Riley’s voting record questioned

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 30, 2002

BNI Newswire

BIRMINGHAM – Gov. Don Siegelman’s campaign charged U.S. Rep. Bob Riley missed a congressional vote in Washington – after Riley said he was skipping a candidate forum to vote on the House floor.

"Bob Riley skips another forum and says he can’t show because he has to vote, but then he can’t even make all the votes," said Siegelman campaign spokesman Rip Andrews.

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"It’s hard to believe, but the man just has something against voting."

However, Riley campaign spokesman David Azbell said it was only one procedural vote Siegelman was referring to, while Riley voted numerous times that night, including votes for final passage of two bills.

"He was literally on the floor of Congress at 3 a.m.," Azbell said.

The charge came as the latest salvo concerning Riley’s voting record, after the Birmingham News reported last week Riley has missed a majority of votes in the House.

Riley has missed 55 percent of the votes – 183 out of 334 – according to the News.

Riley, who has in years past voted in the 90 percent range, this year has the worst voting record of any current member, according to press reports. Only ousted Rep. James Traficant had a worse record.

Riley, who is continuing his role as congressman while running as the Republican nominee for governor, was scheduled to appear Saturday at a candidate forum with Siegelman at an 8:30 a.m. Alabama Press Association meeting in Orange Beach.

However, Riley cancelled shortly before the event, claiming he had to be in Washington Friday night to cast votes on a trade legislation and the bill to create Homeland Security.

"Where’s Waldo?" Siegelman asked during his speech. The Democratic candidate said he found it ironic Riley had been able to come to Alabama for "a photo op with Honda," but wouldn’t come for an event where he could face his opponent.

The Siegelman camp said Monday Riley missed at least one vote, concerning the trade legislation. It did not mention the homeland security vote. Congressional records on the Internet indicate Riley voted at least on several amendments that night concerning the Homeland Security bill.

"On Friday night at 12:14 p.m. EDT, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 507, which waived House rules to allow for consideration of a conference report on H.R. 3009 – a bill that grants ‘trade promotion authority’ to the president," Andrews said Monday. "Riley missed the vote.

Only eight other congressmen, out of 434, were absent."

Azbell said Riley was in his office working at the time of the vote, which was a minor procedural vote. However, Riley voted other times during the evening, including for final passage of the trade bill and for the Homeland Security Act.

Andrews charged Riley said he would "debate anywhere, anytime," and then agreed only to two debates before the Nov. 5 election. He said Riley has pulled out of several debates and forums citing congressional work in Washington.

Azbell said he found it hard to understand how Siegelman could criticize Riley for ducking a debate when a statewide television debate is scheduled for next Monday night.

"That logic escapes me," he said.

An estimated 4.2 million viewers will have a chance to look at the candidates then, Azbell said.

Azbell also noted Congress recessed Friday until September.