Monday, January 01, 2007

Hoyer's Voting Record in the Past Congress

Hoyer's voting record is, from the standpoint of this liberal Democrat, pretty good. Not perfect, but far better than most of his blogosphere critics would expect.

There were really only three significant votes in the 109th Congress where Hoyer let down the home team. He voted for Patriot Act reauthorization, he voted for the COPE Act that would have ended Net Neutrality, and most unfortunately, he voted for the Bankruptcy 'Reform' Act of 2005.

As the Washington Monthly piece said:

Hoyer’s April 2005 vote for the bankruptcy bill suggests a more fundamental problem. The legislation, a long-held priority of the credit-card industry, makes it more difficult for those in debt to get a fresh start by filing for bankruptcy. Pelosi at one point warned that the bill would turn hardworking Americans into “modern-day indentured servants,” and many Democrats saw the vote as a defining issue of economic justice, hoping to use it to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans and bolster their party’s appeal to working- and middle-class voters. That task was made all but impossible when Hoyer—who has received sizable contributions from the banking industry—and 72 other Democrats voted for the bill. At a whips’ meeting soon after, a furious Pelosi accused the bill’s Democratic supporters of selling out to special interests, while Hoyer defended them—and himself.

Hoyer noted to me that he had voted for the bill when it had come up several times in previous years, and said his decision was based on a belief in personal responsibility. “The argument that bankruptcies were becoming simply a way to excuse irresponsible behavior had validity to it,” he told me. “I believe that personal responsibility expectations are very important. No Child Left Behind, the accountability of students and teachers and parents and administrators to provide taxpayers their value ... The core value of personal responsibility is what I felt was manifested in the bankruptcy bill.” But Elizabeth Warren, an expert on bankruptcy at Harvard Law School, points out that 90 percent of families who file for bankruptcy do so after a job loss, a serious medical problem, a divorce, or a death. “What was the personal responsibility that they were missing?” Warren asks. “Was it that when Dad had chest pains and fell to the ground, he went to the emergency room rather than saying, ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to pay for it’? ... Was it that when Mom got laid off from her job, she didn’t just hand over her keys to the landlord and move into a cardboard box on the street with her two children?” Warren, who was active in opposing the bill, says she spoke to members of Congress who, for months before the vote, were getting two or three personal visits a day from banking-industry lobbyists. “There were a lot of folks who succumbed to that,” she says.
I'd love to see someone put him in the spot by asking him Warren's questions.

The good news is that on the bankruptcy bill, as well as the other two measures, he voted for a motion to recommit in each case, and only voted for passage on the bill itself. In a Democratic Congress, he will have fewer opportunities, if you will, for voting for bad bills such as these; they won't make it to the floor in the first place.

I'm willing to give him a sorta pass on his vote for the COPE bill, despite being extremely passionate on the subject of preserving a neutral Net. At the time, even a lot of people in the thick of things were still being educated about net neutrality. On the face of it, the bill seemed to provide some goodies for TV-watching consumers, so it was hard to be against it without a good reason. He supported a net-neutrality amendment, then voted for the bill as a whole after the amendment failed. Probably the best we could have expected from him at the time. In the new Congress, though, we should expect more of him. It's hard to say where he'll come down, though.

On the good side of the ledger - and there's a LOT here - Hoyer voted against Class Action 'Reform,' against interfering in the Terry Schiavo case, against Estate Tax repeal (over and over again), against the Energy Bill (ditto), for Stem Cell research, against the extension of Bush tax cuts, against weakening the Endangered Species Act, against weakening pension (ERISA) protections, against the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act, and against the Military Commissions Act. He fought to keep the Dems in line on Social Security when Bush wanted to gut it, and can be counted on to strongly support a minimum wage hike.

Plus he was on the right side of several smaller bills you probably didn't hear of, and that wins serious points from me: it's easy for a Congresscritter to grandstand with popular positions on a few high-profile bills, then quietly cut the ground out from under his constituents' feet on complex bills that get little play in the press, because reporters often don't bother to take the time to find out what the stakes are. Hoyer's not like that.

Like I said earlier: he's not perfect, but he's really not bad. He drives me nuts on occasion with some of his stands, but if he's on any liberal's list of the Top 10 Democrats That Need a Primary Challenger, that person would be sorely mistaken.


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