My Path to Informed Voting (Maybe Part One)
The 114th Congress, to which people were (re)elected last November, was sworn in on January 6, 2015. Since then, because I didn’t vote for the current Representative from Arizona’s Second Congressional District (Col. Martha McSally, USAF (Ret)), I thought I’d start keeping track of her votes so that I’d learn more about her and determine, over the course of the next two years, whether she actually represents my interests well enough that I might want to vote for her in 2016. My local paper, The Arizona Daily Star, has a weekly-on-Sunday review of votes taken in the House and the Senate. I’ve been collecting those columns, but until now I hadn’t looked at them again.
Today, in a discussion on Facebook, I mentioned that Representative McSally “hasn’t been doing well” in voting the way I would prefer. I also noted that she was elected by 161 votes out of some 219,000 cast in the District, and that Arizona’s overall voter-turnout rate was about 45%. So far, I’ve been unable to find a turnout percentage for CD2, but I found other statewide estimates ranging from 44% down to 33.4%. So this likely means that about 22% of the eligible (or registered – there’s a difference, and I don’t know which of the two these percentages pertain to) voters actually voted for Representative McSally. Obviously, there is no “mandate” here.
This question was then posed to me: “[A]ccording to you, why is your district rep not doing so well?” I replied that it was a long story and that I would send [him] an email tonight. After I wrote it, I decided to post my answer here on my blog.
I’d like to say right at the beginning that Representative McSally is one of only 80 military veterans (and one of only 84 women) in the House for the 114th Congress. I respect that, and think she brings a much-needed perspective to the chamber. In my opinion, not enough Representatives (indeed, not enough *Americans*) have served their country in the military. So this is a point in her favor right at the start.
On to the voting roll call: For the week ending Jan 9, the Star lists 7 votes by the House, and how each of the Arizona Representatives responded:
- “Social Security, Tax Cuts, House Rules” (House Resolution 5) – This is *mostly* a housekeeping vote to establish the “standing rules” by which the session will be governed. They include a set of rules that has been in use since 1789 and a set of rules specifically for the 114th Session. There are two rules in the list that were specifically mentioned in the article; one bars the use of funds from the Social Security retirement fund to cover shortfalls in the Social Security disability fund (which has been commonly done in the past); the other allows the Congressional Budgeting Office to use “dynamic scoring” for forecasting the impact of tax cuts on deficits. According to the article, this type of scoring says that tax and spending cuts pay for themselves by stimulating economic activity. McSally voted FOR. While I don’t like either of those two particular rules, I do understand that it was basically an up-or-down vote, and that some fashion of the rules had to be passed in order for the House to do its work. My verdict: PASS
- “Executive Pay, Link to Worker Raises” (HR 5 amendment) – This was an idea to link executive pay (especially that of top executives) to worker pay at publicly held companies. McSally voted AGAINST. While I think that a majority of the nation’s big-company executives are paid way too much, I’m not so sure this would have been a good way to deal with it. My verdict: PASS
- “Full-Time Work Under Health Law” (HR 30) – This changed the definition of “full-time employment” with respect to the Affordable Care Act from 30 hours per week to 40. McSally voted FOR. When I worked for Tucson Newspapers back in the 80s, my workweek was 37.5 hours. Had this been put into effect at that time, I could have lost my health insurance coverage. Additionally, my late wife, Toni, worked as an hourly nurse at a dialysis clinic. As the patient load dropped, she and her fellow nurses sometimes struggled to reach the 40-hour level each week. Had this been in effect at that time, she could have potentially lost her health care coverage. I recognize there has to be a cutoff for full-time vs. part-time employment, but with so many “full-timers” working fewer than 40 hours per week nowadays, I think the cutoff should have been left at 30. My verdict: FAIL
- “Stipulations on What is Covered by ACA” (HR 30 amendment) – This was an amendment to #3 (above) to prevent, in the event that HR becomes law, a loss of coverage for veterans and the repeal of protections such as not allowing denials based on previously-existing conditions. McSally voted AGAINST. Several members of my family have chronic (and, therefore, by definition, “pre-existing”) health challenges. I worry about their continued ability to obtain good, reasonably-priced health insurance. Because McSally’s vote was against this protective amendment, my verdict is FAIL
- “Financial Deregulation” (HR 37)– This was a measure to weaken the financial regulations that have been put in place since the financial meltdown of 2008. McSally voted FOR. Because one of the big causes of the meltdown was lax regulation and oversight, my verdict is FAIL.
- “Terrorism Risk Insurance” (HR 26) – This was a renewal (through 2021) of a post-9/11 program of government assistance to (aka taxpayer backing of) the property and casualty insurance industry in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack. McSally voted FOR. My verdict: PASS
- “Keystone XL Pipeline” (HR 3) – According to the article, this was a bill “to bypass environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act and approve the building of the Keystone XL pipeline”. McSally voted FOR. While I have no particular opinion on whether the pipeline should be built, I strongly object to bypassing the environmental laws. My verdict: FAIL.
So, of the seven votes included in the 1/11/15 article in the Star, I failed Representative McSally on 4 and passed her on 3. To be honest, I thought at the beginning of this post that it would be more like 6 – 1. But this is why I’m keeping track – so that I actually *will be* an informed voter in 2016.
There have been four more weekly articles like this one so far. I don’t know whether I’ll blog all of them, but I *will* be keeping track of my Representative’s votes. And, Dear Reader, if you live in the US, you should keep track of *your* Representative’s – and your Senators’ – votes.