The AWOL Senators Who Are Running For President

Is it too much to ask those U.S. Senators who are presidential candidates to continue to show up for work at the Senate jobs they're paid for?

Apparently some Senators think so — particularly Sam Brownback (R-KA), who is running on a pro-values platform that apparently doesn't include doing the job he was elected to do: being a U.S. Senator.

Absent Sam has been AWOL for more than 50 percent of the roll call votes this year. Are hard work and responsibility to one's constituent's part of his core values?

His poor attendance record comes despite the fact that he's already had almost 11 weeks off between the time Congress adjourned last year on October 4, 2006 and its new session that started early in January. During that period, he only had to show up for a few days in November and December, but, even then, he skipped two of the five-day December session.

Then, even when the session started again, Brownback missed all of the votes in the first week of the new Congress. Too busy to participate in the ethics reforms, he left it to his colleagues to deal with those mundane things. His excuse? He was on a government-sponsored trip. (Junket?) But, maybe he should have scheduled it during the 11-week adjournment immediately preceding his trip. Common sense would dictate that. Or, how about traveling on a weekend like Senator Clinton did?

Brownback hasn't been working much this week, either, missing all of the votes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He planned to travel and campaign all week, but, after press inquiries about his questionable campaign schedule, he cancelled his South Carolina and Florida stops and scurried back to Congress to vote on the minimum wage bill.

There are now at least six members of the U.S. Senate who are running for president: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, John McCain and Sam Brownback. And a seventh contender could be Chuck Hagel.

They've got a collective problem.

After the abuses of the last Congress, including an average two-day workweek, the Senate announced a substantially expanded schedule. In January of 2007, there were actually two weeks where votes were scheduled on every day from Monday to Friday.

That makes it hard to campaign and attend fundraisers all over the country.

So what's a Senator/Presidential candidate to do?

It depends on the candidate, but the answer tells a lot about the individual candidate's sense of responsibility.

The three frontrunners — Hillary, Obama and Mc Cain — have made sure that they take good care of their day job. Obama has a perfect attendance record and Hillary has only missed one day — when she took her recent trip to Iraq. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, the visit to the war zone, Pakistan, and Afghanistan was definitely legitimate Senate business, even if there was a deliberate political component to it. So, in effect, she, too, has a perfect record. Senator McCain has missed only two votes. One was the first vote of the new session — a resolution honoring Gerald Ford and the other was a confirmation of a judicial nomination on a day that he participated in a panel at the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland.

But not all Senators have shown such fidelity to their obligations as elected officials who are paid $162,500.00 a year to show up and vote.

Brownback's attendance record suggests arrogance — and stupidity — that doesn't bode well for any serious candidate for President. He claims to be a leader, but has anyone told him that you can't lead if you're not there?

He's not a leader; he's a no-show.

Right behind him in racking up absences is Senator Joe Biden, who has missed nine of the 40 votes so far this year. Like Brownback, he didn't spend much time at the five day December 2006 session, missing four days of votes. Senator Biden's campaign didn't have a great start yesterday with his gratuitous comments about Barack Obama. His lack of attention to his real job could hurt him even more.

Senator Chuck Hagel hasn't announced that he is running for President, but there's been a lot of buzz about the possibility. He's missed nine votes this month. He also skipped a day in the December session.

Chris Dodd missed six votes in January, with two days of absences.

It's a long way from now to Election Day in 2008. Given the very low opinion that the American voters already have of members of Congress, it won't help the candidates if further abuse the system.

There's no justification for campaigning for President during official Senate work time. Senators aren't elected to campaign for another job or to raise funds for another office. And the voters will be watching this year.

Imagine if someone tried to get away with that in the real world!

Dick Morris served as Bill Clinton's political consultant for twenty years, guiding him to a successful reelection in 1996. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Because He Could, Rewriting History (both with Eileen McGann), Off with Their Heads, and Behind the Oval Office, and the Washington Post bestseller Power Plays.

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Dick Morris is a Fox News contributor and author. His latest book is "Here Come the Black Helicopters: UN Global Governance and the Loss of Freedom." Visit his website: and follow him on Twitter@DickMorrisTweet. Click here to sign up to get all of Dick's videos emailed to you.