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Some Democrats Might Stay at Home This Week

Some House Democrats on Monday were weighing whether to stay in their districts this week — and avoid casting three votes of Congressional tribute to former GOP President Ronald Reagan.

Several House Democratic aides, for both senior and rank-and-file Members, speculated late Monday that at least some portion of the 205-member Democratic Caucus would forgo the week’s events. Events during the week of mourning for Reagan are expected to attract a broad sweep of official Washington, including many veteran Democrats who skirmished with Reagan over the years.

Those staffers emphasized that there was no coordinated effort within the Caucus to snub the former Republican president. Even so, Members were wrestling with whether it was worthwhile to forgo a week in the district during a key election year to travel to D.C. for one-day ceremonial session, the aides said.

A Democratic aide to a prominent lawmaker said that, as of Monday, the Member “hasn’t made up his mind” about whether to return to Washington this week.

In several other House offices, aides said their bosses plan to decide at the last minute, based on the floor schedule and whether they could get more done at home.

“A lot of people are grappling with it,” said an aide to a Member who hadn’t yet decided whether to come back to Washington. “If we’re not going to be here [doing legislative business], Members might as well go back to their districts and meet with constituents and get things done.”

Another aide to a rank-and-file Democrat whose boss was also considering staying home added, “There’s absolutely nothing going on. It’s three votes.”

House Democratic leaders did not twist Members’ arms to ensure their participation in this week’s events, but privately they were encouraging lawmakers’ attendance. The Democratic leadership is still planning to hold its weekly Caucus meeting, but it has canceled a planned dinner tonight and a regular Whip meeting Thursday.

“We’re not whipping [attendance] at all,” said one Democratic leadership aide. “We don’t really know [how many Members will show up]. We think there will be a decent turnout.”

Another leadership aide added that it would be ill-advised of Democrats to stay home because it would simply give Republicans more ammunition to use against the minority party in an election year.

“What it will do is promote more the cynicism in middle America about what goes on here in Washington, D.C.,” the aide said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to a two-term president. It would not foster good will or a spirit of bipartisanship” to stay home.

While some in the Caucus appeared to be wavering, others were more firm in their plans to participate.

Even Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) — whose presidential bid this year has been one of the most outspokenly liberal of all Democratic primary contestants — “is definitely planning to come back to participate both Wednesday and Friday,” said Kucinich’s spokesman, Doug Gordon.

Eric Wortman, spokesman for the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said the 39 Members in his group were all planning on being in Washington for the events to honor Reagan.

“All of my guys are coming,” he said. “I haven’t heard from a single person who’s not.”

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