Charles Djou wants Hawaii voters to know that the state’s lopsided congressional representation — four Democrats and no Republicans on Capitol Hill — is hurting them. Here’s how the Republican former congressman put it when he announced his run for the U.S. House on Aug. 17, according to Civil Beat’s Chad Blair:
“The problem here is we have too many congressmen who go to the far extremes of their respective partisan parties. Right now I think our current representatives, if you look at their voting records, vote lockstep with their political party instead of doing what I believe you should be doing — doing what I did as a congressman: voting with Hawaii first, Hawaii always.”
Did your Fact Check alarm go off, too?
The assertion we’ll examine today is the idea that Hawaii’s congressional representatives “vote lockstep” with the Democrats. Lockstep refers to marching perfectly in sync, arms hooked together, not a step out of place. Prisoners forced to march lockstep are chained together at the ankles.
Since Djou has his sights set on Congress, we wanted to see how his statement held up against the voting records of Hawaii’s two House representatives. While it’s true that Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Mazie Hirono vote with a majority of Democrats most of the time, there are dozens of examples of times where they broke from their party — and one another — to vote with the Republicans so far this year.
We examined all 691 roll call votes in the House between January and August. There are plenty of measures on which majorities of both parties agree, like a proposal to reduce printing paper in Congress and a proposal to provide Capitol-flown flags to Medal of Honor recipients. Incidentally, counting the areas in which both parties agree is how Djou has used numbers to his advantage in the past.
The parties are divided much of the time. Yet Hanabusa ditched the Democrats to vote with a Republican majority 32 times. Hirono did so 13 times. (Read a related article that details the differences in the congresswomen’s voting habits.)
Asked to explain how the reality of the voting record matched up with his “lockstep” characterization, Djou said his greater point remains valid. He said when it comes to so-called “party unity,” or the percentage of time that an elected official votes with her or his political party, Hanabusa and Hirono are nowhere near moderate.
“I will acknowledge that Colleen Hanabusa has taken a couple of votes against her party but I think she’s well above 90 percent,” Djou told Civil Beat. “There are very few of them left in the Congress, but you’re going to see that most centrists are somewhere near the 80 percent range. Everybody’s going to have at least a 50-plus percent voting record with either political party because the majority of the votes are near unanimous.”
Taking the congresswomen’s missed votes — six for Hanabusa, 23 for Hirono — into account, Hanabusa voted with a Democratic majority 95 percent of the time. Hirono voted with a Democratic majority 98 percent of the time.
“It is a very miniscule difference,” Djou said. “Colleen has scored a couple of votes that distinguish her from Mazie.”
More than a couple dozen, actually, but who’s counting? It appears Djou isn’t, but we are.
Bottom line: No question, the voting records show that Hanabusa and Hirono are loyal Democrats, but “lockstep” was too strong a word to describe their voting habits.