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.