Rep. Michele Bachmann has missed about four times more votes than her colleagues Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat, and Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican, on the House Financial Services Committee, her only committee assignment. Three quarters of votes at which Bachmann wasn’t present happened on days she had national cable news appearances.
Bachmann has missed 18 of 105, or 17 percent, of recorded votes in the the committee so far in the 111th Congress. Ellison has missed 5 and Paulsen wasn’t there for 3 votes.
Last month, Bachmann blamed her position as a freshman legislator (she’s actually in her second term) and as a Republican for the fact she hadn’t passed a bill. “I am in the deep minority in Congress and a fairly new freshman, so I don’t have substantive bills that I have passed,” she told the St. Cloud Times.
The 18 votes when Bachmann wasn’t present came on seven different days over the last 15 months. On three of those days, Bachmann appeared on national cable news programs. That follows a similar pattern with Bachmann’s performance on the House floor where she has also missed more votes than any member of the Minnesota congressional delegation and many of the votes for which she was absent she had scheduled media appearances on the same day.
For instance, on April 29, Bachmann missed a couple of votes on the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, which beefed up truth in lending practices for lenders. That day she appeared on the Fox Business channel to talk about President Obama’s first 100 days in office.
And on July 8, Bachmann missed four votes on a bill that would authorize funding for 150,000 new housing vouchers for low-income Americans. The same day, she appeared on the Sean Hannity Show to talk about Rep. Barney Frank and TARP funding.
On October 14, Bachmann was absent from the committee and did not vote on seven motions related to a bill to regulate credit default swaps, a financial instrument largely seen as contributing to the collapse of many large financial institutions. The same day, Bachmann appeared on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show to criticize ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act.
Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayer’s Union, a group that advocates lower taxes and monitors Congress, told the Minnesota Independent that committee attendance isn’t as vital as what? to a Congress member’s work but members should always make their best attempts to be there.
“Granted, Committee meetings may not always be earth-shattering events, nor do public hearings require universal attendance of all Committee Members, who can’t be everywhere at once,” he said. “[But] taxpayers ought to expect that when Committee votes take place, the lawmakers on the panel should make every effort to be there and take a stand.”
He added that the committee process can often inform how a floor vote will come out. “A favorable Committee vote can have a major effect on floor passage, just like an unfavorable one can do the opposite,” said Sepp. “A vote that’s ‘in between’ because lawmakers on the Committee are absent shortchanges the legislative process.”
One issue that NTU has worked on is encouraging members of Congress to dock their own pay when they don’t show up for work at the Capitol. NTU says that members have a duty to taxpayers to return money they didn’t earn.
Sepp said members should dock their pay when they miss committee meetings. “It makes sense for those absent from Committee votes to take their pay-docking duties as seriously as if they were casting floor votes.”
Bachmann’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the missed committee meetings.