Rep. Don Young took the time this week to explain to reporters -- and Alaskans -- why he left Washington early in December, missing the last two weeks of House votes. Those 44 votes contributed to Young having the highest percentage of missed votes last year in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, his excuse was not a good one.
''I was tired of the Senate keeping us here for no reason at all. So I went, very frankly, home early. If people don't understand that...well, I'm sure they do,'' Young told reporters.
What is it that he believes the people should understand?
Congressional Quarterly reported that Young missed 21 percent of House votes last year, the highest percentage among the 435 members. He missed the last two weeks of voting after leaving Washington on Dec. 6. Congress remained in session for another 13 days before adjourning.
The theoretical adjournment date for Congress is normally around the first of October, when the new federal fiscal year begins. However, in recent years, both chambers have stayed around well past that. By the end of November, the House had wrapped up most of its business. However, the way Congress works the House and the Senate must each approve legislation. If the two versions of the legislation are different, then those differences must be reconciled and a final version then approved by both chambers.
When all of that is done for the year, Congress adjourns and members can go home, go on vacation or go wherever. But they should not leave until the work is done, even if the Senate is moving slower than the House.
Among the votes Young missed: the final House vote Dec. 6 to give President Bush ''fast track'' trade promotion authority (the bill passed 215-214), as well as the final versions of several appropriations bills, including defense.
Certainly it can be frustrating to have to stay in Washington not just a few weeks but actually a few months passed the targeted adjournment date. However, representing the people of Alaska -- primarily through votes in Congress -- is Young's job.
Because of our population size, Alaska gets only one member in the U.S. House. That means on any given vote, we have only one out of 435 to consider what Alaskans believe or want on that particular issue before casting a vote.
When our elected representative isn't there to vote 21 percent of the time, who is representing Alaskans?
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