This past Saturday, November 7th, Congressman Tom Perriello demonstrated his bipartisan and independent nature by voting with the Republican Party on eight out of the thirteen votes cast on that fateful day. That's over 60% of the votes!
But wait! On that very same day Tom Perriello, a Nancy Pelosi lapdog, supported the Democratic Party on twelve out of the thirteen votes! Nearly unanimous support for the far liberal agenda!
How is that possible? How can Perriello support the Republicans 60% of the time and on the very same votes support the Democrats over 90% of the time?
Because, despite being a day with historic votes on health care "reform," the day was also full of Congressional resolutions "Expressing support for designation of the week beginning on November 9, 2009, as National School Psychology Week" or "Recognizing the 20th anniversary of the remarkable events leading to the end of the Cold War and the creation of a Europe, whole, free, and at peace." There were more substantive votes dealing with what appears to be a popular small business program. And several procedural votes that were practically meaningless. On the rule setting the terms of the debate on the health care bill the Republicans argued that the Democrats were trying to jam through the bill with just four hours of debate! Republicans seized the moral high ground by arguing that Congress obviously needed five, not four, hours of debate!
Wow, what a contrast in political views!
The fact is almost half of the votes don't matter. Well over half in fact when you include procedural votes. The bulk of the votes in the House of Representatives are relatively uncontroversial bills recognizing a holiday or historical event. Sometimes there are uncontroversial bills that do actually do something, such as renaming a federal building or post office. Or, like the small business bill from Saturday, are extensions or tweaks of rather popular programs. Do you actually think there have been almost 900 meaningful votes in the House this year? NO WAY.
And then you have the procedural votes that are required under parliamentary rules but rarely accomplish anything. Every time the majority party decides to bring up a new issue or bill to debate there is a vote in which the minority party argues that issue X or bill Y is obviously more important than issue A or bill B. And every time you have a rule to set the terms of the debate the minority party will argue that they need an hour, or two hours, or thirty minutes more of debate. And additional amendments . . . etc. etc.
Votes don't matter.
But . . . . votes matter!!
The fact that Obama's "stimulus" package passed without any Republican support in the House of Representatives matters. It shows that the Republicans are united against him. The fact that Representative Cao of Louisiana cast the only Republican vote in favor of health care "reform" matters. It shows (if you believe Democratic spin) that there is bipartisan support for the bill. And the fact that a handful of Republicans voted for cap and tax also matters. Same thing, it provides cover to claim the bill is bipartisan.
And votes can produce change. The vote on the Stupak amendment mattered. We changed a bill that had federal funding of abortions into a bill that did not have federal funding of abortions. That may still change but it's still a big victory.
So what percentage of votes matter? I'm not sure. Twenty? Thirty? Ten? The vast majority of votes don't matter, but from time to time a Representative is actually called on to make a meaningful decision. And that's why elections matter!
Which is why the Republican nomination will matter . . . .
Rob Hurt or any other Republican will vote with the Republican Party over half the time because over half the time the vote won't matter. But what about the votes that do matter? Maybe we can count on Hurt on votes like cap and tax and health care "reform." But what about another Wall Street bailout? What about higher taxes? Will he be another Cao or Snowe and provide "bipartisan" cover to the Democrat agenda?