Monday, March 05, 2007

Site Note: "Key Votes"

Regular visitors to this blog will note the vote count in the upper right-hand corner. It's tough to decide what votes that Congressman Walberg casts are worthy of mentioning-- after all, no one really expected him or anyone else to vote against "observing American Heart Month," and many of the procedural votes in Congress aren't significant outside the House chamber.

Initially, I had planned to include all legislation passed, but even that proved troublesome. Do I include the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007, which passed with limited opposition? It would seem wrong to put that on the same level as enacting the reforms suggested by the 9/11 Commission, for example, or raising the minimum wage, where there was significant debate. And only including legislation misses out on things like Walberg's vote in support of the escalation of the war in Iraq; it was a non-binding, symbolic resolution, but certainly significant!

What's important enough to be counted?

I've decided to let the Washington Post make that decision for me. One of the finest newspapers in the country, the Post has teams of people contemplating such things, and I think I'll trust their judgement and their "Key Votes" page of their Votes Database. It's not perfect, and doesn't include some votes that I would personally consider important. But this way, I don't have to make that decision, and no one will think I'm inflating the number of "No" votes to make Congressman Walberg look bad.

And some of you are probably thinking this isn't important, but I really do think it is. This is certainly a partisan, biased website, but I hope to maintain a certain level of honesty and openness too. After all, that's what we ask of Congressman Walberg and all our political leaders.

Walberg's Key Votes


If you're using the Washington Post site,, your vote total is wrong - it should read 5 NO; 1 YES - He voted to cut interest rates on college loans in half.
Ah! You're right! Sorry about that mistake...

It has now been corrected.

Any chance we could rate votes on our own? I don't know how practical this would be, but why not post every non-procedural vote as a topic, (might need another blog) and ask for commentary. Simply cut and paste the text of the Congressional Research Service summary (easily found on Thomas website) and ask people to comment.

If it raises some discussion, it is important, if it goes unaddressed, it is not.

2 beneficial things with this idea:

One: We don't need to rely on the Washington Post to decide what is important. They may do an excellent job of evaluating a bill on its national signifigance, but only those of us living in the district can decide how important it is to Walberg's constituents.

Two: This will force current participants to PAY ATTENTION. In the spirit of Walberg Watch, I think we should all be tasked with watching what he actually does. Also, if someone feels really strong about an issue, they would be free to encourage others to check out the site and chime in. You could keep track of the stats and only record "votes" from people who actually log in rather than allow anonymous users like me to weigh in.

A little time right now, while there are no elections to distract us, could pay dividends in '08 for challengers to decide what is and is not important to the 7th district voters.

Is anyone with me?
7:02 PM Anonymous:

That's an interesting idea, and I might explore it, but I'm hesitant-- I don't want the blog to become too bogged-down by things like "Supporting the Goals of International Women's Day" (here). Mind you, I also support the goals of International Women's Day, but when a bill passes 403-0, I'm not certain it's worth mentioning here. (With obvious exceptions, of course, like USA PATRIOT Act kinds of legislation.)

The idea of starting another blog devoted exclusively for something like this is actually kind of interesting, but I don't know that I want to take on another Walberg blog. If you or anyone else would like to start a project like that, I'd be willing to link to it.

If you'd like, I could satisfy some of what you're looking for by posting an open thread at the end of every week, with a list of votes cast that week (minus procedural votes) and links to the text on Thomas. From that, I'm sure one could find plenty to discuss.
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