Election year votes in Congress are often charades. This year there have been a few important votes related to the economy and continuing the wars against the peoples of Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Palestine, etc., etc., etc. But most of the votes come to nothing. Here is why.
While there are two significant parties in the United States, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, in fact all members of Congress run for re-election as incumbents. Almost all the time, the incumbent wins. Incumbents want to win, and so have no desire to disillusion the voting citizen. In fact they want to reinforce political illusions. So in a conservative district a Representative wants to be able to point to significant, recent and clearly conservative votes. Likewise in a liberal district, to the extent there are any left, pointing to clearly liberal votes helps to get re-elected. Middle-of-the-road districts require votes on matters that achieved a broad public consensus long ago.
Votes on bills are held in an election year, yet the laws seldom change at all, and certainly not in significant ways. The situation in which the President is in the opposite party to the majority in Congress provides an ideal setting. In the current case, the Democrats put up a bill that will generate enthusiasm among the types of Democrats who are likely to volunteer or give money to the party. The Republicans vote against it, proving their colors and generating enthusiasm among their own volunteers and donors. Usually enough Democrats - the ones from more moderate or conservative districts - break ranks in either the House or Senate to assure that the bill will have to be brought up again in the future. Or the strange procedural rules of Congress are invoked as an excuse by the majority party for not moving a bill along the pipeline to a final vote. But if a bill does pass, the Republican President can veto it. Everyone gets what they want - voter enthusiasm without any actual change in the system. This explains why, two years after the Democrats returned to power, their is still plenty of money for the war against Islam, and why nothing has been done about the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
With that in mind, here are some summer 2008 votes:
The Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act [H.R. 6515]. This piece of fraud is a favorite of Mike Thompson's. He has promoted it all over the district. He claims that if it had become law it would have required oil and gas exploration companies to drill in land they have already leased before allowing them to lease more land. In fact it is much narrower, only requiring the Secretary of the Interior to conduct an expeditious environmentally responsible program of competitive leasing of oil and gas in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. It is meant to placate environmentalists by making it unnecessary to drill offshore, notably in the oil-rich continental shelf off Mike's 1st Congressional District. Yet it placates those who are mad about high gas prices by implying that the federal government has already leased plenty of land for drilling; evil corporations are purposefully not drilling into vast pockets of oil and natural gas. What a great idea, this law! So great that even some Republicans voted for it: Yes votes numbered 244 (Mike Thompson among them), no votes were 173, and 18 did not vote. Only it was just a procedural vote, on July 17, 2008, requiring a 2/3 majority, so it failed. Hurray! Mike Thompson and most Democrats and a few Republicans can prop up their lame environmentalist credentials. Hurray, a bunch of Republicans can thunder about how they kept the door open to more oil drilling. In fact nothing happened. And it was designed that way. What is really sick is that many environmentalist groups that rate congressional voting records use sham votes like this as a basis for their unwavering support of incumbents.
Foreclosure Prevention Act [H.R. 3221] Mike Thompson voted for this bill on July 23 which passed the House 272 to 152, with 11 not voting. It was signed into law by President Bush on July 30, 2008.
Consumer Energy Supply Act [H.R. 6578]. On a procedural vote requiring a 2/3 majority, Mike Thompson voted Yes, but the motion failed to pass on July 24 with 268 Yes, 157 No, 10 not voting. If it had passed it would have required that oil that is in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that is meant for defense purposes in an emergency would be released, presumably to lower oil prices temporarily.
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation, FY 2009 [H.R. 6599]. This provided $72.7 billion for funding military construction and veteran care programs. Mike Thompson voted Yes on the bill, which passed the House of Representatives 409 to 4 with 21 not voting on August 1, 2008, and will likely become law when passed by the Senate. Nancy Pelosi loves it. All incumbents love it. Conservatives love it, and liberals love to support our troops (and build more military stuff) even when they are tasked by Congress and the President to commit war crimes. Here's to Jeff Flake, John Campbell, John Duncan, and Ron Paul, who dared to vote against it.
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Mike Thompson is the current elected member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 1st Congressional District.