I've been wanting to profile members of our Congress that serve on our side of the isle for sometime now. The idea came to me after the whole FISA fiasco and I was looking over how my senators voted. It dawned on me that there needs to be more comprehensive efforts to map out the voting tendencies of our representatives in order to help voters to know where they stand and hold their feet to the fire. So I thought I'd at least do my part by profiling my senior senator Blanche Lincoln. For this effort, I use On The Issues and Lincoln's own answers from Project Vote Smart, neither of which is perfect of course, but helpful none the less.
Also, this will not be the last entry of this sort I do. I plan on profiling Pryor next, and will probably do other senators/representatives as time goes on. I'd also encourage others to do the same. The more we have out there, the better.
A little biographical information, Lincoln was my representative in the first district (that's North Eastern Arkansas, the delta region) after she defeated her former boss, Congressman Bill Alexander, in the primary (if memory serves he got himself into some trouble with overseas trips and was generally considered to have lost touch). She left Congress for awhile when her twins were born but returned to politics in '98 when she won election to the US Senate, first over Fay Boozman an optometrist who claimed that it was his profressional medical opinion that a woman could not get pregnant if she was raped, and Jim Holt, who was even wackier than that.
When it comes to social issues, Lincoln is probably the more liberal of the two Arkansas senators, but that's probably not saying much. She's largely prochoice, though she did vote to ban the dialation and extraction procedure (otherwise known as "partial-birth abortion"...scary!). She's voted against a constitutional amendment banning gay marraige and supported hate crimes legislation (including sexual orientation) but still flatly states that gay couples shouldn't even have civil unions (though I personally doubt she'd lift a finger to oppose it). Generally, Lincoln is gun friendly, which makes sense for Arkansas, though she did take the reasonable position of having background checks at gunshows. She's also for the death penalty, the flag burning amendment and voted for making English the official language. She does, however, support affirmative action and has been supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.
On economic issues, Lincoln is pretty conservative. She's big on free trade, having voted for CAFTA and most other free trade deals and is a supporter of NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO. She also voted against capping farm subsidies (something that ticked off most of the farmers I know). She did however support the Employee Free Choice Act and for raising the minimum wage.
On education, Lincoln is generally for more funding, higher standards, smaller class size, etc. One thing that I really like about her though is that when she was running for the senate she did stress the need for emotional counseling services in public schools. On healthcare, she supported the SCHIP expansion (like everyone else with half a brain) and she is for stem cell research. She did vote for the Republican's Medicare prescription drug benefit, but she's subsequently voted to give the government the power to negotiate with drug companies to bring down the price. (Not sure on this but I think she either introduced that legislation or was a cosponsor) She's also for a strong patients bill of rights, even though she's also for a cap on damages. One thing that does rattle me though is that on her Project Vote Smart answer form, Lincoln neglects to indicate support for universal healthcare. Plus on social security she leaves the whole damn thing blank! And she's on the Senate Special Committee on Aging! She did, however, introduce legislation that enabled seniors who work to receive full social security benefits, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt I guess.
When it comes to energy and the environment, Lincoln doesn't particularly stand out. She voted for the Bush energy policy, but she also voted to protect ANWR. In recent years, she's come out as an advocate for alternative energy, notably ethanol.
On fiscal policy, two things stand out. First, she voted for the first Bush tax cut, but not the second. As I understand it, she put up a fight to insure that middle-class families got a share of the first cut, but she thought the second one was too slanted toward the rich and was irresponsible. Second, she's for eliminating the estate tax. (Personal aside: I was a little flustered over that when I first heard about it. Then my grandfather pointed out that her family owns a huge chunk of land in Helena and it made it worse).
On foreign policy, Lincoln is generally for foreign aide and multilateral efforts. She says she supports the creation of a Palestinian state and involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and she supports lifting the travel ban to Cuba.
On national security issues, Lincoln shows her true colors (HINT: They ain't blue.) She brags about her support of the Patriot Act, voted for telecom amnesty, and supported invading Iraq. She was long against withdrawing troops, but seems to be coming around...finally.
Overall, Lincoln is probably fittingly described as a Bush Dog. Like all of the Democrats that can be labeled such, she has a few redeeming features. However, she's way out of touch with Arkansas on several important economic issues-namely trade and farming. Her social conservatism is understandible, being from Arkansas, but there is an economic populist streak that runs deep in the culture here. She's fairly popular in the state, with an approval rating in the mid-fifties, but I think a primary challenge from a Scott Kleeb style candidate could work, or at the very least push her on economic issues. Interestingly enough, Arkansas has a history of successful primary efforts, from the famous Dale Bumpers vs. William Fulbright back in the seventies to Lincoln's own race against Bill Alexander. Still, Arkansas is by and large a machine state, and that machine is firmly behind Lincoln. Still, at somepoint in the future, it may be worth a shot. Regardless, the dailykos crowd from Arkansas can use this little bit of info to hold her accountable.