Young far outpaces colleagues on missed votes

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska Rep. Don Young missed more votes on the floor of the House of Representatives last year than nearly every other member of Congress.

Young, R-Alaska, missed 21 percent of votes. The average House member missed 4 percent, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Young, Alaska's only congressman, didn't participate in 108 of 507 House votes, according to a database maintained by the independent publication Congressional Quarterly. And it appears he skipped the last two weeks of the congressional session.

Young last voted Dec. 4. Congress continued without him for 15 days and 44 votes before adjourning for the year.

The sole House member who missed more was Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., whose husband fell gravely ill last year. She missed 40 percent of votes.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens also missed more votes than any other senator -- 12 percent of Senate votes.

''He usually has a very good voting record,'' said Stevens spokeswoman Melanie Alvord.

But last year Stevens kept a commitment to speak at his granddaughter's high school graduation in Alaska. That kept him away on May 21, which turned out to be a day the Senate took 17 votes, each related to the tax-relief bill. Stevens was back and voting on May 22 and May 23, when he cast a yes on the bill's final passage.

Stevens was also absent on scattered days during the year to be with his older sister, who is ill and lives in California, Alvord said.

Young did not offer the Daily News a reason for his absences, despite several phone calls and e-mails to his offices in Washington and Anchorage. His campaign manager referred the paper to Young's congressional spokesman, who did not respond.

For the past three years, Young has been in the bottom 5 percent of the House when it comes to showing up for votes, not counting the House speaker, who typically doesn't vote, and members who died during the year.

In his 29 years in Congress, Young has often returned late from the August recess, absences his staff has attributed to fall hunting trips.

His attendance, as measured by voting, improved in the mid-1980s and again in the early 1990s, when he faced stiff opposition from Democratic challengers. Since then, though, he's had easy victories and in 2000 won re-election with a whopping 70 percent of the vote.

Many of the votes Young missed in 2001 were neither controversial nor close -- naming post offices, honoring Sept. 11 victims, clarifying flag-flying etiquette, and such.

Twenty-two of the votes he missed were procedural motions.

But Young also missed votes on several spending bills and on a measure that, as chairman of the House Transportation Committee, he counted as one of the year's accomplishments, the railroad retirement bill.

He also missed the vote on whether to give President Bush trade promotion authority. The bill passed 215-214.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, the third member of Alaska's all-Republican congressional delegation, made 93 percent of Senate votes. The Senate average was nearly 99 percent.

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