Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chair Jim Burn recently vowed a more robust messaging campaign out of Party HQ attacking Gov. Tom Corbett, and Pennsylvania's Republican legislators in the swamps on the Potomac and Susquehanna. True to form, within hours of the third roll call vote of the 112th Congress, the party communications apparatus was in full swing, alerting reporters that freshmen Reps. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, and Lou Barletta, R-Hazelton, had skipped out on a crucial vote and thus were derelict in their electoral duties.
"By skipping votes one of their very first votes, Mike Kelly and Lou Barletta already let down their constituents and they had not even made it through the first day," Burn said in a news release. "The people of Pennsylvania sent Lou Barletta and Mike Kelly to Congress to fix the problems facing the commonwealth and the country, but Mike Kelly and Lou Barletta did not even bother to show up. Yesterday, Mike Kelly and Lou Barletta let down their constituents, and they have got their careers in Congress off to a disgraceful start. Mike Kelly and Lou Barletta should be ashamed of themselves."
As promised, the Dems were aggressive and immediate. But were they stretching it too far?
First off, the release is factually inaccurate. It states that Kelly and Barletta missed "the vote on the House rules package - a set of procedures that will guide all of the business undertaken by the House of Representatives over the next two years." In fact, they skipped a procedural vote related to the rules package that dealt with allowing delegates from the District of Columbia and the territories certain voting rights. Both men arrived in time to vote for the rules package itself, as shown here.
Also, the aforementioned missed vote was an unexpected one. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, of D.C., offered a motion out of the blue, prompting Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to quickly counter with a motion to table it. Caught off-guard, members had to rush back to the chamber to cast their votes -- but 20 didn't make it in time, Kelly and Barletta among them.
The word from Kelly's office was that he was off-site meeting with supporters who had come down from Northwest Pennsylvania to celebrate his first day as a Congressman. Normally he wouldn't be hard to reach, a spokeswoman said, but the House has yet to issue functioning BlackBerrys -- the manna and constant companion of Congressmen and staff -- so they weren't able to get word to Kelly in time and he missed the vote.
Kelly learned a few valuable freshman lessons: 1. Never stray too far when a vote can arise at any time; 2. A Congressman has to be reachable always; and 3. There is no beginning or end to political season. But the Pennsylvania Dems should at least check their facts.