joe wilson's war

Why New York Democrats Voted Against the Joe Wilson Resolution

There’s an interesting, almost glaring quirk amid the 240–179 vote tally of yesterday’s House of Representatives reprimand of Joe Wilson: Out of only seventeen Democratic congressmen who either voted “no” or “present” (which is usually akin to admitting “This vote is a lose-lose for me”), five of them were from the great state of New York. Daily Intel’s plutonium-fueled supercomputer tells us that, mathematically, this represents an unexpectedly large proportion of dissenting votes. So we felt duty-bound to dig for answers. Luckily for us, a good chunk of the New York Five had already explained themselves. The others we tracked down with a single-minded ruthlessness (i.e., placed a phone call).

Let’s start with Congressman Dan Maffei of Syracuse, who released a statement asserting that while he disagrees with Wilson, he believes “we should be moving on and not piling on.” “We all agree Mr. Wilson’s behavior was inappropriate, now it is time to get back to work,” he added. In his defense, he even drew upon (and incorrectly attributed to Voltaire) the famous phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Of course, Maffei didn’t actually fight his Democratic colleagues to the death, but the sentiment is clear.

Next up is Western New York’s Eric Massa, who has similarly positioned himself as anti–time-wasting. “I strongly disapproved of Joe Wilson’s outburst last week, but I think it’s more important for us to be working on solutions rather than voicing more objections to something that happened almost a full week ago,” his statement reads. The fact that the freshman congressman just squeaked past his Republican opponent last year with 51 percent of the vote might also have something to do with it.

Also in favor of productive uses of time is Michael Arcuri, representing Utica. While making clear that he disapproves of Wilson’s outburst, Arcuri believes that “taking time to officially reprimand him was not in the best interest of my constituents,” according to a statement provided to us. “There are far more important matters that Congress needs to be addressing at this time.”

We’re beginning to see a trend here. And Congressman Maurice Hinchey of Ithaca keeps it going. His spokesperson, Jeff Lieberson, told us that, though Wilson’s behavior was “extremely inappropriate,” his apology to the president should have sufficed. “The congressman thinks it’s time to move on, just get back to work so that they can pass a bill that provides quality affordable health care to all Americans.”

And then there’s Eliot Engel, representing portions of the Bronx, and Westchester and Rockland Counties. The New York Times got hold of him shortly after the vote last night, and he seems to be the only outlier of the bunch. Engel’s concern was less about getting important things done and more about not contributing to a climate of bitter partisanship. “I certainly think that he behaved poorly, but I think that the American public is tired of what’s perceived to be petty politics being played,” he told the paper. He added, “I just think this perpetuates the tit for tat and the lack of political discourse.”

So there you have it. Four workaholics and one conscientious objector.

Why New York Democrats Voted Against the Joe Wilson Resolution