Obama vot­ing record in Illi­nois well to the left of own party

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JERRY SEPER AND JOSEPH CURL

Sen. Barack Obama por­trayed him­self Aug. 28 as an agent of change for main­stream Amer­ica, but his eight-year vot­ing record in the Illi­nois Se­nate shows the Demo­crat was on oc­ca­sion an agent of iso­la­tion who took stands — par­tic­u­larly on anti-crime leg­is­la­tion — that put him to the left of his own party.

Mr. Obama was the only mem­ber of the state Se­nate to vote against a bill to pro­hibit the early release of con­victed crim­i­nal sex­ual abusers; was among only four who voted against bills to toughen crim­i­nal sen­tences and to in­crease penal­ties for “gang­bangers” and dealers of Ec­stasy; and voted “present” on a bill mak­ing it harder for abu­sive par­ents to re­gain cus­tody of their chil­dren, a Wash­ing­ton Times re­view of Illi­nois leg­isla­tive records shows.

“On the one hand, I give him credit for be­ing true to his be­liefs. But cer­tainly with con­cerns that there were, even for his own party in Illi­nois, he would be to the left on some of those key votes,” said Illi­nois state Sen. Dave Syver­son, a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can.

The pat­tern has con­tin­ued since Mr. Obama joined the U.S. Se­nate, ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Jour­nal mag­a­zine.

Its re­spected leg­isla­tive score­card rated the Illi­nois Demo­crat, based on his 2007 vot­ing record, as the most lib­eral mem­ber of the Se­nate, even more lib­eral than Sen. Bernard San­ders of Ver­mont, a self-de­scribed “demo­cratic so­cial­ist.” Mr. Obama ranked No. 16 and No. 10 in the pre­vi­ous two years.

His run­ning mate, Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware, ranked third in the 2007 Na­tional Jour­nal sur­vey, with only Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy be­tween him and Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama’s left-lean­ing pedi­gree has con­cerned some of his party’s moderate and con­ser­va­tive mem­bers. Rep. Dan Boren of Ok­la­homa has pub­licly re­fused to en­dorse Mr. Obama, de­scrib­ing the pre­sump­tive pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee as the “most lib­eral se­na­tor” on Capi­tol Hill.

“I think this is an im­por­tant time for our coun­try,” Mr. Boren has told re­porters. “We’re fac­ing a ter­ri­ble eco­nomic down­turn. We have high gaso­line prices. We have prob­lems in our for­eign pol­icy. That’s why I think it’s im­por­tant.”

Al­though Mr. Obama has talked about work­ing with Repub­li­cans, Mr. Boren said, “un­for­tu­nately, his record does not re­flect work­ing in a bi­par­ti­san fash­ion.”

Mr. Boren, how­ever, said he plans to sup­port the Demo­cratic ticket on Elec­tion Day and will cel­e­brate if his party suc­ceeds in seat­ing the first black pres­i­dent.

The Obama cam­paign has dis­missed con­cerns about their candi- date’s vot­ing record and ac­cused Repub­li­cans of try­ing to “dis­tract, de­flect and dis­tort” the record by im­prop­erly char­ac­ter­iz­ing votes he cast on sev­eral is­sues, in­clud­ing hot-but­ton crim­i­nal jus­tice mat­ters.

The cam­paign said Mr. Obama was a “strong pro­po­nent of tougher mea­sures to fight crime,” such as sup­port­ing ef­forts to in­crease fund­ing and sup­port for lo­cal law en­force­ment.

His aides said Mr. Obama spon­sored laws to re­move the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for first-de­gree mur­der and to ex­tend the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for sex­ual as­sault; to pro­tect vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence; to in­crease penal­ties on drunken driv­ers and white-col­lar crim­i­nals; and to pro­tect vic­tims’ rights.

They also said Mr. Obama has worked on leg­is­la­tion to crack down on sex of­fend­ers and drug dealers, and re­peat­edly voted to lengthen sen­tences for crim­i­nals.

Some Obama crit­ics point to his op­po­si­tion to the Illi­nois ver­sion of bills to pro­tect ba­bies who were born alive af­ter botched at­tempts at abor­tions, re­quir­ing a doc­tor to as­sist any child who sur­vived.

In 2001, Illi­nois law­mak­ers of­fered three such bills and Mr. Obama voted “present” on each of them, ar­gu­ing that un­der the Equal Pro­tec­tion Clause, the pro­posed laws would “es­sen­tially bar abor­tions.” A year later, he voted “no” on the re­of­fered bills.

In 2003, af­ter Mr. Obama be- came chair­man of the State Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, a new bill was re­ferred to this com­mit­tee but lost in a 6-4 vote and was never sent to the Se­nate floor for a full vote. Mr. Obama, ac­cord­ing to state records, voted against that bill.

Mr. Obama’s op­po­si­tion to such a law put him the mi­nor­ity of his own party na­tion­ally.

The fed­eral ver­sion — the Born-Alive In­fants Pro­tec­tion Act, which guar­an­teed that live­born in­fants are af­forded full le­gal rights un­der fed­eral law, re­gard­less of their stage of de­vel­op­ment or whether their live births occurred dur­ing an abor­tion — passed the House by a 380-15 vote on Sept. 26, 2000. It was killed later that year in the Se­nate.

The leg­is­la­tion was rein­tro­duced and passed the House on March 12, 2002, by a voice vote, On July 18, 2002, it cleared the Se­nate by unan­i­mous con­sent. Pres­i­dent Bush signed the bill into law on Aug. 5, 2002.

“This im­por­tant leg­is­la­tion en­sures that ev­ery in­fant born alive — in­clud­ing an in­fant who sur­vives an abor­tion pro­ce­dure — is con­sid­ered a per­son un­der fed­eral law,” Mr. Bush said at the time. “To­day, through sono­grams and other tech­nol­ogy, we can see clearly that un­born chil­dren are mem­bers of the hu­man fam­ily, as well.”

Billing him­self on the 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign trail as the law-and-or­der can­di­date who con­sis­tently sup­ported and voted for bills aimed at strength­en­ing the na­tion’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, Mr. Obama doesn’t men­tion sev­eral votes from his eight years in the Illi­nois state Se­nate that Repub­li­cans are de­ter­mined to use to paint a dif­fer­ent pic­ture.

On nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, ac­cord­ing to a com­pi­la­tion of his state leg­isla­tive votes, Mr. Obama voted “present,” “no” or not at all when sev­eral ma­jor crime bills were of­fered.

The records also show Mr. Obama voted “no” on a bill al­low­ing po­lice of­fi­cers to ex­e­cute war­rants and en­ter build­ings without knock­ing if there was a rea­son­able be­lief a weapon would be used against them; voted “present” on leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing that mi­nors who com­mit gun crimes on or near a school be pros­e­cuted as adults; and did not vote on a bill re­quir­ing fin­ger­print back­ground checks on school bus driv­ers.

Mr. Obama was the only mem­ber of the state Se­nate to vote against a bill to pro­hibit the early release of con­victed crim­i­nal sex­ual abusers; and was among only four who voted against bills to toughen crim­i­nal sen­tences, in­crease penal­ties for crim­i­nals whose of­fenses were com­mit­ted in the fur­ther­ance of gang ac­tiv­i­ties, and in­crease penal­ties for the de­liv­ery of Ec­stasy and other de­signer drugs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.