TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva is on track to have one of the lowest attendance records in Congress.
Grijalva had the 13th-worst voting record in the House last year, an analysis of records done by The Arizona Republic and GovTrack, a website that tracks congressional activities and bills, showed.
While other members of Arizona’s congressional delegation missed between 4 to 8 percent of votes, Grijalva was absent for 13 percent of them. According to the data, he missed about one in seven votes.
The longtime Tucson-based Democrat told The Arizona Republic on Friday that many of his absences were intentional. He has missed votes for special events, such as ceremonies to name post offices, or for discussions on debate rules.
“I had perfect attendance in the fifth grade. That didn’t make me the smartest kid in the class,” Grijalva said.
Congressional representatives from the Western region typically spend more time traveling cross-country from their home states. Grijalva says that rather than spend an extra day heading to Washington, D.C., he can spend that time with constituents. Grijalva has also been skipping a weekly vote to approve a congressional journal of activities from the previous week as a form of protest.
“The journal says, ‘This is what Congress has done.’ And, quite frankly, we haven’t done anything,” Grijalva said.
Susan Sullivan Lagon, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University, said absences would likely not affect the image of more veteran lawmakers, such as Rep. Ed Pastor, a 12-term Democrat. Data shows Pastor has missed 8 percent of votes, the second-highest among Arizona congressional delegates. Newer members would try to maintain high attendance, she said.
“They know someone waiting in the wings to run against them will say, ‘Well, he missed this many votes. What was he doing?” Lagon told the newspaper.
While voting is a very visible duty of serving in Congress, lawmakers also make an impact serving on committees and co-sponsoring legislation. According to The Republic’s analysis, Grijalva has co-sponsored more bills than any member of the House. He also is an active member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Grijalva said he regrets missing a Sept. 20 roll call on forest thinning and wildfire prevention because he was talking to reporters about the measure.
“The fact I was talking to the press is not a good excuse,” Grijalva said. “The irony is I was explaining why I was going to vote no.”