You Had One Job, Dave
Being a member of Congress is a difficult job. You’re constantly pulled in different directions in your role of representing your district in Congress, and the role of representing is a pretty large one. It means taking meetings with constituents. It means drafting legislation. It means sitting through boring committee hearings. It means doing all the dirty work you need to get elected and stay elected, including all the fundraising and glad handing. All of those things are critical.
But there’s one thing that makes being a member of the House of Representatives different from being any other elected official in the United States Government, at any level. You, and you alone, have a vote on the floor of the People’s House. And, under the Constitution, you and you alone have the power of the purse – all appropriations of federal money have to begin in the House. That includes things like a short, five day Continuing Resolution designed to keep the government functioning until a deal can be struck on a larger set of spending bills.
That is, at its most fundamental, the job of every Congressman. To show up, cast your vote, especially on spending bills that begin in the House. Staff can do almost everything a member needs in a pinch, especially if there’s a vote going on. There’s only one thing staff can’t do – they can’t vote for the member on the floor. It is literally the only thing that only the member himself can do and can’t delegate or direct someone else to do for him.
Dave Brat had one job. Last Friday, Virginia’s Most Useless Congressman™ decided he didn’t feel like doing that job.
So he skipped a vote. A vote on whether to keep the government open.
You had one job, Dave.
Shaun Kenney, over at our sister publication, rightfully criticized Brat for skipping the vote. In response, Brat deigned to humble himself by explaining why he missed a vote on something as important as keeping the government open to refute “misinformation” being spread by an “internet blogger.” Just for the record, that “internet blogger” spent more time in elected office than Dave Brat has. Just saying.
But what was Brat’s reason for skipping work?
A photo op at the White House.
For the signing of an Executive Order on energy policy that Brat had absolutely nothing to do with.
I am not making this up.
You can read his excuses for yourself. Here’s what he wrote in response to Shaun’s article on his Facebook page.
As usual, Dave Brat thinks you’re stupid and that nobody is going to check in on his statements. But, fortunately for you and unfortunately for him, it’s not hard to pick apart when he’s just flat out making things up.
Brat was one of over a dozen members of the House and Senate who were invited to the President’s signing ceremony for an Executive Order on off-shore drilling. Most of us in the GOP support off-shore drilling, which matters most to folks in districts that are actually, you know, coastal. They are the ones who will benefit directly from the increased number of jobs off-shore drilling is likely to create because those direct jobs will be on rigs and offshore supply vessels supporting drilling. I don’t know if many constituents in the 7th District will be directly impacted, but I digress.
The idea that he was invited because he was the lead sponsor of legislation designed to end Obama’s ban on off-shore drilling is absurd, though. There are hundreds of bills before the House right now addressing off-shore drilling, both for and against. Barbara Comstock has a piece of legislation up that does the exact same thing, and it’s co-sponsored by Rob Wittman and Morgan Griffith. She wasn’t at the White House.
If this were Brat’s bill signing after a successful passage of the House and Senate (something Brat has almost never seen during his time in office), that would be different. It wasn’t. It’s the signing of an executive order the President signed that Brat had nothing to do with. He didn’t draft it. Doesn’t really affect his district directly. This was a photo op for him and nothing more. The President didn’t even acknowledge his presence, and he stood in the back row for most of the ceremony.
This was more important than a vote on the floor to keep the government open?
But it wasn’t his fault, see? The House tricked him. Brat said the “House of Representatives called an earlier than expected vote…” on the must-pass CR. Everybody knew the bill was coming – it was the only thing on the agenda for Friday. And it wasn’t called earlier than expected. That claim simply isn’t accurate, and all one needs to do is take a look at the various whip notices that were put out by the Majority Leader, Majority Whip and Minority Whip’s offices that give members of Congress a heads up on when to expect votes and what the schedule looks like daily. Here’s what one of the Whip Notices said for Friday, April 28:
First votes were predicted between 10 AM and 11 AM on Friday, April 28. There were only two things on the Congressional schedule for Friday – the rule under which the CR would be debated, and the CR itself. When did the “earlier than expected” vote on the CR begin?
The first vote, on the rule, ended at 10:22 AM – almost directly in the middle of where the Whip notices were predicting “first votes” would start.
Once that vote was finished, the House began consideration of the CR. They began debate at 10:23, and the vote was held open until 11:30 AM – over an hour.
Votes happened when votes were predicted, and Brat himself had heads up when debate began that he had about an hour to get back. Even if he waited until the end, he had 20 minutes to get back.
Brat “rushed back” however, and missed the vote “by minutes.” He wasn’t the only one. Some other Congressmen who were present didn’t make the vote either – Pete Olson and David Rouzer, to name two. He, along with 13 other Republicans, missed the vote. Not all of them were at the White House, though, and he was the only member of the Virginia delegation who didn’t vote.
What’s remarkable, though, is who was at that press conference who actually made it back and voted. Most of the other Congressman who were present did make it back, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise from Louisiana, who has a considerable number of off-shore drilling related jobs in his coastal district. Another who made it back is even more surprising than those who didn’t – Congressman Don Young from Alaska, pictured above behind the president in the purple tie. Congressman Young, who is 83, is the most senior Republican member of the House of Representatives, having served in the body since 1973. He was first elected when Dave Brat was 9 years old. He’s also known for his spotty attendance records at House votes. He has missed over 4,000 votes during his career. Granted, he’s taken more votes than anybody else, but he’s missed more as well, and as the only Congressman from Alaska and with a grueling schedule going back and forth, it’s not surprising he’s been frequently absent.
But he made it back in time for this one.
Let’s put this in perspective: Dave Brat missed this vote, but an 83 year old man with one of the worst attendance records in the House made it back in time.
Here’s the bottom line.
Dave wasn’t elected to go to photo ops at the White House. He was elected to vote. He decided that standing in the back row of a signing ceremony was more important than voting to keep the government open. He compounded that with a nonsense story about “surprise” votes and missing the vote “by minutes” despite the fact that senior Republican leadership were at the same event and made it back on time, as well as an 83 year old member with one of the worst attendance records in the House.
Brat could have made it back in time, but he chose not to. And then he compounded that mistake by fudging his reasons for skipping the vote. Instead of simply being honest – his vote wasn’t necessary and he’d rather hang out with the President than do his job – he’d rather just dismiss Shaun’s valid criticism by complaining about the headline. Fortunately, he has a whole bevy of sycophants who don’t care what he does, so long as he’s not Eric Cantor. You’ll see them in the comments. That doesn’t change the fact that for this vote, Brat was acting like a groupie, gawking in the Oval Office with a dumb grin on his face, rather than using the one actual bit of power his job affords him.
You had one job, Dave.
It’s pretty clear what Dave’s priorities are. Doing his job isn’t one of them.