Fred Thompson set a mark for obstinateness during his eight years in the Senate, ending up the lone dissenter on more votes on bills and amendments than any other Republican during that time.
As Mr. Thompson prepares to announce tomorrow that he will officially seek the Republican nomination for president and voters begin to take a closer look at him, his maverick streak and his voting record will be front and center.
Some votes are likely to draw scrutiny, particularly a series of votes in the 1990s against cracking down on illegal aliens. Those include a 1995 vote against limiting services other than emergency care and public education to illegal aliens — he was one of just six senators to oppose that proposal — and a 1996 vote against creating an employer verification system to help businesses filter out illegal aliens who apply for jobs.
A Washington Times review of his record also shows that he was willing to take a stand against his party time and again to protect plaintiffs’ rights to sue teachers, companies that failed to solve the Y2K computer glitch and company executives even if they were unaware of fraud.
Mr. Thompson’s legislative record has been attacked as thin because in his eight years in office, he sponsored relatively few bills and was the driving force behind few legislative accomplishments. But his votes show a man with an aversion to federal intrusion on state prerogatives and with a willingness to take quixotic stands on principle, when other Republicans chose to go along to get along.
At the same time, Mr. Thompson has already recanted some of his earlier positions, such as his steadfast support for campaign finance changes. But rival campaigns say there’s still plenty of room to attack.
“His legislative accomplishments are few and far between,” an operative from a rival Republican campaign said.
“More problematic is the fact that the few issues he did champion are legislative abominations for conservatives,” the operative said, pointing to his support for campaign finance laws and his defense of lawsuits. “His record is one you’d expect from a squishy Republican with a penchant for protecting trial lawyers who love lawsuits.”
Karen Hanretty, a spokeswoman for Mr. Thompson, said that attack doesn’t do justice to his record of staking out conservative positions even when a majority of Republicans voted the other way.
“Fred Thompson is the most consistent conservative running for president today, with a solid pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-border security record. We look forward to matching his conservative credentials to any of the candidates running,” she said.
Among the votes sure to be popular among conservatives are a 1997 vote to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 1999 vote against requiring guns to be sold with gun locks. Another frequent Thompson target was a subsidy to promote U.S. agricultural products overseas, which he regularly voted to slash.
But on immigration, Mr. Thompson had several votes where he bucked the pack — and seemed to favor illegal aliens.
The most stark example was his 1995 vote on the welfare overhaul, when he voted to preserve illegal aliens’ ability to receive federal benefits. He was one of just six senators to vote that way, joining four other Republicans and one Democrat.
And in 1996, as Congress considered a crackdown on illegal aliens, Mr. Thompson voted against setting up a system so employers could verify the legal status of their workers.
An adviser to the campaign on immigration matters, who asked not to be named, said Mr. Thompson had concerns about how broadly the public-benefits provision was drawn. As for the employer verification system, the adviser said Mr. Thompson joined a majority of Republicans in the chamber in opposing it, with many of them thinking the new system would lead to a national ID card.View Entire Story
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