When members of the U.S. Congress run for president, they frequently miss votes.
Since Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in January, she has missed nearly one-fourth of them — 24.1% of votes in the House of Representatives so far this year. According to ProPublica, that gives her the ninth-worst voting record out of 434 House members in the 116th Congress.
It’s not clear why she missed the votes. Inquiries to Haig Hovsepian, her media contact in Washington, D.C., got no response. A message was left with Gabbard’s Honolulu office Monday.
Some of Gabbard’s missed votes were on important defense legislation, even though her signature campaign issues revolve around criticism of U.S. foreign and military policy, particularly her opposition to U.S. involvement in regime-change wars.
On Friday, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 was approved in a 220-197 vote, largely along party lines with just eight Democrats voting “no” along with Republicans. Gabbard did not vote, although as a military veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee she can actually have influence on the bill.
Earlier Friday, the House passed an amendment to the NDAA to prevent President Trump “from launching a military strike on Iran without prior congressional approval,” The Hill reported. That vote was 251 to 170, but Gabbard did not vote on that measure, either.
“Some Republicans broke rank to support it, including vocal Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who co-sponsored the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” The Hill reported.
Also Friday, the House voted 402 to 12 to reauthorize funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Gabbard did not vote on that bill, either.
“The passage follows comedian Jon Stewart’s sharp criticism of lawmakers for their poor attendance at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing to to renew the funding,” The Hill reported.
In total, Gabbard missed all 16 House votes Friday and all 21 votes Thursday. According to Roll Call, that also included a 221-201 vote to defeat a Republican bill “to develop low-yield, or tactical, nuclear weapons for use on specific battlefields.”
It appears the congresswoman may have been out of town at the time of the votes.
Gabbard’s presidential campaign, for example, emailed supporters Wednesday to promote the candidate’s plans to attend the League of United Latin American Citizens Conference in Milwaukee on Thursday. The campaign listed a total of four events in Milwaukee, starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m.
On Friday her campaign emailed out requests for donations, stating, “Tulsi’s already on the right side of so many issues.”
Gabbard herself on Thursday tweeted that she was “live on the road” in Wisconsin as part of #TULSI2020. On Friday, she again tweeted her opposition to regime change wars, requested campaign donations and thanked first responders fighting brush fires on Maui.
One possible clue as to Gabbard’s whereabouts came Saturday when her sister, Vrindavan, was featured in a video on Gabbard’s Twitter feed saying that the congresswoman was doing Army National Guard duty over the weekend.
How Other Reps Voted
Other House Democrats running for president in 2020 have also missed a lot of votes.
ProPublica reports that Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) has missed 16.25% of votes this year, ranking him the 17th worst in the House. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) missed 30.4% of votes, making him the sixth worst.
Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) missed the most votes of all House reps — 43%. But Swalwell dropped out of the presidential race last week.
And, in spite of missing lots of votes, Swalwell, Moulton and Ryan voted on all the bills Gabbard skipped Thursday and Friday.
Hawaii’s other Democrat in the U.S. House, Ed Case, was in D.C. on Thursday and Friday, too, and voted on all four House measures mentioned above.
According to Case’s office, the House approved three floor amendments to the NDAA from the congressman.
“This year’s NDAA as approved by the House authorizes a total of $733 billion for the upcoming fiscal year and reflects priorities in defending our country, protecting our interests abroad and supporting our troops and their families,” says the press release.
“Case’s first amendment calls on the U.S. Defense Department to review civilian aircraft flights over military installations and report on any regulatory changes required to ensure optimal operations and security.”
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.