Latest update (see below) - August 11, 2007
We now have 100+ days' worth of votes by which to answer the question: Is Bill Sali as bad as Idaho voters and netroots activists believed he would be?
We all remember Sali as the guy who barely eked out a win - with 49.9% of the vote - over netroots pick Larry Grant and three other candidates in Idaho's 1st Congressional District last fall. He's the guy whom the former Idaho Speaker of the House, a fellow Republican, famously labeled "an absolute idiot." He's proof that even someone with self-described "brain fade" can be elected to Congress, as long as the Club for Growth and the national Republican Party dump more than a million bucks into your campaign in its final weeks.
Idaho's Mountain Goat Report has done a kick-ass job in recent months of tracking and blogging about Sali's votes. Here's some of what we've seen so far:
Bill Sali opposes aid to victims of torture. Bill passed 418-7.
Bill Sali opposes easier access to small-business loans. Bill passed 380-45.
Bill Sali opposes funding for scientific research. Bill passed 397-20.
Sali tried to defend this vote via a letter to the Idaho Statesman, writing, "Do my constituents really want Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi telling them what to do, telling them what the penalties should be for crimes committed in our state? Or is this something the people of Idaho, through their elected representatives, can address?" Sali continued, "It's hard to vote 'no,' believe me. I could have easily joined the majority and said 'yes' to the passage of the bill. I'd rather do what's right because it's right and not because it's easy."
The thing is, in these lopsided roll calls, Sali is consistently canceling out the votes not just of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Clinton, but of Idaho's other Republican rep, Mike Simpson. At some point, Sali needs to ask himself: Am I voting my conscience? Am I representing my constituents, including the 50.1% who did not vote for me? Or do my votes express knee-jerk opposition to everything the Democratic majority supports?
The Idaho mainstream media is doing an abysmal job of covering the way Sali's votes are cementing his presence on the GOP fringe. Happily, bloggers like Mountain Goat, IdaBlue, and others are keeping close tabs on him, and his follies have been the focus of regular letters-to-the-editor in the state's newspapers, too.
Still, we need to do more if we want to have any hope of keeping Sali to one term. I'm going to try and update this diary regularly with Sali's votes, as documented in Idaho blogs and elsewhere. Such as:
Bill Sali opposes protection for whistleblowers. Bill passed 331-94.
Bill Sali likes noxious weeds. Bill passed 390-10.
This is no matter of a mainstream Republican who votes no on reducing U.S. presence in Iraq or no on increasing the minimum wage. This is the record of a divisive grandstander. By having all of Sali's fringe-dwelling votes in one place, perhaps transferrable to a new website and ads next fall, it might help convince Idahoans that yes, Bill Sali is really as extreme as we believed he'd be. So huzzahs to the Idaho bloggers who have been unearthing these and publicizing these votes. Let's keep 'em coming!
UPDATE May 5, 2007:
Bill Sali opposes the National Science Foundation. Bill passed 399-17.
Bill Sali opposes improving Head Start. Bill passed 365-48.
Bill Sali opposes technology innovation. Bill passed 385-23.
Predictably, Bill Sali also voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act this past week - but so did 179 other Republicans. This diary is dedicated to recording votes where Sali is truly on the fringe of his party - the minority of the minority, if you will.
Also, Idablue had a good post this past week showing how Sali is consistently voting the Club for Growth line - no surprise, since Sali was one of their poster boys last year and his campaign was largely bankrolled by the agressively anti-government group. Sali collected more than a million bucks in mostly out-of-state CFG money during his 2006 run.
UPDATE May 12, 2007:
The biggest news in Sali land this week was that his district director (and former fellow idaho state legislator) Gerry Sweet has already resigned. Philosopical differences likely weren't the culprit, since Sweet is every bit of an extremist as Sali. In other news this week, Sali of course voted against the Democratic plan to wind down the war, and we also learned that
Bill Sali opposes contracting fairness reforms for small businesses. Bill passed 409-13.
Bill Sali doesn't much care for our neighbors in Washington and Oregon.Bill passed 294-80. Just wait until you want a favor for Idaho, pal.
UPDATE May 21, 2007:
This wasn't a vote, but last week in BS land we learned that Rep. Sali supports irresponsible shooting. Via Sali's actions in Congress, we also discovered:
Bill Sali thinks AmeriCorps is unworthy of recognition. Bill passed 346-21.
Bill Sali opposes putting more cops on the streets. Bill passed 381-34.
Incensed by the media's increasing attention to his voting record, Sali mounted a defense of his many "no" votes in the Idaho Statesman.Idaho blogger MountainGoat says pshaw. And for some real laughs, go here.
UPDATE June 20, 2007:
Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but we have recently learned that:
Bill Sali is apparently OK with spyware. HR 964 -"to protect users of the Internet from unknowing transmission of their personally identifiable information through spyware programs" - passed 368-48, with Sali voting with the minority.
Of course, Sali also voted against the bill allowing embryonic stem cell research (nixed by George W. Bush today in only his third veto), but so did most other Republicans.
UPDATE July 6, 2007:
No vote updates, but the efforts to unseat Sali are starting to roll. Not only has he drawn two official Democratic opponents, 2006 nominee Larry Grant and Rand Lewis (with a third, Walt Minnick, also considering a run), Sali also will have at least one opponent in the GOP primary, Iraq War veteran Matt Salisbury announced his run this week. There's more at Red State Rebels and Ridenbaugh Press.
UPDATE July 13, 2007:
MountainGoat Report has the latest Sali votes, including his expected refusal to support the troops by bringing them home by next spring. In fact, Sali said this week that Iraq will be "our children's children's war."
UPDATE August 11, 2007:
The House is now on its August recess, which gives us a good chance to catch up with Bill Sali's latest votes and quotes.
Most recently, Sali has been in the hot seat over comments he made to a fundamentalist radio network:
"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers," asserts Sali.
Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through "the protective hand of God."
The remarks have drawn widespread national blog and news coverage, including posts at Daily Kos, Orcinus, ThinkProgress, Ridenbaugh Press, MountainGoat Report, Red State Rebels, The Stupid Shall Be Punished, and many more. The Idaho Democratic Party has asked for Sali to either resign or retract his remarks.
In other news, a poll commissioned by the Larry Grant campaign shows that 46% of the people surveyed have an unfavorable view of Bill Sali.
Finally, courtesy the MountainGoat Report, some recent Sali votes:
Bill Sali voted against the 911 Commission's recommendations. Bill passed 371-40.
Bill Sali approves of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. Sali was one of just two dozen Representatives voting against HR 2929, which also declared it's the policy of the United States not to exercise U.S. control over Iraqi oil resources. The bill passed 399-24.