Congressional representatives from Oregon and Washington scored
quite well on the national AFL-CIO’s interim Committee on
Political Education (COPE) voting report
card released last month in Washington, D.C.
The scorecard is a running record of 34 Senate votes and 33 House
votes that took place during the first session of the 110th Congress,
but it is not the official voting record for 2007. The AFL-CIO labeled
lawmakers’ votes as either “right” or “wrong,”
based on the position the AFL-CIO took.
Bills — and amendments to bills— included the Employee
Free Choice Act, limits on guest worker programs, and federal minimum
wage increases. A complete list of votes can be found online at
www.aflcio.org under the legislative section.
Oregon Reps. David Wu (1st District); Peter DeFazio (4th District);
and Darlene Hooley, (5th District), were among 173 House Democrats
to score 100 percent COPE voting records.
Also among the “100 percenters” were Washington Democrats
Norm Dicks of Bremerton, and Rick Larsen of Bellingham.
Another 29 Democrats cast only one vote in disagreement with the
AFL-CIO. Among them were Vancouver, Washington’s Brian Baird,
(30-1-2 absent); Tacoma's Adam Smith, (32-1), and Jay Inslee of
The three Washingtonians’ “wrong” votes came
on a Farm bill that had attachments that both strengthened Davis-Bacon
enforcement and ended privatization of some civil service jobs.
HR 2419, according to the AFL-CIO synopsis, authorized $2 billion
in federal loan guarantees for bio-refineries and bio-fuel production
plants with requirements that all construction be enforced by federal
Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage standards. It also stopped the Bush
Administration from continuing to contract out jobs of federal workers
who conduct eligibility determinations for the food stamp program.
Also voting against that bill were Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer
(3rd District), and Washington Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle. Blumenauer
compiled a 30-201 scorecard and McDermott was 31-2. The Farm bill
Spokeswomen for Blumenauer and Baird told the NW Labor Press that
the congressmen are strong supporters of the Davis-Bacon Act, but
that the Farm bill, overall, favored large agribusinesses over the
needs of small farmers and rural communities, among other issues
they had with the bill.
Blumenauer and McDermott also voted against labor’s position
on HR 1585, a defense authorization bill that was modified to restore
the rights of federal civilian workers to collectively bargain.
The bill, which set military spending priorities but did not actually
allot the money, passed 397-27, with 25 Democrats and two Republicans
opposing it. The opposition voters wanted conditions for troop withdrawal
from Iraq. The AFL-CIO supported the bill because it deleted most
of President Bush’s plan to take away union rights for the
Department of Defense’s 700,000 civilian workers. But the
defense measure also lacked limits on the war in Iraq, and that
prompted the opposition to the measure.
The defense bill vote allowed 51 Republicans to avoid a shutout
and register one “right” vote (1-33) on their COPE scorecards.
Oregon Republican Greg Walden of Cascade Locks (2nd District)
scored 33 percent, with a vote tally of 11-22. Washington Rep. Doc
Hastings of Pasco was one of the worst lawmakers, voting with labor
Top Republicans voting in agreement with the AFL-CIO were Frank
LoBiondo, Frank Pallone and Michael Ferguson, all of New Jersey,
at 25-8, 24-9 and 23-9-1, respectively.
Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio came
in at 23-4, with six absences, and Republican candidates Ron Paul
of Texas and Duncan Hunter of California scored 4-23-6 and 3-27-3,
(Editor’s Note: Officially, Rep. Peter DeFazio has the
best lifetime AFL-CIO COPE voting record in the Pacific Northwest
at 94 percent (221-15). He is followed by Earl Blumenauer at 92
percent (110-10); David Wu at 90 percent (89-10); Brian Baird at
89 percent (85-11), and Darlene Hooley at 86 percent (100-16). Greg
Walden leads Republicans from the Pacific Northwest at 20 percent
Five Senate Democrats, including one presidential hopeful, scored
100 percent, as did one Independent lawmaker. Sixteen other Democrats
missed just one vote among the 34 selected by the AFL-CIO.
In the Pacific Northwest, Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Patty
Murray of Washington led the way at 31-2 and 32-2 — or 94
percent, respectively. Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell scored
85 percent (28-5-1), and Oregon Republican Gordon Smith tallied
51.5 percent (17-16-1). Smith is up for re-election this year.
The top two GOP senators supporting labor issues — Sens.
Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine — each voted in agreement
with the AFL-CIO on 22 of the 34 votes it tallied (65 percent).
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was just behind with a 20-14 mark.
It should be noted that many of Smith’s “wrong”
votes dealt with collective bargaining rights for workers. The most
egregious to labor was his opposition to the Employee Free Choice
Act. Labor’s top priority legislation, the bill would have
allowed for certification of a union when a majority of workers
signed cards designating the union as their bargaining representative
The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the House, and it had
enough votes to pass in the Senate, but a Republican filibuster
meant backers would need 60 votes to shut it down and move to a
vote on the bill. Smith was among the Republicans voting against
cloture. He also would have voted against the bill.
Smith also voted against labor on several amendments giving airport
screeners greater collective bargaining rights and whistleblower
protections. In one key vote used in the interim scorecard, Smith
and his fellow Republicans — under pressure from the Bush
Administration — tried to kill a 9/11 Commission recommendation
that simply restored the right of airport screeners to unionize.
Republicans lost on a party-line vote in the Democratically-controlled
Smith again voted opposite labor on another Republican-led filibuster,
this one blocking an increase in the federal minimum wage. The so-called
“clean increase” again had enough votes to pass in the
Senate, but it failed to get the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster.
Wyden, Murray and Cantwell (along with 30 other Democrats) picked
up “wrong” votes on a cloture vote on an immigration
reform bill. The AFL-CIO opposed S. 1639 because amendments had
made it “too anti-worker.” A Republican-led filibuster
had the final bill bottled up on the Senate floor when a motion
was made to invoke cloture (limit the debate). Thirty-three Democrats,
including Wyden, Murray and Cantwell, voted “yes” to
end the filibuster and vote on the final immigration reform bill.
The vote failed, the filibuster continued and the bill was effectively
killed for the session.
Smith, Wyden and Cantwell also voted against the AFL-CIO’s
position on an amendment to the immigration reform bill that eliminated
a new Y-visa guest worker program. The AFL-CIO wanted the Y visa
out of the bill because it opened the door for employers to import
up to 400,000 temp workers annually to perform permanent jobs throughout
the United States. The amendment was rejected 31-64.
Smith and Cantwell added to their “wrong” votes by
voting against another amendment to the immigration bill, this one
seeking a sunset of the temporary guest worker visa program after
five years. That amendment was rejected 48-49.
Front-runner presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill)
and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), voted 23-1-10 and 27-1-6, respectively,
with labor. They both missed a large number of votes because they
were out campaigning. The immigration cloture vote was their only
blemish with the AFL-CIO.
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain of Arizona was
3-14-17. All of McCain’s “right” votes had to
do with the minimum wage hike.
The lowest-scoring “Democrat” was Joseph Lieberman
of Connecticut. He voted in agreement with the federation on 25
of the 34 votes.
The lowest-scoring Republican was Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire,
who voted in agreement with the AFL-CIO on only three of the 34
votes. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho was next, with four “right”
(Editor’s Note: Officially, Sen. Patty Murray has the
best lifetime AFL-CIO COPE voting record in the Pacific Northwest
at 89 percent (132-17). Maria Cantwell is next at 88 percent (73-10),
followed by Ron Wyden at 87 percent (106-16) and Gordon Smith at
20 percent (23-90). Press Associates Inc. contributed to this report.)