If you missed one out of every five days of work, you might be out of a job.
But that’s not the case for U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson who missed nearly 20 percent of congressional votes in 2017 with no threat of losing his — even if he will voluntarily give it up soon.
Johnson missed more votes than any other member of the Texas delegation on Capitol Hill last year – 134 out of 710 votes, or 18.9 percent, according to GovTrack.us, which tracks various voting metrics for members of the U.S. House and Senate.
Johnson, a Republican, was the sixth most absent member of the House in 2017, trailing Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. (40.4 percent missed votes); Steve Scalise, R-La. (37.9 percent); Elijah Cummings, D-Md. (33.7 percent); Grace Napolitano, D-Calif. (27.6 percent); and Bobby Rush, D-Ill. (27.2 percent).
The next most absent member of the Texas delegation was Republican Kay Granger, who missed 55 votes, or 7.7 percent of the total, ranking her in a tie for 48th in the House.
Adrienne Rimmer, a spokesman for Johnson, told The Texas Monitor that the congressman underwent hernia surgery in May, “which accounts for a good portion of his missed votes.”
But that surgery doesn’t account for the fact that Johnson has been absent more than most of his peers during his nearly 30-year congressional career. Over the course of his time on Capitol Hill, Johnson has missed three times as many votes as the average member of the House.
Between May 1991 and January 2018 he missed 1,179 of 17,512 roll call votes, or 6.7 percent.
The median percentage of lifetime missed votes among all members of the current House is 2.3 percent. Throughout her 21-year career, Granger has missed 863 of 14,225 roll-call votes, or 6.1 percent. Kevin Boland, communications director for Granger, said in an emailed reply to The Texas Monitor that Granger “takes her Congressional responsibilities seriously.”
“Occasionally there have been situations — such as meeting with constituents, events in her district, or circumstances related to her obligations as Chairwoman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee — that have prevented her from casting votes last year,” Boland said.”
She also has suffered an issue with her back that caused her to miss votes for doctors appointments beginning in the spring of last year and resulted in surgery to correct the problem in the winter. Regardless, she was able to complete her bill to fund Defense and passed it through the subcommittee, full committee and on the floor of the House.”
Other Texas members of the House in the top 100 for missed votes in 2017 include:
Democrat Eddie Johnson in a tie for 56th (7.0 percent) • Republican Lamar Smith in a tie for 64th (5.6 percent)
Republican Louie Gohmert in a tie for 64th (5.6 percent)
Republican Kenny Marchant in a tie for 72nd (5.2 percent)
Republican Ted Poe in a tie for 76th (4.9 percent)
The two Republican U.S. senators from Texas fared much better in 2017: Ted Cruz missed 2.2 percent of 325 votes, putting him in a tie for 28th, while John Cornyn didn’t miss a single vote.
He is one of 23 senators with a perfect voting record in 2017. Cruz improved greatly from 2016, when he led the Senate by missing 32.3 percent of the 502 votes cast as he ran for president.
Johnson, who has served in the House since 1991, has announced he plans to retire after this term, which will end in 2019. Smith and Poe have also said they will give up their seats. It seems likely that members of Congress who aren’t running for re-election and are no longer beholden to voters could miss more votes, but Josh Tauberer, creator of GovTrack, said he hasn’t looked at that subset of numbers close enough to determine if there’s a pattern.
However, Tauberer did say there’s definitely a correlation between missing votes and running a campaign.
Note that the next most absent members of the U.S. Senate in 2016, after Cruz, were Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders, who also vied for the Oval Office. “It’s definitely a trend, especially presidential candidates — they will drop off the map,” Tauberer said.
Former U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Louisiana, tried unsuccessfully to penalize his colleagues for missing work. In 2012, he introduced the “No Show, No Pay” act, which would have docked a day’s pay for any of his colleagues in Congress who missed a single vote held on a given day.
“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 said in a statement when he filed the bill. “This bill discourages these offenders from dodging their Constitutional duty by holding them accountable to their constituency.” That bill died in committee.
Johnny Kampis can be reached at [email protected]