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Democratic Radio Ads Can Stand Clarification

Three Ohio House members labeled as "Rubberstamp Republicans" for Bush.

December 6, 2005

Modified: December 6, 2005

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Summary

 

Radio ads being run by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee refer to three Ohio Republicans as "rubberstamp Republicans" for initiatives supported by the President. In fact, their voting records are about average for Republican House members.

The ads also say all three members cast "the" deciding vote for a budget bill. Actually, 217 House members voted for it, and it passed by a two -vote margin.

Nothing in these ads is false, but we offer some clarification and added context.

Analysis

 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting three Ohio Republican House members with radio ads labeling them as "rubberstamp Republicans" and claiming all three cast "the deciding vote" to pass a package of spending cuts, including cuts to student aid. The three Republicans are Steve LaTourette, Steve Chabot and Deborah Pryce.

DCCC Ad
“Rubberstamp Republicans” – LaTourette

(Sound of silverware, flatware and newspaper pages)
Husband: Boy, it really steams me what’s going on in Congress.  Do they even live in the real world?
Wife: What’s going on now?
Husband: This new budget bill they just passed – it cuts 14 billion in federal student aid.
Wife: Mm, Ouch!
Husband: And this comes after they passed a bill that gave 14 billion in handouts to the big energy companies.
Wife: What, like the oil companies need a handout.
Husband: And here’s the worst part-
Wife: What?
Husband: Our Congressman, Steve LaTourette, voted for both of those bills.  And get this: he cast the deciding vote for the budget even though he publicly called it a lousy bill.
Wife
: But why?
Husband: Eh, he said his constituents wouldn’t notice because we were snowed in.
Wife: You’ve gotta’ be kidding me?
Husband:  ‘Also says here LaTourette votes with President Bush more than four out of five times.
Wife: You know, he sounds more like a rubberstamp than a Congressman.
Husband: Yeah, sounds to me like LaTourette’s the one giving us the snow job.
Announcer: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.  Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - www.dccc.org.  Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Students vs. Big Energy?

The ads portray the three Republicans as favoring "big energy companies" over federal aid to students.

All three ads are accurate when they say a Republican budget bill that the House passed in November "cuts 14 billion in federal student aid." The Congressional Budget Office says the measure calls for $14.3 billion in cuts over five years for the federal loan program for college students.

The ads exaggerate, however, when they say the House "gave 14 billion in handouts to the big energy companies." That refers to tax cuts contained in the massive energy bill that President Bush signed into law Aug. 8. Actually, some of the $14.3 billion in tax breaks – which are spread over 10 years – will go to homeowners and buyers of fuel-efficient hybrid automobiles, and not to "big energy companies." According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, $2.6 billion in tax cuts will go to conservation and energy efficiency incentives including tax credits for homeowners who upgrade their insulation or install solar systems or fuel cells, and to incentives for alternative vehicles and fuels, including extending tax credits for biodiesel fuel.

Rubberstamp Republicans?

Whether or not the three are "rubberstamp Republicans," as these ads claim, is a matter of interpretation. The anti-LaTourette ad says he "votes with President Bush more than four out of five times," which is true as far as it goes. According to Congressional Quarterly, LaTourette voted in favor of initiatives supported by the President 82 per cent of the time in 2004. Chabot's support record was 79 per cent and Pryce's was 85 per cent.

Those figures are just about average for House Republicans, who collectively voted for Bush-backed measures 86 per cent of the time in 2004, according to CQ.  Plenty of other Republicans are more supportive of Bush than these three. Ohio's John Boehner voted with Bush 100 per cent of the time in 2004, as did Missouri’s Roy Blunt, Texas’s Jeb Hensarling and Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert.

To put the voting records in context, consider that Democratic House members vote in favor of Bush-approved measures 28 per cent of the time, according to the CQ ratings.

“The Deciding Vote”

The three ads each claim the representative in question cast “the deciding vote” allowing the budget bill to pass. By that logic, of course, all 217 who voted for the bill could be called "the" deciding vote, which is something of a contradiction.

The strongest case can be made against LaTourette, who originally voted against the measure and then switched his vote in favor. Had he not switched, and nothing else changed, the measure would have failed on a 216-216 tie.

The claim is weaker when applied to Chabot and Pryce, however. Had either of them failed to vote, the budget bill still would have passed 216-215. Only if one of them had switched to vote against the measure would they have swung the outcome, by creating a tie that would have killed the bill. Only in that sense can their votes be called "decisive." (Worth noting is that Speaker Dennis Hastert, who seldom votes except to break a tie, was recorded as voting in favor of the budget bill.)

The “deciding vote” strategy is not new. Republicans used it against many Democrats in the 1994 elections, claiming that each of them had cast "the" deciding vote in favor of President Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction bill, which Republicans characterized as "the largest tax increase in history." Enough Democrats were defeated that year to give Republicans control of the House, making Newt Gingrich the first GOP Speaker in 40 years.

What LaTourette Really Said

The ad against LaTourette takes some liberties in quoting him, saying he referred to the budget bill as "lousy" but that his constituents "wouldn't notice because [they] were snowed in."  LaTourette did in fact call the bill "lousy" according to a Nov 18 CongressDaily story: "As lousy as I though this product was, we're in the majority...leadership is telling me it'll get better, so we'll see." But here's what he really said about his constituents, in an interview with Capitol News Connection: "Well, Chardon's under 12 inches of snow, so they're really not worried about what happened here tonight."

-- by Emi Kolawole

Sources

 

"Estimated Budgetary Impact H.R. 4241, The Deficit Reduction Act Of 2005, As Passed By The House Of Representatives," Congressional Budget Office, 21 Nov 2005.

"Estimated Budget Effects Of The Conference Agreement For Title Xiii. Of H.R. 6, Fiscal Years 2005 - 2015, The 'Energy Tax Incentives Act Of 2005'" Joint Committee on Taxation 27 July 2005.

Connors, Ryan.  "Schundler Invokes Tax-Raising Ex-Governor," NationalJournal.com, 18 October 2001. 

Committee on the Budget, United States House of Representatives.  Deficit Reduction Act of 2005: Report to Accompany H.R. 4241, Report No. 109-276, 7 November 2005. 

Davis, Susan. "GOP Leaders Breathe Easier After Passing Spending Cuts," National Journal's CongressDaily .  18 November 2005.    

Hulse, Carl.  “Attack G.O.P. In TV Ads on Medicare Bill,” The New York Times.  12 July 2003.  A1, Late ed – Final. 

House Roll Call Vote No. 601.

Jackie Koszczuk and Amy Stern (editors).  CQ's Politics in America 2006: The 109th Congress. (Washington DC: CQ Press, 2005).

Kinnard, Meg.  "DCCC Targets Eight GOP Reps on Rx Drugs," NationalJournal.com, 15 July 2003.