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#tbt: Presidential Candidate Scolds Senators for Playing Hooky

In light of recent absences on the Senate floor, we dug into the Roll Call archives.
In light of recent absences on the Senate floor, we dug into the Roll Call archives.


With the Senate attendance record of the three Republicans who recently announced presidential campaigns now gaining some notice in the press , this gem from the archives seemed remarkably applicable.  

Just a couple of weeks after announcing his presidential campaign, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole was perturbed when he looked around on a Monday only to see a couple dozen senators had still yet to return from an extended recess. Dole: Long Days Ahead
By Gabriel Kahn, April 27, 1995 Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan) was angered Monday when, despite a two-week vacation, numerous Senators failed to return on time for the start of legislative business, forcing him to declare that no votes would be taken that day.  

In words worthy of an irate schoolteacher, Dole reprimanded his colleagues for their tardiness. “I urge my colleagues that we have to catch up with the House. We are not going to be able to do that if we come back after two-week vacation and only half of us show up. It is pretty hard to have much meaningful happen,” said Dole on the Senate floor on Monday shortly after noon.  

Dole had planned to proceed with debate on product liability reform legislation on Monday. Instead, he warned that th eSenate, which lost much of the limelight to the House during the “Contract with America” period, should be prepared for a grueling schedule in the weeks to come. In the future, he said, he’s prepared to call Senate no-shows on their bluff.  

“This time, OK. Next time, we will have votes,” said Dole. “I want to give everybody advance notice that on both sides of the aisle that when we say no votes before 3 [p.m.], it means probably votes after 3.”  

“I do not like to have Sergeant at Arms votes to see who is in town and who is not in town,” said Dole. A Sergeant at Arms vote is a “bed check” vote to determine how many Senators are present.  

A Roll Call poll of every Senate office found that at least 25 Senators missed all or almost all of Senate business on Monday and at least five more returned Monday afternoon.  

The Senate is accustomed to the traditional “three weeks on, one week off” schedule, but often with no votes on Fridays and little work on Mondays.  

But Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss), the Majority Whip, said Tuesday that the three-day-a-week legislative schedule will likely be a thing of the past in the Senate.  

Lott, also somewhat perturbed by the many absences on Monday, said the leadership had told Senators that they could expect votes on Mondays in “May, June, July, and up to the August break.” Lott said that Friday votes will also be a regular feature.  

“I think we ought to work [Monday through Friday] but work during the daylight,” said Lott. “I don’t know any other sane institution that takes off Mondays” but works Fridays.  

The Senators who missed all or almost all of Monday are Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Max Baucus (D-Mont), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Joe Biden (D-Del), Kit Bond (R-Mo), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), Hank Brown (R-Colo), Richard Bryan (D-Nev), Bill Cohen (R-Maine), Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY), Russ Feingold (D-Wis), Phil Gramm (R-Texas), Mark Hatfield (R-Ore), Howell Heflin (D-Ala), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), John Kerry (D-Mass), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-Mich), Dick Lugar (R-Ind), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md), David Pryor (D-Ark), Bill Roth (R-Del), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo), and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn).  

Mary Beth Zupa contributed to this report.

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