What happens when Senators and Congressmen decide they’d rather be out playing golf than making laws? Are they punished for their lack of attendance? Do voters throw out these lazy lawmakers? And which lawmakers boast the worst attendance records?
The answers may shock you.
Attendance not required
You would think the people paid to create and vote on legislation would be required to do their jobs. After all, if any of us missed work nearly 13% of the time like Neil Abercrombie, we would be fired immediately. In Abercrombie’s case, he resigned for other reasons, but his hundreds of missed votes didn’t bother voters one bit. The Democratic Congressman was reelected a total of 10 times!
But, to be fair, Abercrombie’s outrageous absence record isn’t truly reflective on the rest of Congress. Unfortunately, it’s not the worst either. In the most recent 111th Congress, the average miss rate is about 4% to date.
The troubling thing is that there isn’t a minimum attendance requirement for Congressmen. Lawmakers can vote as often or as little as they want. For a job that starts with a salary of $174,000 per year (that’s taxpayer money of course), one would think the very least Congressmen could do is show up.
Absent congressmen may be sent for
Now, it is worth noting that while there aren’t specific attendance requirements for members of Congress, business can’t be done unless a quorum is present. This means that a majority of Congress must be present for Congress to convene. If there aren’t at least 50.1% of the House and Senate in attendance, Congress cannot meet this day.
If any Congressman raises a question as to the presence of a quorum, a roll call will take place to confirm majority presence. If the roll call finds a quorum is not present, a majority of the Congressmen may request that absent Congressmen are sent for and compelled to attend.
However, the call for quorum is actually very rare. And when it is done, it’s usually employed as a stall tactic to buy time for deal making and general strategizing.
Voters don’t seem to care
You would think if we’re paying Congressmen to do their jobs and they aren’t even showing up that we’d fire them, right? Well, that’s just not the case. Earlier, you saw that Neil Abercrombie was reelected 10 times, despite having an absolutely atrocious attendance record.
But he’s not the only one to get by without doing his job.
During his 2008 campaign for President of the United States, it came to light that John McCain actually had the worst attendance in the Senate, voting on just 35.9% of issues that came to the floor. In fact, McCain was in the bottom ten in attendance four out of previous five sessions leading up to 2008 elections.
Republicans and Democrats skip out at equal rate
Missing out on important votes isn’t a partisan issue. Both parties skip out on votes at a fairly equal rate, with Democrats missing 3.5% of votes and Republicans missing 3.3% of the votes in the 111th Congress.
Who misses the most?
- Rep. J. Gresham Barrett (R-SC)—This South Carolina Congressman has missed 583 votes so far in the 111th Congress. That’s 43.6% of votes that he has missed.
- Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)—The former KKK member has missed 45.2% of votes during the 111th Congress, voting just 315 times while missing 260 votes. It’s worth noting that Byrd is 92 years old and in declining health.
- Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA)—To date, Deal has missed 25.4% of votes that have come to the floor in this Congressional session. That’s 294 total votes he’s been absent from.
- Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL)—Representative Davis has missed 331 votes so far in the 111th Congress, for a 24.7% missed votes rate.
- Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)—Representing California, District 13, Congressman Stark has been absent for 22.4% of the votes cast so far.
- Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI)—Would you have a job if you only showed up 78% of the time to work? Doubtful, but Peter Hoekstra still does.
- Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA)—So far, Rep. Radanovich has missed 277 votes. That’s a 20.7% vote missing rate.
What do you think should be done with lazy lawmakers? Are you going to vote them out in November?