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Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie is continuing to attack incumbent Mark Warner as a loyal lieutenant to liberal leaders in Washington.
"I would not support the president’s policies down the line and Harry Reid down the line, as Mark Warner has," Gillespie said during a recent interview on Fox News.
Gillespie and the state GOP repeatedly have said Warner has voted with President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time. We rated that claim True this spring, but noted that Obama has taken a position on only 28 percent of the measures Warner has voted on. Warner’s key show of solidarity with the president was his 2010 vote to pass Obamacare.
With that work behind us, we decided to probe the unexplored part of Gillespie’s claim: That Warner has supported Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., "down the line."
Gillespie’s campaign declined to back up or explain the statement. So we went to the voting records.
OpenCongress.org has a tool that compares the voting record of U.S. senators and representatives for the current two-year term of Congress, which started in January 2013. Warner voted the same way as Reid 87 percent of the time through June 24 of this year. That ties as the ninth lowest percentage among 51 Senate Democrats. The lowest correlation is owned by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., at 79 percent; the highest is 93 percent, shared by five senators. The average among all Democratic senators, excluding Reid, is 91 percent.
Next, we compiled a record of the roll call votes for the previous four years in which Reid and Warner were both in the Senate. In both the 111th and 112th Congress terms, they also voted the same way 87 percent of the time.
Warner and Reid have agreed on these major bills:
- The stimulus
- The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare
- Extending the Patriot Act, allowing increased surveillance of people suspected of terrorist activities
- A farm bill expanding crop insurance and trimming the food stamp program
- Extending a period offering lower rates for student loans
- Increasing debt limits
Warner has opposed Reid on several key bills by voting:
- To overturn Environmental Protection Agency regulations to cut mercury and other emissions from coal-fired electric generation facilities
- Against delaying the 2013 start of automatic spending cuts in defense and domestic programs that are also known as sequestration
- For the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement
Many of Warner’s voting disagreements with Reid occurred not in the final actions on bills, but in earlier votes on proposed amendments to them. Warner has supported a number of cost-cutting amendments that Reid has opposed. This includes Warner’s votes:
- To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to address long-term fiscal problems
- To bar earmarks in several budget amendments
- To eliminate appropriations for security on highway buses on which passengers typically carry luggage
- Against giving seniors, veterans and the disabled a $250 check to offset the lack of a cost of living adjustment in 2010 benefits
- For streamlining 15 financial literacy programs in 13 departments
- For tort reform as part of the health care reform law
Warner campaigned for office in 2008 as a "radical centrist" who would seek bipartisan compromise. David Turner, Warner’s campaign spokesman this year, said Gillespie’s efforts to define the senator by vote comparisons "is distorting Senator Warner’s moderate record."
Turner sent us links to other vote studies and news articles that praise Warner for his bipartisan work. For example, the National Journal rated Warner the 46th most liberal member of the 100-seat U.S. Senate in 2013, based on an analysis of 117 roll call votes on key economic, foreign and social issues. And Open Congress, found that Warner voted with the majority of his party on 90 percent of all Senate bills last year, ranking him 42nd among the 51 Democratic senators.
Turner also noted that Warner and Reid disagreed on some matters that the Senate never voted on.
Warner, for example, drew national attention for leading an informal, bipartisan group of six senators seeking tax and spending compromises that would lower the national debt. Reid dismissed the effort as "happy talk." He left Warner off a bipartisan supercommitee that unsuccessfully searched for fiscal compromises to avoid automatic spending cuts -- also known as sequestration -- that went into effect last year.
Turner also sent us a recent Politico article that named Warner as one of a group of Democratic senators who has been pushing Reid to ease his control of the Senate by allowing more votes on bills and opening up the amendment process.
Gillespie accused Warner of supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "down the line." Gillespie’s campaign declined to provide any explanation of the statement.
Records show that Warner and Reid have voted in accord 87 percent of the time, including on most of the landmark bills since 2009. That shows substantial agreement, but not the knee-jerk support for Reid that Gillespie suggests. Among the 51 Senate Democrats, Warner has the ninth lowest voting percentage with Reid.
Reid and Warner usually agree, but they’re not clones. We rate Gillespie’s exaggerated statement Half True.
Fox News, "Is the GOP ready to take back the Senate, White House," June 9, 2014.
PolitiFact Virginia, "Virginia GOP says Warner votes with Obama 97 percent of the time," May 15, 2014.
OpenCongress.org, "Head-to-Head Comparison Tool," accessed June 17, 2014.
Spreadsheet based on record of roll call votes for 2009-12, OpenCongress.org and Senate.gov.
Email from David Turner, June 25, 2014.
National Journal, "2013 Vote Rankings," accessed May 7, 2014.
Politico, "Harry Reid’s new challenge: His fellow Democrats," June 23, 2014.
The Roanoke Times, "Debt reduction is the calling of Sen. Mark Warner’s life," July 22, 2012.
Roll Call, "Partisan Detente at Bryce Harlow Dinner," April 17, 2013.
Politico, "Left on sidelines, Mark Warner mounts deficit effort," Oct. 3, 2011.
The Hill, "A digital revolution in government spending," April 29, 2014.
The Hill, "Sen. Warner gaining more influence," March 17, 2010.
New York Times, "A Rare Bipartisan Call to Share Budget Pain," March 7, 2011.
The Daily Beast, "Democratic Sen. Mark Warner Defies Party to Engage GOP on a Deficit deal," Dec. 28, 2011.
Interview with Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, June 25, 2014.
Interview with Dale Eisman, senior researcher for Common Cause, June 25, 2014.
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