Walking Out on Congress

Gregory Koger comments on the fact that most Democrats didn’t actually vote against the Republican contempt resolution aimed at Eric Holder last Thursday. Instead, they simply walked out:

The nice thing about this tactic is that it is a suitable response to the situation the Democrats found themselves in. The contempt resolution stank of politics (the inquiry was not into the Fast and Furious operation per se, which began during the Bush Administration, but Holder’s response to the scandal), so Democratic opposition was a natural response. However, the National Rifle Association was “scoring” the vote, so a “nay” vote would downgrade Democrats on the NRA’s year-end evaluation. Nonvoting solves both problems: it expresses not just disapproval, but disrespect for the proposal of the majority party and the legitimacy of the proceedings. At the same time, it gives conflicted members some latitude for how they explain their position. And, depending on how the NRA scores nonvoting on this roll call, it may enable them to avoid a downgrade on their annual NRA score.

I doubt very much that the NRA will cut anyone some slack on this, especially since the abstainers were all Democrats. Nonetheless, I’m surprised minority parties don’t do this more often. Not frequently, mind you: voting records are important for most of them, and they want to have solid evidence that they were on the right side. But on the occasions when it’s appropriate to register some contempt of your own over legislative kabuki, walking out is a pretty good way to do it if you know beforehand that you’re going to be on the losing end anyway.