Accuracy in Media

In recent weeks, Sen. John Kerry has campaigned all across the country, but there’s one place he can’t seem to make it to?the U.S. Senate.  Since January, Kerry has only managed to participate in 16 of 134 Senate votes, according to an Associated Press tally reported on June 22. 

Nevertheless, Kerry still had the audacity to get upset when a Senate vote was postponed on a day he was gracious enough to be available.  According to CNN.com, Kerry left the campaign trail on Tuesday, June 22, to vote for a bill on funding for veterans’ health care benefits.  Unfortunately, the vote was postponed and Kerry was unable to stick around until it came up again. 

Of course, Kerry had every right to be angry.  After all, most of the other 99 senators come to work on a regular basis.  Certainly, they could all work out their schedules to be more accommodating.

Never mind that Kerry cannot manage to vote even when inside the U.S. Capitol.  A week before the vote on veterans’ benefits, Kerry missed voting on a measure to make war profiteering illegal, even though he was in the building, according to CNN.com.

But don’t worry.  Even though Kerry can’t make it to the Senate floor, he still receives a steady income for not doing his job.  Fortunately, Johnathan M. Stein, a 28-year-old law student at Hofstra University Law School, wants to put a stop to that.  On June 16, The Washington Times reported that Stein had filed a complaint because paying Kerry for being absent violates section 2 paragraph 39 of the U.S. Code.  The relevant section reads:

“The Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives (upon certification by the Clerk of the House of Representatives), respectively, shall deduct from the monthly payments (or other payments authorized by law) of each Member or Delegate the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the Senate or House, respectively, unless such Member or Delegate assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family.”

One would think that Kerry had enough money without having to collect it for not working, especially since the Code explicitly states wages should be deducted for absences. 

One would think, in fact, that Kerry should resign from the Senate since he is so busy running a campaign.  After all, that’s what Bob Dole did when he ran for president in 1996.  And it’s not like Kerry would have to worry about handing over his seat to a Republican.  Mitt Romney, the governor of Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts, is a Republican, but it does not look as if he would be able to appoint a successor for Kerry.  According to the Associated Press, the Massachusetts Senate has already approved a bill, likely to pass in the House, that would require a special election to be held within 160 days of a vacancy.  Gov. Romney, according to the report, said he opposes this measure because it does not give candidates enough time to run a proper election.  Furthermore, the situation would leave Massachusetts without full representation in the Senate while elections are held for the next senator. 

Perhaps if Kerry is not going to fulfill his duties as a senator by voting, he should at least show up at events on the campaign trail.  But this is exactly what Kerry failed to do when he chose to skip a planned speech before the U.S. Conference of Mayors on June 28, according to CNN.com.  More than 200 mayors were attending the conference in Boston, but Kerry refused to attend because he would not cross the picket lines of the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association, despite being asked to speak by Thomas Menino, the mayor of Boston.

The police union picketed the event because of a dispute with Menino over wages, said Charles Hurt of The Washington Times.  In July 2002, the police contract expired with the average annual officer salary at $79,000.  The union demanded a 16 percent increase over four years, but Menino would only agree to an 11.9 percent raise.

According to Thomas Keane Jr. of the Boston Herald, Menino has taken the right path by refusing to raise salaries any higher.  The wage increases, he said, would come at the expense of other services beneficial to the city as a whole. 

Makes sense.  But regardless of who is right or wrong, the dispute was between a mayor and a union and had nothing to do with Kerry.  By choosing to skip the event, Kerry effectively snubbed the 200 mayors in attendance and openly sided against Menino, a fellow Democrat, who, according to the Boston Herald, is now frustrated with the Kerry campaign.

The Conference of Mayors was full of influential people who could give Kerry their support.  By failing to show up, Kerry neglected the opportunity to let others hear what he stands for firsthand.  By repeatedly failing to cast votes, Kerry has neglected his duties as senator.  Would Kerry become more responsible as president?




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