Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hillary's Voting Record

It's winding down. I'm running out of Hillary "scandals" to write about. And while it might be tempting for my opponents to point out the sheer number of such items I've had to write about, and conclude that with so much accusation there must be some truth to it, I must point out that Hillary has been in the public eye a very long time. Arguing that so much purported scandal must mean an actual scandal must exist by law of averages is tantamount to arguing that an incredibly large pile of bullshit must mean there's a bull nearby. In the world of politics, where smokescreens are so common nobody can remember a clear day anymore, it is ludicrous to say, 'where there's smoke there's fire.' No, it's all smoke, and it's being blown up our kilts.

Today, we're taking a look at Hillary's voting record, and I'm not at all surprised that nobody's attacked her more on this. On the political Right, Hillary is the most socialistic candidate the Democratic party has ever had, with the exception perhaps of Bernie Sanders, who actually is a socialist. On the disappointed Bernie side, Hillary votes along with the Republicans, and is practically a Republican herself.

Obviously, somebody is wrong here.

So who's right, here? Is Hillary a virtual Republican or is she Bernie Sanders Lite?

For a basis of comparison, let's look at the two years Hillary and Bernie shared time in the Senate. Bernie Sanders was first elected to the Senate in 2006, and Hillary resigned the Senate on July 29, 2009, to serve as Secretary of State under Barack Obama. Over the two year period these two were on the same Senate floor, Hillary and Bernie voted exactly the same way 97% of the time, according to an article in the New York Times. You can read that New York Times article here. Only 37 times did Hillary and Bernie vote differently, and the Times gives an outstanding breakdown of the differences, and the different reasons each had.

That enough should silence critics who say Hillary is a virtual Republican. But there are six years leading up to that point to account for also. How did she fare on those votes?

It's impossible to adequately represent eight years in the Senate with a single blog post, but Roll Call did an excellent synopsis back on April 28, 2016. You can read that entire article here. In a nutshell, she gave 2364 roll call votes during her tenure revealing a center-left and only slightly hawkish voting record. Her time there precisely overlapped with the presidency of George W. Bush. Of the 511 Senate proposals Bush 43 gave to the Senate, Hillary went along with 252 of them, or about 49% of the time. Most of those votes were for continuation of the government budget, or some other procedural common-sense measure.

Disagreeing with a Republican president more than half the time is not, by definition, "as good as Republican."

What about her most notorious vote? To engage in the Iraq war?

I dealt with that one in an earlier blog post. But to recap, nobody in the Senate thought at the time that it was truly a vote for war. They thought that it was a vote to give Bush 43 the authority to engage in war if Saddam Hussein did not acquiesce to U.N. demands.

It was only when the bombs started falling literally hours afterward that she, and many others, realized that they had been duped.

But what about the BAPCPA? Hillary voted for that, didn't she?

Well, not quite. Many who followed the story of the BAPCPA (that's the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act) know about how Elizabeth Warren, then a Harvard Professor, was outraged at how that bill in particular would hurt working families who needed bankruptcy protection in order to get a fresh start. In particular, denying bankruptcy protection for student loan debt and divorced single mothers was particularly egregious. When the bill first came up for a vote, she met with Hillary Clinton and explained to her in detail how the bill would be so very damaging for so many at the end of their financial rope.

"Professor Warren," Hillary told her, "We've got to stop that awful bill."

Sure enough, largely with Hillary's help, Bill Clinton vetoed the BAPCPA bill in late 2000.

But it wasn't over. The bill came up for a vote again in 2001. Elizabeth Warren began to realize that this was a battle she and other social justice warriors would have to fight over and over again. But this time, Hillary was a Senator. Surely, she would vote against the bill, wouldn't she?

She voted for it! Elizabeth Warren felt betrayed, and said so in her book, "The Two Income Trap," and in interviews with the media, many of which got repeatedly shared on social media by Bernie Sanders supporters in 2015 and 2016.

What on earth happened?

The details of Hillary's vote pertain primarily to Hillary fighting to get one provision removed from the bill. She, like Elizabeth Warren, were driven to blood-boiling rage at the notion of single mothers being unable to collect child support after filing for bankruptcy. So Hillary fought hard to get that thrown out of the bill. She succeeded, but was told by other Senators that she now had to support the bill because it was considered bad form to oppose a bill you yourself had edited. Had Hillary known how Republicans would later abandon Obama's Affordable Care Act after getting nearly all of their revisions put in place, she would have rejected this line of thinking. But at the time, there was still something resembling chivalry in the Senate, and Hillary voted for the bill, hoping to keep the revision she had worked for intact, at least. In other words, allow the bill that would keep coming up for a vote over and over again (as Warren had also realized) to finally pass, but in a watered-down form so that it wouldn't do as much damage.

The bill failed. Teddy Kennedy and others pulled off a brilliant provision. Republicans wanted opponents of abortion clinics to be protected from bankruptcy if driven to it by legal costs. Kennedy and others fought to have abortion doctors protected as well. A true culture-war fight was brewing. It was a beautifully engineered poisoned pill! Eventually, Republicans realized they weren't going to have the votes with the added provision. Rather than get into a huge fight over it, they scuttled the bill and let it die.

The bill came up for a vote again in 2005, and this time it passed. But Hillary was not there. She was with her husband Bill, who was in the hospital with a heart ailment.

So, Hillary didn't like the BAPCPA, and fought against it, but found herself pigeonholed in her first Senate vote regarding it. One wonders how she would have voted on the final version which did finally pass. Very likely, she would have vigorously opposed it, and not just provisionally. She'd learned her lesson in 2001. And that hard lesson wasn't the flip-flop Elizabeth Warren thought it was.

Now, Warren has endorsed Hillary. No, she was not betraying the Left. She was doing the responsible thing. She held off as a result of the 2001 vote, but in the end, she not only endorsed, she did so enthusiastically.

So that's my take on Hillary's voting record. No, she isn't the equivalent of a Republican. No, she isn't a complete Socialist. The answer is in between. She is center-left, and only slightly hawkish in certain specific situations.

Even her most adamant critics describe Hillary as a policy wonk. She will always put families first, and she is not above getting dirty to get the job done right. She got burned in 2001 twice with both the Iraq vote and BAPCPA. But she has always came through.

I believe she will do so again.



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