Last week, the United States Senate
soundly rejected President George W. Bush’s Federal Marriage
Amendment, 48-50. Even though the FMA was a spurious measure that
was predestined for failure, 98 senators were present — only
senators John Kerry (D – Mass.) and John Edwards (D –
N.C.), the presumptive Democratic presidential and
vice-presidential candidates, missed the symbolic roll call vote
that killed the bill. In order to advance his campaign, Kerry has
been consistently neglecting his responsibilities as a
Massachusetts senator and has not been present for an overwhelming
number of votes. The tribulation of the campaign trail is
undeniable, but with many controversial bills approaching,
Kerry’s presence and votes will be critical. Kerry needs to
reprioritize, balancing his current job with his future
Kerry’s campaign manager has stated that Kerry will only
attend votes if a bill’s success or failure is contingent
upon his presence. Consequently, Kerry has been accused of missing
87 percent of the roll call votes this year and 64 percent last
year. Some of the bills were actually close votes, where
Kerry’s presence arguably could have influenced the measure.
A bill sponsored by Senate Democrats, to make war profiteering
illegal recently failed by a slim margin of two votes. Yet, Kerry
did not feel as though his schedule would permit his participation
in the vote.
Recently, Kerry missed another vote to extend federal
unemployment benefits to people in need of further assistance. The
vote fell short by one vote, and Kerry was the only senator absent.
Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, claims that
this bill’s defeat caused the state to lose over $75 million.
Romney has called for Kerry to resign his seat in the Senate,
seeing as how he spends more time campaigning than being an
effective representative for his constituents.
His missed votes, while having practical consequences, have
symbolic ones as well. Kerry’s actions as a senator threaten
his future credibility as president and make him an open target for
Republican criticism. The Bush-Cheney campaign has already launched
commercials attacking Kerry for missing more than two-thirds of the
votes this year. Kerry needs to start participating in Senate
votes, regardless of whether or not he believes his presence is
important. Kerry was not elected to the United States Senate to
represent Massachusetts merely 13 percent of the time. Furthermore,
as President, Kerry will be expected to multitask and maintain a
vigorous work schedule. He needs to prove to Americans that he is
able to fulfill his duties through difficulty and stress.
Running a successful and effective campaign is a time consuming
and rigorous process that requires a high level of commitment. If
Kerry feels that Senate votes are not worth his time in light of
his campaign obligations, he can choose to resign his seat. This
however, will give Gov. Romney an opportunity to fill Kerry’s
seat with a republican, giving the GOP an even larger advantage on
Capitol Hill. This is certainly something that would seem
unpleasant to Democratic voters. The best course of action for
Kerry to take is simply to participate in more votes. Improved
attendance would exemplify his qualities of leadership to his
Massachusetts constituency as well as to the American people. If
wants to serve the United States of America, it would be wise to
first show that he can serve the state of Massachusetts.