Like so many of us, Raul Labrador will start his diet tomorrow.
The 1st Congressional District incumbent conceded a point to his Democratic opponent earlier this week. When Jimmy Farris dinged Labrador for missing too many House votes, Labrador said all the right things. The people of Idaho hired me to do a job, and I should be there.
But as any struggling dieter knows, habits are hard to break. And before Labrador recommitted to the steamed broccoli of the day job, he allowed himself a day off. On Wednesday, while Congress wrapped up its poor excuse for pre-election work, Labrador was in Miami, helping Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney woo Hispanic voters.
While Labrador was out of the office, the House considered 25 bills, although 23 sailed through on voice votes and only two required a recorded vote.
Two recorded votes might not sound like much, but Labrador had already missed 72 votes. His absentee rate is 4.7 percent, well above the House median of 2.5 percent and more than double the rates for his 1st District predecessors: Republicans Butch Otter (1.7 percent) and Bill Sali (1.2 percent) and Democrat Walt Minnick (1.9 percent).
Some of these missed votes are absolutely understandable; Labrador missed some votes in 2011 while one of his sons was hospitalized for a week. Some can be chalked up to circumstance, such as flight delays traveling from Idaho to Washington.
For Labrador to skip a day of work for politicking is questionable but a minimal political risk.
Running in a conservative congressional district, in a presidential election year, Labrador also has the advantage of running against Farris, who is underfunded, relatively unknown and making his first run for office. It is telling that, seven weeks before election day, Labrador felt he could spend a day on the campaign trail working not on his own behalf but, once again, on Romneys.
Based on his actions, Labrador is fully subscribing to conventional wisdom and believing that he will be re-elected. Which would mean, come 2013, Labrador would have the chance to shore up his attendance record. Or not.
Of course, if days on Capitol Hill are much like Wednesday, how much does it really matter? In the days two roll-call votes, the House OKd a bill to prohibit the use of public funds for political party conventions (on a 310-95 vote) and a bill to exclude from gross income any discharge of indebtedness on education loans of deceased veterans (which passed 400-0).
The fact that Labrador felt he could take Wednesday off speaks volumes of the state of play in one-party Idaho. Its also a pretty sorry commentary on the work going on in Congress.
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