Looking at the Mavericks in the House Voting on DACA

By David North, June 10, 2013

The big picture on the House of Representatives vote on DACA last week — 224 to 201 in favor of its repeal — is that party lines largely held as the restrictionists won with a substantial but not overpowering majority.

A more detailed look shows nine members voted against their party, six Republicans who voted against repeal and three Democrats who voted for; plus nine non-voters. That's a total of 18 House members to watch more closely as the summer progresses.

So, who are they and why did they vote (or not vote) as they did?

As background, on June 6 the House voted to overturn the administrative amnesty, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that the Obama administration has set in motion; it grants legal status to illegal aliens under the age of 31 who came to the United States before turning 16. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) led the fight against DACA.

Since the House vote is certain not to be mirrored in the Senate, the repeal will not become law; it was largely a symbolic vote showing how members feel about the general question of amnesty for illegal aliens.

That there were few mavericks was the good news. That more of the switchers voted against the restrictionist position than for it is worrisome.

The six Republicans who voted for DACA and against the King motion are Alabama's Spencer Bachus; Californians Jeff Denham, Devin Nunes, and David Valadao; Florida's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; and New York's Michael Grimm.

The three Democrats who voted for the King motion are Georgia's John Barrow, North Carolina's Mike McIntyre, and West Virginia's Nick Rahall.

The nine who did not vote either way, including six Republicans and three Democrats, were Don Young (R-Alaska), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Edward Whitfield (R-Ky.), Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), and Pete Sessions (R-Texas), not to be confused with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a leading opponent of amnesty in the other chamber.

The six GOP defectors include four that have substantial numbers of Hispanics in their home districts, the three Californians and Ros-Lehtinen. Interestingly, none of those four have Mexican-American names, Ros-Lehtinen is Cuban and both Nunes and Valadao have Portuguese roots. The three from California are all from the San Joaquin Valley.

Michael Grimm is the only GOP congressman from immigrant-rich New York City, representing all of conservative Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. I wonder if he is spending too much time reading the hometown paper, the New York Times.

Spencer Bachus is a puzzle to me; he represents suburban Birmingham and has an A voting record with NumbersUSA. I can understand — if not applaud — the votes of the other five Republicans, but not his.

The three defecting Democrats are among the few conservative Democrats left in the House; the other two are southerners and Rahall is from southern West Virginia, the state with absolutely the lowest percentage of foreign-born of any of the 50 states. (All of 1.3 percent of West Virginians are foreign-born.)

Not voting on a specific issue is not much of a signal of future voting patterns; sometimes it means the incumbent wants to avoid the issue (which may be the case with Diaz-Balart, who is of Cuban descent) and sometimes it means illness (as it probably did with McCarthy, who is fighting lung cancer) and sometimes it means that there was a really vital event back in the district that the member felt could not be ignored.

See here for the full roll call.