We've been getting conflicting word throughout the day on how Minnesota's Mark Kennedy voted on the DeLay Rule.
This morning his staffers said they didn't know how he voted. Later he was a letter-writer. Later still we heard they were saying it was 'closed vote' and the 'no vote was taken' line.
The last TPM reader who got through to the congressman's office was told that the vote was by "unanimous consent", which should come as some surprise to those in the Shays Handful, who say they voted against it.
A little side note on the DeLay Rule vote.
If we can go by comments released by congressional offices, quite a substantial number of Republican members of congress happened to have stepped out of the room (to get food, go to the bathroom, attend to constituent business, etc.) right about the time they did the voice vote on the DeLay Rule.
Illinois's Tim Johnson, for instance, just couldn't make it. He was there for most of the meeting but had to step out for a "constituent meeting," according to TPM readers who've called his congressional office. He has no official position on the DeLay Rule at all.
Presumably they still had a quorum.
Besides DeLay Rule letter-writers, there's also a growing list of members who simply tell their constituents it was a "private vote" and refuse to answer any questions.
High on that list is Vernon Ehlers of Michigan, Jim Saxton of New Jersey (though we have some conflicting word there), Howard Coble of North Carolina (though again his staff has made some conflicting statements), and Denny Rehberg of Montana.
For many offices, as you can see, there are overlapping and conflicting answers given out to different callers and constituents -- sometimes to a single constituent. So often it's 'it was a voice vote, we don't know how he voted, but it's not recorded, and it's private, and give us you're address and maybe we'll send a letter later.' So, as you can see, it sort of challanges TPMs categorizing abilities.
In the case of Denny Rehberg, one his staffers apparently went so far as to tell one TPM reader that GOP caucus rules forbade him from disclosing his vote on the DeLay Rule.
I guess that means Chris Shays and the whole of the Shays Handful is in a heap of trouble.
A short note about the vote. The DeLay Rule vote, that is.
A number of congressmen (no congresswomen yet) are now telling their constituents that there's no question to answer because the DeLay Rule never came to a vote. (Staffers from Congressmen Tom Davis and Tom Feeney offices have both used this line, according to TPM readers.)
As we noted earlier, the rule was put to a voice-vote in the GOP caucus meeting. That means they asked for yeas and nays. And the yeas had it.
So it's true that there was no recorded vote. So there's no truly definitive way to know one way or another what a particular representative did unless they conspicuously said one thing or another and other members saw them say it.
All we really have to go on is how they say they voted.
Based on published accounts of members in the meeting, the number of 'nays' has been described as anything between a "handful" of members to between 30 and 50.
As we've already noted, it seems there are more members who now claim to have been in the Shays Handful than anyone saw voting 'nea' at the meeting. But what can you do?
In any case, the relevant point is that there was a vote. It wasn't recorded. There's no official tally. But everyone who was there was asked to say yea or nea. Why shouldn't they be willing tell their constituents what they said?
One final note: If your member of congress tells you there wasn't a vote, ask them whether those in the Shays Handful are lying when they say they voted against it.