Grade inflation for mavericks

WASHINGTON–Rep. Jim Himes eagerly touts his voting score, as tallied by the Washington Post website, as evidence of the independent streak he’s showing in Washington.

“Your research will indicate that I have the most independent voting record, not just in Connecticut but in New England,” Himes said in a recent interview.

And indeed, while the Post scorecard shows that Himes has voted with his Democratic party 94 percent of the time during the current Congress, that’s four percentage points lower than anyone else in the Connecticut delegation.

But just like grade inflation has taken hold on college campuses across the country, there may be a little vote inflation here in Washington. Or “no” vote inflation, to be more precise.

The Post tally includes some relatively meaningless procedural votes, such as whether a lawmaker supported approving the House Journal, an official record of the proceedings of each legislative day in that chamber. On at least seven occasions, Himes has voted against approving the journal, in contrast to the majority of his Democratic colleagues.

So why would he feel the need to go on record opposing the House Journal?

“If I haven’t read the journal, I don’t vote in favor of it,” Himes said.


And when would any member of Congress have the time–or the inclination–to read the daily record of proceedings?

“Well, exactly,” the 4th District freshman said. But, he added matter-of-factly, “I feel an obligation to not vote on things I don’t know anything about.”

Asked whether this makes his record look more independent, Himes conceded that perhaps the Post scorecard isn’t so useful after all.

“At some level, the whole debate is silly because of course you could also look at the fact that we’ve named 200 Post Offices or celebrated the South Carolina Gamecocks,” Himes said. “The real substance is on the policy votes.”

No argument there. But for those who are wondering, Himes did support that House resolution congratulating the University of South Carolina Gamecocks on winning the 2010 NCAA Division I College World Series.