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Without much accomplished, the 113th session of Congress adjourned for summer recess.  So far, the session has been most notable for what didn’t get done but it hasn’t been a complete waste.  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act was passed with 286 votes in favor in the House.  (The 138 votes against it were all Republican.)  Money was appropriated for Hurricane Sandy relief.

Speaker Boehner brushed off any question about the job of lawmakers in Congress.  "We should not be judged on how many new laws we create.  We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal."   However, not everyone in his caucus follows him.  Some members would rather get something done. On July 22, Rep. Justin Amash (R –MI) appeared before the Rules Committee to propose a nonpartisan amendment to the annual defense funding bill.  

The Amash amendment was supposed to end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act and block the NSA from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records of persons who aren’t subject to an investigation under Section 215.  It failed 205 to 217, but the vote was notable for the 111 Democrats who joined with 94 Republicans in favor of the amendment. It was co-sponsored by Democrat John Conyers who has held office as a House representative since 1965 when he voted in favor of the historic Voting Rights Act and his progressive record continues intact.

Was the Amash amendment a temporary respite from the partisan obstruction of Republicans?  Or was it a sign of a more permanent and enduring coalition between Progressives and libertarian Republicans?  Which House members would be considered part of a new broad coalition and what can be learned from their recent voting records?

To analyze voting patterns in the House and identify non-partisan areas of common ground, I selected seven recent roll call votes on bellwether issues important to Progressives and civil libertarians.


 
Vote # Date Bill # Result Tally
228 6/13/13 HR 1960 Failed 200 - 226
Adam Smith (D - WA) introduced an amendment to eliminate the NDAA provision for indefinite military detention of any person in the US under AUMF authority by providing an immediate court trial and eliminating mandatory military custody of covered parties.
 
The progressive position in favor of the amendment is clear. In cases of Americans accused of terrorist activities, it would guarantee their Constitutional right of due process in a civilian court.
 


 

 
Vote # Date Bill # Result Tally
237 6/14/13 HR 1960 Failed 174 - 249
A second amendment introduced by Adam Smith established a process for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by December 1, 2014.
 
The treatment of war prisoners in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention is a progressive priority.  That means closing Guantanamo where prisoners have been held for 10 years without due process and in some cases, without even being charged with an offense.
 


 

 
Vote # Date Bill # Result Tally
238 6/14/13 HR 1960 Failed 150 - 274
Jared Polis (D - CO) introduced an amendment to allow individuals certified by recognized nontheistic organizations to be appointed as officers in the military chaplain corps to serve nontheistic or nonreligious service members.
 
US troops serving in Afghanistan with NATO forces were introduced to the idea of secular chaplains used by the military in some European countries. Secular, humanist, and atheist equivalents of existing faith-based chaplains would give equal benefits to service members who have no religious beliefs or are atheists.
 


 

 
Vote # Date Bill # Result Tally
286 6/20/13 HR 1947 Failed 195 - 234
The annual agriculture appropriations bill including federal subsidies for farmers, was put to a vote with a 3% cut in the funding for SNAP, the food stamps program.  A temporary increase in benefits that was in effect since the 2009 economic stimulus is also due to expire on October 1.  The loss in funding would leave two million people without benefits.
 
Progressives with a conscience could not vote for a bill that would deny food stamps to underpaid workers raising families and caring for aging parents while living in poverty due to the devaluation of labor in the US.  
 


 

 
Vote # Date Bill # Result Tally
353 7/11/13 HR 2642 Passed 216 - 208
After the annual agriculture appropriations bill with its farm subsidies and cut in funding for SNAP was defeated, it was reintroduced without any provision at all for the food stamps program.  It was the first time since 1973 that the farming bill made no mention of funding for the food stamps program. The bill came as a surprise when it was reported by the Rules Committee to the House floor for a vote with only an hour for debate.  Numerous Democratic party representative rose to speak in protest against the bill.  After the vote, House members were treated to an hour-long lecture by Rep. Louis Gohmert.  The topic was "Dependence on the Federal Government."
 
As with the earlier farm bill defeated in June, progressives with a conscience could not vote for a bill that would deny food stamps to underpaid workers raising families and caring for aging parents while living in poverty due to the devaluation of labor in the US.  Republican members excised the provisions for SNAP in secret which they announced to their Democratic opposition at a Rules Committee meeting scheduled with no advance notice for 9PM on the night before the vote.  Funding for the food stamps program was left up in the air.
 


 

 
Vote # Date Bill # Result Tally
412 7/24/13 HR 2397 Failed 205-217
Justin Amash introduced an amendment to end blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act and bar the NSA from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation
 
Protecting the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans from government surveillance programs is an important issue for anti-government conservatives and civil liberties-minded progressives.  
 


 

 
Vote # Date Bill # Result Tally
426 7/31/13 HR 1911 Passed 392-30
The lopsided vote is an indication of something like a compromise.  Faced with student loan interest rates that were set to double from 3.4% to 6.8%, Congress worked out a deal with a smaller interest rate increase for now and a variable rate component that leaves the possibility of higher interest rates in the future.
 
In trying to figure out who comes out ahead with this deal, you can count out the students.  Consider it a win for the free market and the banks that will always be bailed out.  Students, not so much.  Affordable quality education for all is a progressive value.    
 


 


Progressives with a Perfect Record

There were 15 Democrats and no Republicans who aligned with the Progressive position on all seven votes.
Grijalva, Raul  - Arizona 3rd District
Lee, Barbara  - California 13th District
Speier, Jackie  - California 14th District
Bass, Karen  - California 37th District
Takano, Mark  - California 41st District
Richmond, Cedric  - Louisiana 2nd District
McGovern, James  - Massachusetts 2nd District
Tsongas, Niki  - Massachusetts 3rd District
Tierney, John  - Massachusetts 6th District
Conyers Jr., John  - Michigan 13th District
Ellison, Keith  - Minnesota 5th District
Lujan, Ben R.  - New Mexico 3rd District
Clarke, Yvette D.  - New York 9th District
Welch, Peter  - Vermont At-Large
Pocan, Mark  - Wisconsin 2nd District




There were 90 Democrats and zero Republicans who aligned with the progressive position on six of the seven votes.  There were 146 Democrats and 3 Republican who aligned with the progressive position on five of the seven votes.
The 3 Republicans were:
Amash, Justin  -  Michigan 3rd District
Sanford, Mark -  South Carolina 1st District
Duncan Jr., John J.  -  Tennessee 2nd District




There were 179 Democrats and 7 Republicans who aligned with the Progressive position on four of the seven votes.
The 7 Republicans include the 3 listed above and:
Broun, Paul C.  - Georgia 10th District
Huelskamp, Tim  - Kansas 1st District
Jones, Walter B. - North Carolina 3rd District
McClintock, Tom - California 4th District



Here’s a map where the US Congressional districts are shaded to reflect each member’s voting record.  For members who voted with the Progressive position on less than four of the seven votes, the district is unshaded (white). You can also view the map in greater detail on GoogleDrive with the ability to pan, zoom, and locate a district using a drop down menu.
Congressional districts where the representative's voting record aligned most often with progressive positions.
For the sake of comparison, here’s a map where all of the US Congressional districts are shaded to reflect voting records on the 7 selected measures listed above.  The shading corresponds to each member's voting record, not political party. The deepest blue represents the most progressive record.  The deepest red represents the most conservative record.  While the color fill represents ideology, the district's boundary lines represent political party.  Thus, it is possible to see districts like Tim Huelskamp's in Kansas (near the center of the US map) with its red boundary corresponding to his membership in the Republican party and its light blue shading corresponding to his voting record.  It's also possible to identify the 22 districts with Democratic party representatives whose voting record aligns with conservative ideology. This map is also available on GoogleDrive with functionality that's more interesting than looking at a static image.
Congressional districts shaded to correspond with the representative's voting record.
For those who are unable to use GoogleDrive, the maps below make a little more detail visible in the crowded East and West Coast urban areas.
West coast congressional districts shaded according to the representative's voting record.
Northeast metro area congressional districts shaded according to the representative's voting record.

Observations:

Of the 7 Republicans with the most progressive voting records, none were able to get behind the Jared Polis amendment that sought to recognize the presence of nontheistic and nonreligious individuals in the military by providing them with the equivalent of a chaplain.  In fact, there wasn’t a single Republican who voted in favor of the amendment.   Only two, Amash and Duncan, voted in favor of closing Guantanamo.  All 7 voted to scrap the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA.  All 7 voted to end the NSA’s blanket collection of data.  All 7 voted against the farm subsidy bill that cut funding for the food stamps program but at least some of them opposed it because they wanted bigger cuts.  But 6 of them still voted against the farm subsidy bill when it was re-introduced without any provision at all for the food stamps program.  The 7th, Broun, did not cast a vote.  

And of course their voting records are far more extensive than the 7 pieces of legislation I considered and they all voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act many times.  Amash was a co-sponsor of Michele Bachmann’s repeal bill earlier this year.

What of the Democrats who vote with conservatives?  Included in that group is Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s 9th CD, who touted her “core progressive values” while campaigning for office last year, but whose voting record is barely distinguishable from unrepentant tea party conservative, Matt Salmon’s, in the neighboring 5th CD.  In upstate New York, Bill Owens is another Democrat whose record could be swapped with Chris Gibson’s, the Republican in a neighboring district.
























Here’s the full list of Democrats who voted conservatively.
Barber, Ron - Arizona 2nd District
Sinema, Kyrsten - Arizona 9th District
Ruiz, Raul - California 36th District
McNerney, Jerry - California 9th District
Enyart, William - Illinois 12th District
Ruppersberger, Dutch - Maryland 2nd District
Peters, Gary - Michigan 14th District
Peterson, Collin C. - Minnesota 7th District
Maloney, Sean Patrick - New York 18th District
McCarthy, Carolyn - New York 4th District
Rahall, Nick - West Virginia 3rd District
Costa, Jim - California 16th District
Murphy, Patrick - Florida 18th District
Garcia, Joe - Florida 26th District
Lipinski, Daniel - Illinois 3rd District
Owens, Bill - New York 21st District
Gallego, Pete - Texas 23rd District
Vela, Filemon - Texas 34th District
Matheson, Jim - Utah 4th District
Barrow, John - Georgia 12th District
McIntyre, Mike - North Carolina 7th District
Cuellar, Henry - Texas 28th District

For those who view the district maps hosted at GoogleDrive, they can take a moment to load and sometimes the server hangs.  And you may have more or less success depending on your browser choice and its configuration.  I use IE and Chrome and I notice they both yell at me with security warnings when I test the links which is kind of ironic considering I built the map tables myself and uploaded them from my one laptop.  Also, I have no idea why there's a large blank space above the last table in this diary.  it's not intentional and troubleshooting doesn't make it go away.

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