O ne factor voters should consider in the
presidential race is John Kerry’s record as a
U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the issues that were important enough to him to bring to the Senate floor.
In the third debate, President Bush charged, “I think it’s important, since he talked about the Medicare plan — has he been in the United States Senate for 20 years? He has no record on reforming of health care. No record at all. He introduced some 300 bills and he’s passed five. No record of leadership.”
Sen. Kerry replied, “I’ve actually passed 56 individual bills that I’ve personally written and, in addition to that, and not always under my name, there (are) amendments on certain bills.”
Which side is right? To some extent, both are.
“Kerry has been the lead sponsor of eight bills that have become law,” reported The Associated Press in July 2003.
“Two are related to his work on the Senate panel on oceans and fisheries — a 1994 law to protect marine mammals from being taken during commercial fishing and a 1991 measure for the National Sea Grant College Program Act, which finances marine research. In 1999, President Clinton signed his bill providing grants to support small businesses owned by women.
“The rest of the laws he saw passed were ceremonial — renaming a federal building, designating Vietnam Veterans Memorial 10th Anniversary Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day and World Population Awareness Week in two separate years.”
These are hardly core issues of liberty. Some pundits ascribe Sen. Kerry’s low-profile record to his position behind Sen. Ted Kennedy in the Massachusetts pecking order; others say he took a strong role in leading hearings on key issues and, as Congressional Quarterly reported last December, “Kerry has done better with his coalition-building skills in the Senate. He has often collaborated with fellow Vietnam veteran John McCain, R-Ariz., on issues including normalizing diplomatic relations with Vietnam, regulating tobacco and setting stricter fuel efficiency standards.”
And, Sen. Kerry was a major supporter of the Gramm-Rudman budget deficit limitation law in the late 1980s, which we favored and which briefly reduced the deficit until its effective repeal in 1990.
Despite the point President Bush was making in the debate, sponsoring and passing a high number of bills isn’t necessarily a sign of quality in a senator. The McCain-Kerry tobacco and fuel efficiency standards bills increased government regulations and reduced liberty.
The office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has been in the Senate 12 years, said they don’t keep a running tally of the bills she originated and which were passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. Moreover, a senator sometimes will author a bill, but let a senator from the other party sponsor it, especially when the other party is the majority in control of running the Senate, as Republicans have been for most of the past 10 years.
“On education and health care, two of the most important domestic battlegrounds between Democrats and Republicans, Kerry has a thin record,” CQ noted. Kerry voted for No Child Left Behind but skipped the vote on the Medicare Prescription Drug Law.
His overall voting record, as has been famously pointed out, was the most liberal in the Senate in 2003 and in three previous years, according to National Journal evaluations.
His record of sponsoring and passing bills, either on issues of liberty or otherwise, is not particularly distinguished, either.