Richard Lugar's 13,000th Senate Vote
Richard Lugar celebrated a career milestone this week, casting his 13,000th vote as a U.S. Senator. You heard that right -- thirteen thousand. A press release from Lugar's office praised his voting record that now victoriously ranks Lugar "10th place in all-time [Senate] votes...having passed earlier this year former Senator and current Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) who cast 12,959 votes." I'm not inclined to kick a man when he's down, but if Lugar's swan song is his 13,000th vote, the message of his political defeat in the name of small government appears to have been all but lost.
The vote was likely one of Lugar's last, following his sound defeat in the Indiana primary, where voters apparently believe 36 years is less public service than a career. By the time Lugar is forced to retire in November, he will have represented Indiana -- a State in which he has not resided for decades -- nearly 13,140 days. At 13,000 votes, that's almost one vote per day in office, not taking into account that Congress mercifully vacations from Washington some average 200 days per year.
Robert Byrd still holds the illustrious vote crown, having cast some 19,000 votes during his 51-year tenure in the Senate. Only two sitting Senators, Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), top Lugar at 16,265 and 14,000 votes respectively. Considering many of the votes a Senator will cast either regulate, legislate, tax, borrow, earmark, or spend, the sheer volume should send a chill down the spine of even the most obtuse political observer. It should chill to the bone any self-respecting conservative.
Simply put, prolific vote records are anything but praiseworthy, even when one considers Lugar once voted according to the conservative principles that got him elected. The outcome of Lugar's 36 years of votes -- an inestimable mass of new government -- did not serve to make government better, it just made more government. What is milestone to the career politician, is a burden to his taxpaying constituents, as our Founders warned. Taxpayers are not the beneficiaries of the big government Richard Lugar and so many others create, legislate, and collect revenues to fund; they are its victims.
As does each Congressional member, Lugar has a taxpayer-funded staff that enables his success, that is, taxpayers footing the cost of their own subjugation. Worse, these tax dollars endear far too many young interns and staffers to the celebrity and power that is today's politics. In 2011, Lugar charged taxpayers $2,878,113 for staff expenditures, according to, Legistorm, a nonpartisan organization which discloses gross (pun intended) Congressional spending. Lugar's staff disclosures totaled $1,859,340 in FY 2001, the first year data on staff salaries was made available, and more than $3,000,000 in 2010. In aggregate pay, for the last 11 years alone, Lugar's office cost taxpayers $26,472,326. Though staffers may make a relative pittance in hourly wage, the total cost to taxpayers is staggering. It might help to multiply that $26,472,326 by 3 to approximate what Lugar's office has cost taxpayers over 36 years, at least in staffing, plus or minus a few million. Of course, that number would be grossly inaccurate without adjusting for the relative lack of public sector bloat, spending, and inflation when Lugar assumed office in 1977. And yet, my calculator still doesn't go that high. This is not to say Lugar is any spending exception among the 534 other members of Congress. Try that math on for size.
Lugar's bff, John Kerry, lamented his friend's defeat -- a tragedy -- as the end of civil discourse and bipartisan compromise as we know it. And Kerry's angst is understandable, considering losing RINOs such as Lugar shine an unwelcome spotlight on the only compromise Democrats know, full capitulation to the Left, or else. It's hard to govern against the will of the people without some bipartisan cover -- think cries for civility from the likes of Obama, Kerry, Franken, Boxer, Reid, Ellison, Durbin, Schumer, Pelosi, and their media -- which makes it all the more infuriating Lugar, and so many other Republicans, endorse the false conciliations.
In the words of pundits from both sides of the aisle, the U.S. Senate is less collegial, less bipartisan, less moderate, and less effective. By all means, let's hope so. In fact, here's hoping Congress just becomes less - less Left, less dictatorial, less tyrannical, less Democrat, less progressive, less regulating, less taxing, less spending -- less burden on the American taxpayer. The more time any one representative spends in Washington D.C. -- even the good guys -- the more inclined he is to go along to get along; an occupational hazard Indiana voters rectified in Richard Lugar far too late.
13,000 votes is a record for which no Representative should endeavor. Any politician voters allow such latitude eventually stops representing his constituency, and starts representing Washington D.C. That is compromise no taxpayer, and -- thanks to the Tea Party -- no Republican, can afford.