Senate Democrats haven’t had to take many tough votes this year, but the flip side is that this also means they aren’t notching many legislative accomplishments for voters back home — and it’s becoming an issue in politically vulnerable Democrats’ re-election races.
Sen. Kay R. Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat seeking a second term in office, has never had a single law signed under her name, according to congressional records. Her Republican opponent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, argues that’s evidence she’s not doing any favors for their state in Washington.
“Instead of working across the aisle to pass laws benefitting North Carolina families, Hagan has put her liberal special interest allies first, rubber-stamping President Obama’s failed partisan agenda 95 percent of the time,” Daniel Keylin, campaign spokesman for Mr. Tillis, said in a statement last week.
Mrs. Hagan, who won her seat in 2008 by unseating a GOP incumbent she said was ineffective, counters that measuring effectiveness based on laws bearing your name is a bad way of judging a senator’s time in office, and said her voting record stacks up better than Mr. Tillis‘.
“Kay has been named the most moderate Senator and has a commonsense record of bipartisan results to match,” said campaign spokeswoman Sadie Weiner. “Speaker Tillis will have to spend the next 3 months explaining to North Carolinians why he chose budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy over investments in education.”
Mrs. Hagan isn’t the only one to face the situation.
Another first-term Democrat, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, also doesn’t have a law to his name in his six years in the chamber, and he took fire from the state GOP earlier this year, which posted Twitter messages mocking the freshman senator.
Sen. Christopher A. Coons of Delaware, yet another first-termer up for re-election, finally escaped the zero list Friday when President Obama signed 17 bills, including Mr. Coons’ first-ever law, which would enhance prosecutions for child abuse and renew federal grant programs for victims.
In addition to the first-termers, two senior Republicans, Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, didn’t notch any laws to their names over the last six years.
Mr. Roberts just survived a bruising GOP primary, where the location of his home made more of a splash than his legislative record. His campaign didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
Mr. Sessions’ spokesman disputed using laws sponsored as a yardstick for effectiveness, saying it didn’t account for the bills he helped write but for which he wasn’t the chief sponsor, and it also doesn’t account for amendments he attached, which often constitute major policy changes.
Spokesman Stephen Miller said Mr. Sessions, who is unopposed in his bid for a fourth term, helped write bills on patent reform, sex fugitive tracking and farmlands irrigation, brokered the key compromise on a bill to reduce the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine and regularly does heavy lifting as part of the Armed Services Committee.
“For five of the last seven years, Sessions was also the principle co-author of the strategic forces subcommittee portion of the National Defense Authorization Act,” Mr. Miller said. “Both Houses of Congress have also just passed a measure co-authored by Sessions to protect victims of child abuse that is now awaiting the president’s signature.”