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Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said that his Republican rival U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV has missed 178 votes this year, giving him one of the worst attendance records in Congress.
"Speaking of votes, why don’t you explain how you don’t show up to work. Why don’t you explain how this year you have one of the worst voting records. I have missed one vote this year, you have missed 178," Nelson said.
Nelson made the claim during a debate at Nova Southeastern University in Davie on Oct. 17. Mack countered back that they had similar records of missed votes if looking at their entire careers, rather than just this year.
Missed votes in 2012
Here we will examine recent figures for missed votes by both Mack and Nelson through September 2012.
GovTrack.us tracks missed votes for members of Congress using voting information from the official websites of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
It shows that for the first three quarters of this year, Mack has missed 178 votes (65 in the first quarter, 75 in the second quarter and 38 in the third quarter.)
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.
But looking at sheer votes isn’t an apples to apples comparison because the House takes more votes than the Senate.
Career missed votes
That’s why we also looked at the percentage of missed votes on GovTrack for Mack’s tenure and Nelson’s Senate tenure (Nelson previously served in the House 1979-1990) -- and the percentage missed this year.
From the start of Mack’s tenure in January 2005, he missed 6 percent of roll call votes. During Nelson’s Senate tenure starting in January 2001, he missed 1 percent. The median missed votes for all members was 2.5 percent.
We noticed that Mack’s percentage of missed votes started to spike in the last quarter of 2011 around the time he announced he was running for the U.S. Senate. While Nelson faced token primary opposition, Mack faced more serious challengers, forcing him to campaign more in Florida.
The New York Times’ Inside Congress tabulates missed votes and shows the top three vote missers in the House for the 112th Congress, which covers the past two years. For that time period, Mack is in 13th place, according to New York Times reporter Derek Willis. That was worst among Florida representatives. If we removed Reps. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.; and Jane Harman, D-Calif., who resigned; and Donald Payne, D-N.J., who died, Mack would be in 10th place, Willis said.
In July, Mack campaign spokesman David James said that Mack missed some votes "to make sure Mitt Romney won the Florida presidential primary in January, something Connie's constituents felt very strongly about when it comes to invoking the change we need in Washington."
Nelson said Mack missed 178 votes this year, making that "one of the worst voting records." Mack did miss 178 votes this year compared to 1 for Nelson.
But unlike Nelson, Mack faced serious primary challengers, which meant he had to campaign in Florida more. Also, the House takes more votes than the Senate, so it’s more useful to look at percentages of missed votes. But the numbers are correct.
According to the New York Times, Mack’s record places him in 13th for this Congress which started in January 2011 (or 10th if we omit members who resigned or died). That fits the definition of "one of the worst."
We rate this claim Mostly True.
PolitiFact, "Dave Weldon says Connie Mack missed ‘almost half’ of his votes in Congress this year," July 25, 2012
PolitiFact, "Connie Mack says Bill Nelson missed 56 percent of his votes -- in 1990," July 26, 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
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 23, 2012
GovTrack.us, Missed votes for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Accessed July 23, 2012
New York Times Inside Congress, Top house vote missers, Accessed Oct. 17, 2012
Interview, Derek Willis, New York Times reporter, Oct. 17, 2012
Interview, Joshua Tauberer, president of Civic Impulse which created the GovTrack.us website, Oct. 17, 2012
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