WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, is taking aim at congressional voting records by filing legislation that would dock pay for any members who miss even a single vote on any day without a viable excuse.
The “No Show, No Pay” bill comes not-so-coincidentally in an election year when Boustany’s chief opponent, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, has missed more than 10 percent of all roll-call House votes and when Landry missed four votes combined on Monday and Tuesday.
“Serving as a member of Congress is not a part-time job,” Boustany said in his announcement. “The primary duty of a member of Congress is to advocate on behalf of its constituency by casting important votes. Some of my colleagues take their office for granted and refuse to accept this responsibility.
“They habitually miss important votes on key policy initiatives and legislation by leaving early or arriving late in order to attend fundraising and campaign events,” Boustany continued.
In a follow-up interview, Boustany added, “If you’re missing votes, you’re not doing your job. That’s the bottom line.”
Landry was quick to respond with a prepared statement that called Boustany’s bill a political gimmick, or a “pig and a poke.”
“In what could only be a political ploy, Boustany is now claiming, after nearly a decade in Congress, he wants to do something about congressional pay, tying it to votes in Congress,” Landry stated. “I wish Charles had been absent the times he voted to raise the debt ceiling, bail out banks, and allow his salary to increase.”
Landry previously has co-sponsored bills for congressional members to lose their pay if Congress does not pass a budget and for congressional members to no longer have pensions. Landry has declined his retirement benefits.
In the past, Boustany has accused Landry, a freshman Republican with tea party support, of being the one to use “bumper sticker politics.”
Because of redistricting and the loss of a congressional seat resulting from Louisiana’s limited population gains, the changes set up a rare congressional race this year between two incumbents from the same political party.
Landry has missed more than 10 percent of the House votes — 48 missed votes through Wednesday — in 2012 compared to Boustany only missing four votes, or less than 1 percent, according to House voting records. However, during their full congressional careers, the margins are closer.
Landry has missed 6.5 percent of all his votes — still the highest percentage of the Louisiana delegation — compared to Boustany missing 2.7 percent. Boustany has said he missed a lot of votes in 2009 while assisting his dying father.
By comparison, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, has missed 3.5 percent of all his votes.
In response to the missed votes, Landry’s campaign consultant, Brent Littlefield, said, “Congressman Landry would much rather be meeting with farmers in southern Louisiana, who are concerned with what the federal government is doing to their business, than on naming post offices.”
One of Landry’s missed votes this year, for example, was to honor golfing legend Jack Nicklaus.
However, in April, Landry missed the vote on the Small Business Tax Cut Act that would allow businesses with fewer than 500 employees to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business incomes. After passing the House, the bill is stagnant in the Senate because it would add to the federal deficit.
Last month, Landry also skipped procedural votes on the U.S. House moving forward with the federal transportation bill that should ultimately send billions of dollars in BP oil spill fine money to Louisiana and that also, at the time, included a mandate to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas.
Landry has missed votes on other bills with names like the Servicemember Family Protection Act, the Homes for Heroes Act and the Business Risk Mitigation and Price Stabilization Act.
Boustany mentioned a few of the votes Landry skipped and also noted “missing numerous committee meetings.”
The bill would to make Congress provide an online list of members who are absent each month, including cumulative deductions for absences of each member posted online as well.
As for whether a bill that takes money from the people voting on it has a chance of moving forward, Boustany said he hopes the public interest will create momentum.
“I’ll see if the (House) leadership will take a look at it and, hopefully, move it forward,” Boustany said.