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Missed House votes add up

In a top 10 list of House members who missed the most votes this year, Florida representatives take four spots.

By WES ALLISON and BILL ADAIR
Published December 10, 2005


WASHINGTON - For Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa, running for governor of Florida often means being in Florida - and that's meant missing votes in Congress.

Davis, a Democrat, has missed 13.9 percent of House votes this year through November, the 10th highest among House members, according to a database of voting records compiled by Congressional Quarterly. That's 84 missed votes.

Another Tampa Bay area lawmaker, Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, also made the top 10, ranking slightly higher than Davis with 14.4 percent missed votes, or 87 votes total. Many of Young's missed votes were due to a two-week stay in a hospital in March and the long illness of his mother, who died Dec. 3.

Davis' missed votes were attributed mostly to scheduling conflicts for his gubernatorial campaign, according to his campaign. Last year, Davis missed the House vote on a landmark intelligence reform bill to meet with political advisers in Tampa. Davis is challenging Gainesville state Sen. Rod Smith for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Davis' office declined to make him available for an interview. Instead, his press secretary, Diane Pratt-Heavner, issued a short statement lauding his work on other issues, including fighting attempts to open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

"Congressman Davis has spent every day working for his constituents," the statement said. "He has not missed a single vote where his vote would have made a difference in the outcome."

Indeed, most of the votes Davis and Young missed were minor - nonbinding resolutions expressing the sense of Congress on various issues, the renaming of post office branches in places like Dennison, Minn., and procedural matters.

No other votes Davis missed were as significant as last year's intelligence reform bill. But he missed them in blocks. In October, for instance, he missed 15 votes while campaigning in Broward County over several days, then missed 15 more in September while in Orlando and then South Florida.

The rest of his missed votes were scattered throughout the calendar, mostly since summer, from six votes on Nov. 16, when he was campaigning in South Florida, to nine votes on Nov. 9, when he was campaigning in North Florida. On Nov. 3, he missed eight votes, including one on the Private Property Protection Act of 2005, because he was volunteering at a Red Cross feeding center in South Florida after Hurricane Wilma.

The vote on the private property act wasn't close, either - 401 yeas to 11 nays. But property rights have become a potent political issue since the Supreme Court recently ruled localities could seize homes and businesses to make way for developers.

Two other Florida lawmakers also made the top 10 in Congressional Quarterly's analysis: Democratic Reps. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, who missed 91 votes, and Alcee Hastings of Miramar, who missed 87.

Young, who turns 75 next week, missed 14 votes in March and April, including one on the controversial Terri Schiavo bill, because he was hospitalized for a urinary tract infection.

In an interview, Young said he missed five votes in July because he was in Pinellas County to assist his 92-year-old mother, Wilma Young Wiley, after she fell and was hospitalized. Last month, he missed 16 votes when she was hospitalized again.

Young, the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for defense, said he missed four votes in May because he was attending a meeting in a secure, soundproof room in the Capitol. His staff could not call to alert him about the votes, and the room did not have the standard House clocks that buzz when votes are under way. The room now has a TV so members can watch for votes.

Members of Congress who know they are going to miss votes are expected to check first with their party's whip office, which corrals members for important votes.

Stacey Bernards, press secretary for House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, said Davis has kept the whip advised of when he will miss votes. "Mr. Davis has stayed in close touch with the whip's office to ensure that he doesn't miss any votes with a close margin," she said.

FLORIDIANS' MISSING VOTES

The percentage of missed votes in 2005 for the Florida delegation:

HOUSE:

Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, 14.9

C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, 14.4

Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale, 14.4

Jim Davis, D-Tampa, 13.9

Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, 10.4

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, 9.7

Katherine Harris, R-Sarasota, 9.1

Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, 9.1

Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, 8.7

Tom Feeney, R-Orlando area, 8.1

Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, 8.1

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, 6.8

Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, 5.9

Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, 5.8

E. Clay Shaw Jr., R-Fort Lauderdale, 4.6

Dave Weldon, R-Melbourne, 4.3

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Pembroke Pines, 4.3

Ric Keller, R-Orlando area, 4.1

Kendrick B. Meek, D-Miami, 4.0

Michael Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, 3.6

John L. Mica, R-Orlando area, 1.5

Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, 1.5

Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, 1.2

Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, 1.0

Adam H. Putnam, R-Bartow, 0.2

SENATE:

Mel Martinez, R, 4.0

Bill Nelson, D, 1.4

Source: Congressional Quarterly analysis of votes through November 2005

[Last modified December 10, 2005, 00:50:10]


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