Analysis or news about votes taken on the floor of the House.

Significant Votes

Deciphering Congressional voting records isn't easy. Of the 1100 roll-call votes in the 109th Congress, most were procedural or insignificant. Finding out how your representative voted on issues you care about in this mass of data can be daunting.

To help readers understand Randy Kuhl's voting record, I'm experimenting with a new page: significant votes. This page will be regularly updated with votes that meet the following criteria:

  • Disputed - the vote isn't unanimous or almost-unanimous.
  • Non-procedural - the vote doesn't involve referring a bill to committee or tacking on an amendment, unless the procedural vote kills a disputed bill.
  • An Issue of National or Regional Relevance - the bill isn't a resolution honoring someone or renaming a postoffice.

This is a high bar: of the 73 roll-call votes in the current Congress, seven of them are significant by my measure. Of those seven votes, Randy Kuhl voted with the Democratic majority on five.

In the past month, Kuhl has been a relatively reliable member of the 60 or so Republicans who are voting against their party on significant issues. As the 110th Congress progresses, I'll be using the significant votes page to track this trend.

Floor Action

After finishing up the 100 hours last week, the House settled down to a more leisurely pace this week. Randy Kuhl voted with the majority on almost every non-procedural bill. This included his votes for the "Bob Ney - Duke Cunningham Act", which revokes the retirement of legislators convicted of felonies, and the "Mark Foley Act", also known as the House Page Board Revision Act.

Kuhl's only significant difference with the Democratic majority was his vote against HR 78, which gives some very limited voting rights to non-voting Representatives such as those from DC and Puerto Rico.

Kuhl also announced his subcomittee assignments. He will serve on six subcommittees of the three main committees on which he serves.

Hundred Hours Scorecard

On Wednesday and Thursday, Randy Kuhl voted for the last two bills in the Democrats' Hundred Hours agenda. Those bills ended subsidies for big oil and cut interest rates for student loans.

Overall, Kuhl supported 4 of the 6 Hundred Hours bills. He voted for:

  • Enacting the 9/11 Commission Recommendations
  • Increasing the Minimum Wage
  • Cutting Interest Rates on Student Loans
  • Ending Subsidies for Big Oil and Investing in Renewable Energy

He voted against:

  • Expanding Stem Cell Research
  • Negotiating for Lower Prescription Drug Prices

Two More Down, Two to Go

Thursday and Friday saw the passage of bills in support of embryonic stem cell research and negotiation of Medicare prescription drugs. Both bills passed without the support of Randy Kuhl.

Kuhl's vote against embryonic stem cell research was predictable. He's been a strong right-to-life candidate and had previously voted against a similar measure in the 109th Congress, which provoked President Bush's first and only veto. This year's attempt passed without a veto-proof majority, but stem cell research advocates vow to continue to bring similar legislation to the floor. If the 29th has a tight race in '08, expect to see this issue front-and-center.

The Medicare bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices for Medicare Part D. Currently, those negotiations occur between insurance companies providing Part D coverage and drug companies. Backers of the bill point to the experience of the Veterans Administration, which has negotiated prices for a group of popular drugs that's significantly less that the Medicare average. Opponents say that these negotiations will only work if drug choice is limited.

As with any Medicare or Social Security issue, the political impact of this vote will depend on who can put more fear into seniors. Backers of the bill will charge that the opposition will bankrupt Medicare by enriching the drug companies. Opponents will argue that negotiation will lead to limited formularies, which means that some seniors won't be able to afford off-formulary drugs. Expect ads showing lawmakers stuffing money into the pockets of drug company fat cats, or men in suits ripping pill bottles out of the hands of defenseless old ladies.

The final votes in the Democrat's 100 hours will occur sometime next week, when Dems introduce bills to limit interest on student loans and to finance renewable energy research from oil royalties.

Kuhl's First Votes in the 110th

The first set of votes in the 110th Congress were mainly party-line votes for Speaker and the House Rules. The single exception was the vote for Title IV of the Rules, which dealt with earmark reform and pay-as-you-go budget financing. About a quarter of the Republicans joined the Democrats to vote for this provision. Maintaining his practice of party loyalty, Kuhl voted with the majority of the Republicans on this measure.

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