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U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, says he’s hardly the only politician to miss a bunch of votes while running for office. In fact, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson -- had a year about two decades ago when he missed more than any other member of Congress, says Mack.
Mack has taken a beating in the press for missing votes while running statewide including on hot topics such as repealing part of "Obamacare" and on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan. Mack campaign manager Jeff Cohen fired back at Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam C. Smith in a July 24 letter:
"What you didn’t mention is that when Bill Nelson was in Congress and running statewide for governor in 1990, he had the absolute worst voting record of anyone in Congress. He missed a whopping 56 percent of his votes."
We previously fact-checked a claim from Mack's Republican primary opponent, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, that Mack missed "almost half" of his votes in Congress this year. We ruled that claim Mostly False because Mack didn't miss quite that many votes.
We’ll leave it to voters to decide the relevance of Nelson’s voting record from 22 years ago. Here, we wanted to see if the Mack campaign was accurate in its attack.
Missed votes by Mack and Nelson in 2012 and full career
Before we travel back in time to 1990, let’s look at more recent data: the number of missed votes this year so far. GovTrack.us shows quarterly missed votes for members using voting information from the official websites of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate -- and during a quarter the numbers can continuously change as more votes are taken. We will cite the numbers so far this year as of July 25 -- a day after the Mack campaign letter:
Nelson missed 1 vote out of 182, or less than 1 percent.
Mack missed 145 out of 502 votes, or about 29 percent.
GovTrack.us also shows historical data between January 2001 and late July 2012. That shows that Nelson missed 2 percent of recorded votes while Mack, starting when he joined the Senate in 2005, missed 6 percent.
Nelson’s missed votes in 1990
In 1990, Nelson was in the U.S. House of Representatives and faced an uphill battle in a Democratic primary for governor against Lawton Chiles, who ultimately won.
We turned to Congressional Quarterly for our research on missed votes. CQ shows that in 1990 Nelson voted 44 percent of the time, which means he missed 56 percent of the votes. A CQ ranking showed that placed him dead last that year.
Nelson’s office sent us a 1990 Associated Press article in which Nelson explained that on important missed votes he went on record about how he would have voted.
Now let’s return to 2012.
We were unable to get an answer from Mack’s campaign or office if he issued statements explaining how he would have voted when he was absent. Campaign spokesman David James responded in an email: "A missed vote for Connie is a missed vote -- according to you. Same standard for Nelson, irrelevant of statements."
Nelson’s one missed vote this year was to confirm the nomination of a federal judge in Illinois, which passed 86-1 on May 14.
One final note about Nelson’s voting record: In addition to 1990, CQ shows that he only dipped below 88 percent voting participation one other year. In 1985 he voted 73 percent of the time -- the year he was training for a January 1986 shuttle flight.
Mack’s campaign manager said that in 1990, when Nelson was running for governor, he missed 56 percent of his votes -- the worst record in Congress. CQ data confirms that 22 years ago, Nelson missed 56 percent of his votes, placing him last in voter participation.
It is worth noting, however, that Nelson went on record with his position on some votes rather than simply skipping the vote.
We rate this claim True.
PolitiFact, "Dave Weldon says Connie Mack missed "almost half" his votes in Congress this year,"July 25, 2012
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking George LeMieux," June 20, 2012
Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog, "Connie Mack campaign really dislikes Adam Smith," July 24, 2012
CQ Vote Studies, House and Senate service for Bill Nelson, 1979-1990 in House and 2001-2011 in Senate
CQ Vote Studies, House service for Connie Mack, 2005-2011
CQ, Floor Votes by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in the past 12 months, July 25, 2012
CQ, Floor Votes by Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fort Myers) in the past 12 months, July 25, 2012
CQ Weekly, "Voting participation: House chart," Dec. 22, 1990
CQ Weekly, "Voting participation: Despite election campaigning, members vote at record pace," Dec. 22, 1980
Congressional Research Service report, "Pairing in Congressional voting: The House,"Updated Feb. 2, 2007
Sen. Bill Nelson, Biography, Accessed July 25, 2012
Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog,Weldon robocall rips Mack for missing votes, July 22, 2012
Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog,"Missed votes could be an issue for U.S. Rep. Mack as U.S. Sen. campaign heats up,"Feb. 3, 2012
Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog,"Connie Mack competing with Charlie Rangel for most missed votes,"July 24, 2012
Tampa Bay Times, "Senate primaries give voters few options,"July 15, 2012
Naples Daily News, "Editorial: U.S. Senate scenario," July 25, 2012
Miami Herald, "Connie Mack disses Paul Ryan budget as ‘a joke,’"April 4, 2012
Miami Herald, "Campaign pressures McCollum candidate: Senate run restricts voting in House," Accessed in Nexis, Oct. 16, 2000
Politico,"Connie Mack skips out on big votes, hits trail instead,"April 17, 2012
George LeMieux for U.S. Senate,Radio ad, March 14, 2012
GovTrack.us, Missed votes for U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fort Myers), Accessed July 25, 2012
GovTrack.us, Missed votes for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Accessed July 25, 2012
New York Times Inside Congress,Top house vote missers, Accessed July 23, 2012
Interview, Joshua Tauberer, president of Civic Impulse which created the GovTrack.us website, July 23, 2012
Interview, David Meyers, CQ Roll Call, July 25, 2012
Interview, David James, spokesman for Connie Mack’s campaign, July 25, 2012
Interview, Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, July 25, 2012
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