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Stance of Ellison and McCollum On Israeli-Gaza Resolution Shines a Light on Liberal Voting Records

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The "present" votes registered by Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum a week ago Friday on the U.S. House resolution to recognize "Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, stirred up a bit of controversy in the Gopher State.

Of the 27 members of the House who did not vote in support of the resolution (5 'nays' and 22 'presents'), 7.4 percent came from Minnesota's delegation - which holds less than 2 percent of seats in the chamber.

Ellison released a statement explaining his vote:

"I cannot vote for this resolution because it barely mentions the human suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza. Over 750 people have been killed, including 250 children and 50 women, with over 3,000 people injured. And even before the recent Israeli military operation, life for the people of Gaza had become increasingly unliveable -- with shortages of food, fuel and basic medical supplies. We need to have compassion for the people of Gaza and the tremendous human suffering there.That is why I will vote "present" on this resolution concerning the current conflict in Gaza...History has shown that ground troops and air strikes have not resolved conflict in the Middle East. If we try to resolve conflict with military might and nothing else, then we will be no safer than we were before."

McCollum's statement read in pertinent part:

"An immediate ceasefire is the only option. ... The continued isolation of Gaza is an unacceptable option in light of the depravation and increasing desperation of the mothers, fathers and children of Gaza.... The goal of the United States, and the world, must be to work for peace. And the path to peace will never be forged through violence. For these reasons, it is my intention to vote present on H. Res. 34."

How surprising were these votes by the two most liberal members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation?

In total, 390 U.S. Representatives supported the resolution, or 93.5 percent of all votes cast, compared to 6.5 percent voting 'no' or 'present.'

The 25 Democrats who did not vote for the measure collectively ranked (according to National Journal's 2007 vote rankings) as the 68th most liberal in the House (excluding Democratic newcomer Donna Edwards of Maryland's 4th District, and Republican Ron Paul who was the 27th vote).

But only Gwen Moore of Wisconsin had a higher liberal ranking than Ellison (12th) and just nine had a more liberal voting record than McCollum (46th). In other words, even most of Ellison's and McCollum's liberal colleagues voted in support of the resolution.

The one thing nearly all of these Democrats had in common however, regardless of how far they push the ideological meter to the left, was that they won comfortably in 2008. The average margin of victory for these 26 Democrats in 2008 was 56.2 points - nearly 20 points higher than the national average of 38.2 points.

In other words, these Representatives could feel quite safe expressing their concerns about supporting Israel in this resolution without much fear of reprisal from their constituencies: they represent very safe, liberal, and Democratic-friendly districts. In fact, only one Representative of the Gang of 27 won by less than a 30-point margin in 2008: Dennis Kucinich, who faced a near-competitive race largely due to his presidential campaigning.

Race was also a telling factor in those refusing to vote for House Resolution 34: African-American representatives were nearly five times more likely to vote 'nay' or 'present' than non-blacks. Although just 4.8 percent of non-blacks in the House opted not to vote for the resolution, nearly one-quarter of African-American U.S. Representatives - 9 of 39 (23.1 percent, including Ellison) - registered 'nay' or 'present' votes.

Ellison faced the most competitive race in 2008 of these 9 African American representatives, the others being Hank Johnson (GA-04, 99.9-point margin of victory), Donald Payne (NJ-10, 99.0 points), Gwen Moore (WI-04, 88.5 points), Barbara Lee (CA-09, 76.4 points), Dianne Watson (CA-33, 74.8 points), Donna Edwards (MD-04, 73.0 points), Maxine Waters (CA-35, 68.6 points), and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI-13, 55.0 points).

U.S. Representatives Not Supporting House Resolution 34

Representative
District
Vote
Liberal Rank
2008 MoV
Ron Paul
TX-14
No
246
100.0
Hank Johnson
GA-04
Present
16
99.9
Donald Payne
NJ-10
Present
33
99.0
Gwen Moore
WI-04
No
1
88.5
Peter DeFazio
OR-04
Present
150
82.3
Barbara Lee
CA-09
Present
56
76.4
Dianne Watson
CA-33
Present
40
74.8
Donna Edwards
MD-04
Present
N/A
73.0
Maxine Waters
CA-35
No
56
68.6
Jim McDermott
WA-07
Present
61
67.2
Carolyn Kilpatrick
MI-13
Present
74
55.0
Earl Blumenauer
OR-03
Present
63
53.8
Neil Abercrombie
HI-01
Present
106
53.2
Pete Stark
CA-13
Present
117
52.6
George Miller
CA-07
Present
82
51.6
Keith Ellison
MN-05
Present
12
48.9
Lynn Woolsey
CA-06
Present
46
47.4
Sam Farr
CA-17
Present
14
46.8
John Olver
MA-01
Present
22
46.4
John Dingell
MI-15
Present
121
45.8
Loretta Sanchez
CA-47
Present
99
42.9
Jim Moran
VA-08
Present
107
38.2
Betty McCollum
MN-04
Present
46
37.1
Nick Rahall
WV-03
No
178
34.0
Maurice Hinchey
NY-22
Present
15
32.2
Raul Grijalva
AZ-07
Present
31
30.5
Dennis Kucinich
OH-10
No
158
17.4



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3 Comments


  • Thank you for this magnificent article, one of the best I've seen not only on Palestine and the US, but on the failure of US democracy in general. If only you wrote about the big money from AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) to destroy people who have the courage to even hint that maybe Palestinians are human beings, this would be an almost perfect article on the lack of democracy in our system.

  • I want to say - thank you for this!

  • If you have to do it, you might as well do it right.

  • Leave a comment


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