point to changes in the bills to show that his no vote led to a more fiscally responsible bill.

Whether that's true will, indeed, require exceedingly close attention to the details.

Update: The same story made the July 16 issue of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.