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John Kerry voting record in Senate
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John Kerry - Voting Record

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John Kerry's voting record has become an important issue in the fall campaign after the Bush campaign has spent over $85 million trying to define Kerry. This page will accumulate information and useful links to help uncover and understand that voting record.

Republicans are trying to paint Kerry as a classic Northeastern liberal, and certainly Kerry has taken many liberal positions, particularly on social issues. That said, there are plenty of votes to suggest that Kerry is more of a moderate and is willing to break from liberal orthodoxy, including his support for Gramm-Rudman-Hollings in the mid-1980s for deficit reduction, his vote for welfare reform and his votes for NAFTA and other free trade agreements. Given these votes the assertion that he's more liberal than Ted Kennedy does not withstand scrutiny. Kerry was also a founding member of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council.

The other charge against Kerry has centered around his "flip-flops." The Bush team is highlighting inconsistent votes and statements. The following quote from George W. Bush provides a preview of the upcoming line of attack:

"The other party's nomination battle is still playing out. The candidates are an interesting group with diverse opinions: for tax cuts and against them; for NAFTA and against NAFTA; for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act; in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."

Kerry spent 19 years in the Senate and cast over 6,500 votes, so both opponents and supporters will be able to find plenty of ammunition. (Updated 6/29/04 by G. Orlando)



Latest News:

Kerry blast Bush over attacks on Senate voting record
(MSNBC)

A 1970 interview with John Kerry shows much more dovish views on the military
(Harvard Crimson)

Kerry's 19 years in Senate invite scrutiny
(Washington Post)

Kerry defends votes on military action (Washington Post)


Commentary:

In The American Prospect, Matthew Yglesias rebuts many of the flip-flop charges leveled by Bush against Kerry, while also pointing out some of Bush's own flip-flops.

David Corn
details in The Nation what he believes is right about Kerry.

In a new editorial the Washington Post argues that it's time for John Kerry to start clarifying some of his positions on Iraq and trade.

George Will
also has 28 questions for John Kerry regarding his positions on various issues.

Andrew Ferguson
asks in Bloomberg.com whether John Kerry is a nightmare or a hope for Republicans.


Interviews:

On Meet the Press in 2001 John Kerry spoke candidly about atrocities committed  by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam and some of the harsh comments he made immediately following the war.



ISSUES:


Abortion:

Here's some evidence that Kerry has a moderate position on abortion. He voted in favor of a bill in 1997 that would have banned all late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, as long as there was an exception for the life of the mother.


Budget, Taxes and Spending:

Fiscal responsibility is one of Kerry's strongest areas, even if many of his decisions were unpopular with liberal Democrats. As mentioned above he supported the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings balanced budget act in the mid-1980s in an effort to achieve deficit reduction when Reagan was ringing up huge deficits. He was ahead of his time and broke with many "liberal" Democrats. He supported Clinton's deficit reduction program in 1993 as well and generally supported the Clinton economic agenda in the 1990s. He also voted in favor of giving presidents line item veto authority for appropriations bills.

Like most Democrats Kerry voted against all of Bush's tax cuts. He has, however, supported many tax cuts, particularly those aimed at the middle class or at entrepreneurial activities. He worked with McCain on making the Internet a tax-free zone, he proposed reducing the capital gains tax to zero for certain industries and he supported reducing the dividend tax long before Bush proposed eliminating it.

Kerry is proposing a return to the "pay-as-you-go" policies of the 90s and a return to fiscal discipline. Here's a transcript of Kerry's speech on the subject on April 7th.


Welfare Reform:

John Kerry voted in favor of welfare reform in the mid-90s, again demonstrating a willingness to break from old-school Democrats who were unable to acknowledge the cycle of dependence created by the program. Kerry at first was opposed to work requirement but then changed his views once state experiments showed their usefulness.


Trade:

Kerry supports free trade and he voted in favor of NAFTA, GATT and trade with China. Kerry says that he will not enter into new trade agreements that do not have adequate employment and environmental standards and alleges that the current protections in NAFTA and other trade agreements are not being enforced by the Bush administration. 

Bush has charged that Kerry flip-flopped on NAFTA, though Kerry consistently said throughout the campaign that he would not repeal NAFTA as was proposed by Dennis Kucinich. Kerry instead has called for a 120-day review of all trade agreements to determine to what extent labor and environmental standards are being enforced.


Military Actions:

Kerry tied himself in knots trying to justify his 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war, but lately he has found his voice on the subject and has focused his criticism's of Bush on Bush's failure to build a coalition, let the inspections process play out and use war only as a last resort. By focusing on these criticisms and the administration's failure to stabilize post-war Iraq, Kerry seems much more confident on this issue.

Kerry voted against using force in 1991, arguing that the country was not ready for war and that diplomacy should be given more time. He has been criticized by Howard Dean for getting both votes wrong on Iraq, and the Republicans will certainly not let him forget both votes.

Kerry did support the use of force in Afghanistan in 2001, and he was critical or the administration's failure to use adequate forces at Tora Bora, possibly letting Osama Bin Laden slip away. Kerry is not a dove, having also supported using force in Grenada in 1993, Panama in 1989, Somalia in 1992, and Kosovo in 1999.