Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Barber Asserts Independence On Day One

Anyone who expected new Congressman Ron Barber to be a "rubber stamp" for Democratic leadership was proven wrong on Barber's first day.  In a series of votes, including two Arizona-related measures, Barber was more likely to vote against the majority of his own party and with a majority of Republican lawmakers.

Barber's first roll call vote was on an amendment, and he did not buck the party line.  However, he then voted "nay" with all Republicans (but one) to vote down a Democratic-sponsored amendment to authorize a "pilot project to test a small increase in federal grazing fees."  It failed by a 156-258 vote. 

Things got more interesting on the next vote.  Fellow southern Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva brought forth an amendment to strike from the bill "a 100-mile operation control zone for the Department of Homeland Security along the northern and southern borders of the United States."  Barber was one of only 14 Democrats to join the GOP in voting it down, 177-247.  

That bill, with the 100-mile control zone waiving environmental regulations, was then passed by the House, with Barber joining 15 other Democrats and 216 Republicans in voting "aye".  Final vote: 232-188.

The next measure was the one put forward by Arizona Republican Trent Franks (R-CD2), discussed earlier on this blog, to prevent the Tohono O'odham Nation from building a casino in Glendale.   It passed easily, with almost all Republicans voting for it (232-4) and a sizable majority of Democrats (111-74) also approving it.  Representatives Grijalva and Barber were the only two Arizona Congressmen to vote against it.  So, Barber voted against the majority of his party - including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi - but voted with his southern Arizona colleague.  (That bill will now go to the Senate.)

Of course, this pattern of voting contrary to the majority of Democrats follows closely the precedent established by retired Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  She was the 8th most rebellious Democrat before the assassination attempt.  Barber was Giffords' District Director.  (To a lesser extent, it follows Giffords' predecessor, Republican Jim Kolbe, who was not afraid to buck his party when he deemed it necessary.)

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