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Jim DeMint on Government Reform

Republican Jr Senator; previously Representative (SC-4)


Politicians &bureaucrats systematically violate Constitution

The Constitution is not a piece of legislation that can be changed merely by a vote in Congress or waived by a presidential edict. It is a legally binding contract between two parties--the American people and their federal government--that must be protected by the states and enforced by our courts.

However, state and federal judges have for too long looked the other way as politicians and unelected bureaucrats have systematically violated this contract and eroded the liberties of the American people in the process. For decades, congressmen, senators, and presidents of both parties have run roughshod over constitutional limits and created unsustainable levels of debt and dysfunction.

Source: Last Line of Defense, by Ken Cuccinelli, p. ix , Feb 12, 2013

Feds have shut down kids' lemonade stands!

State and local governments are taking their cues from the federal government (often by force) and adding onerous regulations. Things have become so ridiculous that is some states, children's lemonade stands have been shut down and the parents fined up to $500. I wish I was kidding. The International Business Times reported on August 2, 2011:
Source: Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint, p.140-142 , Jan 10, 2012

Kept pledge for six-year Congressional term limit

When I was elected to the US House in 1998, I was sworn in with 18 other freshman Republicans--about half of whom vowed to obey a self-imposed term limit pledge. Only 3 kept their pledge. I was one of them. So was Senator Pat Toomey.

Washington changes people. Candidates who boldly proclaim they will fight for change, once elected, do not withstand the crushing pressure from party leadership, constituents, interest groups, and the media. Many politicians walk through the front door of the Capitol pumped up and ready to take on the world--but walk out completely deflated.

Americans' disdain and apathy toward the political process have grown as we have watched one champion of "change" after another drink the Beltway Kool-Aid, "grow in office," and join the Washington establishment. Why, many citizens wonder, should they even bother to get involved with politics? Why vote?

Source: Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint, p.205 , Jan 10, 2012

Not federal government's job to do good deeds

Many who want to use the government to do good have honorable intentions. However, it is not my job as a US senator to think of good things to do. It is not my job or that of the government to go out and survey America, discover problems, and use taxpayer dollars to attempt to solve them all. My job is to keep the government focused on its specific constitutional responsibilities and leave the rest to the states and the people.

It is simply not our job to do good deeds and solve every problem.

The federal government should write the rules and serve as referees. It is not our role to be the coaches, players, or fans. Yet, this is exactly what our modern government tries to do.

Worst of all, because those of us in Washington are so distracted trying to centrally manage every aspect of the nation, we are not effectively carrying out our constitutional responsibilities.

Source: Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint, p.236 , Jan 10, 2012

Earmarks are how lobbyists grease the skids

Q: Lisa Murkowski in Alaska lost to a tea party candidate; Bob Bennett in Utah lost to a tea party candidate.

DEMINT: These are appropriators, Bob Bennett, Lisa Murkowski. They believe in their job is to take home the bacon. It's a big part of the culture here in Washington. Even in Alaska, the voters there threw out someone who was bringing home the bacon. Joe Miller, running against earmarks, because what we're hearing all over America is, "I don't want money for my state if it's going to bankrupt my country."

Q: But we're talking, really, 1% or 2% of a budget here, when you're talking about the earmarks.

DEMINT: Oh, it's like saying the engine is a small part of the train. All the legislation, you look at health care, was pulled through by "Cornhusker kickbacks," that's an earmark. The bail-outs failed in the House until they went back and added earmarks. So it's always a way to grease the skids, and it's the power here. It's why thousands of lobbyists are here.

Source: CNN "State of the Union" coverage: 2010 S.C. Senate debate , Sep 19, 2010

1970s government did too much, and caused today's problems

In the mid-1970s, America transitioned from an exporting nation to a nation heavily dependent of foreign goods. We've had a negative trade balance every year since 1975. Federal intervention in local schools resulted in a systematic decline in America's education system. Federal health-care programs such as Medicare began America's journey toward a socialized health-care system.

As the debt & dependency of people and the government increased, America found itself in difficult times in the last years o the 1970s. Pres. Carter attempted to blame both the people and the government.

Carter missed the real cause of America's problems. Government was trying to do too much. Government becomes incapable of acting when it attempts to serve a large number of particular needs rather than promoting the general welfare. When the federal government began to involve itself in planning & directing specific aspects of America's culture & economy, it was inevitable there would be destructive & costly consequences.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p. 35-36 , Jul 4, 2009

Government can't manage economy without restricting freedom

Most would agree that civilized societies should strive to assure that all citizens have "some minimum of food, shelter, & clothing, sufficient to preserve the health and the capacity to work." The socialist, however, seeks to go further by guaranteeing determined standard of living and the protection of certain levels of income by taxing wealthy individuals and profitable businesses.

History has shown that it is impossible for governments to manage the economic and social structure of society without diminishing economic progress and severely restricting the freedoms of individuals. Nevertheless, the political promise of equal outcomes and security by the political class has lured many Americans into the trap of government dependency. We seem to have forgotten that freedom has a price, and that price is hard work and risk.

When government attempts to insulate the people from the normal risks of life, it diminishes the energy and productivity that come from work, struggle, and persistence.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p. 41 , Jul 4, 2009

I'm a recovering earmarker on a crusade to stop earmarks

As a new congressman from South Carolina, I stood in the shadows of several senior congressmen who were known for "bringing home the bacon." When I came to Washington, I thought it was my responsibility to direct as much federal spending back to my congressional district as I possibly could.

So I began my political career believing earmarking was a harmless and important way to represent my district. After a few years in Congress, my mind began to change as I saw the damage the practice of earmarking was doing to our government and country. It became clear that asking for earmarks for my state stood in direct contradiction to my solemn oath to defend the Constitution.

I was hooked, and like all bad habits it took me a while to break it. Now I'm a recovering earmarker on a crusade to stop this practice because I believe it is the main driver to wasteful government spending and our growing debt.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p.114-115 , Jul 4, 2009

2008: pushed one-year moratorium on earmarks

"The maintenance of a free society is a very difficult and complicated thing. And it requires a self-denying ordinance of the most extreme kind. It requires a willingness to put up with temporary evils on the basis of the subtle and sophisticated understanding that if you step in to try to do something about them, you not only may make them worse, but you will spread your tentacles and get bad results elsewhere." --Milton Friedman

In 2008, I tried to pass a one-year moratorium on earmarks, but it failed after the leadership of both parties maneuvered appropriators to pressure members to oppose the bill. But we're making progress. Americans are beginning to catch on and more are beginning to oppose earmarks.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p.118-119 , Jul 4, 2009

We all benefit from government founded on Christian values

Accountability to God creates the morality, virtue, and personal responsibility that makes people governable without overt external force. That same accountability to God provides some measure of restraint to leaders who are given the power to govern.

All this is not to say people of other religions cannot participate freely in an America with a Judeo-Christian foundation. Everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, will benefit from the freedom, prosperity, and security created when cultural and political institutions are founded on Christian principles.

Secularists will howl that I am suggesting our government promote the Christian faith. NOT AT ALL! I don't want the government to have anything to do with religion.

I am suggesting that the biblical principles of traditional marriage, temperance, minimizing borrowing, and many more must guide the policies of government. History makes a strong case that without adherence to Judeo-Christian principles, the foundations of freedom will crumble.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p.146-147 , Jul 4, 2009

Personal responsibility counterbalances central control

The principle of personal responsibility is essential to freedom because it is the counterbalance to central authority and control. Personal responsibility can only be developed by private sector institutions beginning with the family and continuing through life by churches, community organizations, and businesses. Hopefully, more independent schools will one day promote personal responsibility and freedom.

The challenge is daunting, but Americans need not be discouraged. The damage done by bad government policy can be corrected with policy changes that reduce dependency. America must end its addiction to programs, subsidies, rescues, and bailouts that lead to debt and dependency. We must constantly remind ourselves that the more we ask of government, the less we have of freedom. The principle of individual responsibility and independence is the foundation of freedom awe must protect and defend at all costs. Americans must force the government to be our servant or it will be our master.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p.212 , Jul 4, 2009

Voted NO on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted NO on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted NO on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted YES on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted YES on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.

A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 29, 2006

Voted NO on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.

An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-077 on Mar 28, 2006

Voted YES on restricting frivolous lawsuits.

Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004: Amends the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to:
  1. require courts to impose sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits (currently, sanctions are discretionary);
  2. disallow the withdrawal or correction of pleadings to avoid sanctions;
  3. require courts to award parties prevailing on motions reasonable expenses and attorney's fees, if warranted;
  4. authorize courts to impose sanctions that include reimbursement of a party's reasonable litigation costs in connection with frivolous lawsuits; and
  5. make the discovery phase of litigation subject to sanctions.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Lamar Smith [R, TX-21]; Bill H.R.4571 ; vote number 2004-450 on Sep 14, 2004

Voted NO on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.

Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would ban soft money contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA; Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2002-34 on Feb 14, 2002

Voted YES on banning soft money donations to national political parties.

Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2001-228 on Jul 12, 2001

Voted NO on banning soft money and issue ads.

Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT; Bill HR 417 ; vote number 1999-422 on Sep 14, 1999

Sponsored bill allowing individual votes on each earmark.

DeMint introduced allowing individual votes on each earmark

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide greater accountability of taxpayers' dollars by curtailing congressional earmarking.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bipartisan bill changes the Senate rules to allow points of order to be raised against unauthorized appropriations and policy riders in appropriations bills and conference reports in an effort to reign in wasteful pork barrel spending.

In 1994, there were 4,126 Congressional earmarks added to the annual appropriations bills. In 2005, there were 15,877 earmarks, the largest number yet, that's an increase of nearly 300%! The level of funding associated with those earmarks has more than doubled from $23 billion in 1994 to $47 billion in 2005.

Our bill would establish a new procedure which would allow a 60-vote point of order to be raised against specific provisions that contain unauthorized appropriations, including earmarks, as well as unauthorized policy changes in appropriations bills and conference reports. Successful points of order would not kill a conference report, but the targeted provisions would be removed from the conference report.

To ensure that Members are given enough time to review appropriations bills, our proposal would also require that conference reports be available at least 48 hours prior to floor consideration.

To promote transparency, our bill requires that any earmarks included in a bill be disclosed fully in the bill's accompanying report, along with the name of the Member who requested the earmark and its essential governmental purpose.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.

Source: Pork-Barrel Reduction Act (S.2265) 06-S2265 on Feb 9, 2006

Ensure delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas.

DeMint co-sponsored ensuring delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas

A bill to improve procedures for the collection and delivery of absentee ballots of absent overseas uniformed services voters. Congress makes the following findings:

  1. In the defense of freedom, members of the United States Armed Forces are routinely deployed to overseas locations.
  2. We live in what senior Army leaders have referred to as an 'era of persistent conflict'.
  3. The right to vote is one of the most basic and fundamental rights enjoyed by Americans, and one which the members of the Armed Forces bravely defend.
  4. The ability of the members of the Armed Forces to vote while serving overseas has been hampered by numerous factors, including inadequate processes for ensuring their timely receipt of absentee ballots, delivery methods that are typically slow and antiquated, and a myriad of absentee voting procedures that are often confusing.
  5. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires the States to allow absentee voting for members of the Armed Forces and other specified groups of United States citizens, was intended to protect the voting rights of members of the Armed Forces.
  6. 992,034 absentee ballots were requested in the 2006 general election. However, less than one-third of such ballots were ultimately received by local election officials, evidencing an unacceptable failure of the current absentee ballot system.
  7. Modern technology continues to rapidly advance, greatly expanding the range of potential solutions to these problems and increasing the ability to remove obstacles encountered by overseas members of the Armed Forces in the past in trying to cast their votes; [specifically]:
Source: S.3073 08-S3073 on May 22, 2008

Identify constitutionality in every new congressional bill.

DeMint signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 1. Protect the Constitution:

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA01 on Jul 8, 2010

Audit federal agencies, to reform or eliminate them.

DeMint signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington:

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality,

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA05 on Jul 8, 2010

Moratorium on all earmarks until budget is balanced.

DeMint signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 9. Stop the Pork:

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA09 on Jul 8, 2010

Require Internet disclosure of all earmarks.

DeMint signed H.R.5258& S.3335

    The website shall be comprised of a database including the following information, in searchable format, for each earmark:
  1. The fiscal year in which the item would be funded.
  2. The number of the bill or joint resolution for which the request is made, if available.
  3. The amount of the initial request made by the Member of Congress.
  4. The amount approved by the committee of jurisdiction.
  5. The amount carried in the bill or joint resolution (or accompanying report) as passed.
  6. The name of the department or agency, and the account or program, through which the item will be funded.
  7. The name and the State or district of the Member of Congress who made the request.
  8. The name and address of the intended recipient.
  9. The type of organization (public, private nonprofit, or private for profit entity) of the intended recipient.
  10. The project name, description, and estimated completion date.
  11. A justification of the benefit to taxpayers.
  12. Whether the request is for a continuing project and if so, when funds were first appropriated for such project.
  13. A description, if applicable, of all non-Federal sources of funding.
  14. Its current status in the legislative process
Source: Earmark Transparency Act 10-HR5258 on May 11, 2010

Restrict campaign donations from foreigners or 3rd parties.

DeMint co-sponsored restricting campaign donations from foreigners or 3rd party

To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to increase the penalties imposed for making or accepting contributions in the name of another and to prohibit foreign nationals from making any campaign-related disbursements.

Source: Conduit Contribution Prevention Act (H.R.1747) 1999-H1747 on May 11, 1999

Ban paid voter registration.

DeMint signed Voter Fraud Prevention Act

A bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to establish standards for the distribution of voter registration application forms and to require organizations to register with the State prior to the distribution of such forms.

    Prohibits any individual from distributing, for compensation, a voter registration application form for federal elections in a state if the individual:
  1. has been convicted of a felony under any state or federal law;
  2. does not sign and print legibly the individual's name on the form;
  3. does not provide identifying information to the proper election official; or
  4. does not certify, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has not received financial compensation based on the number of voter registration application forms submitted by the individual to an election official upon completion by the applicant, and that the information provided by the individual is accurate to the best of the individual's knowledge.
Excepts from this prohibition the distribution of a voter registration application form by an individual who is not compensated directly or indirectly for it.

Establishes criminal penalties for: (1) individuals not meeting such standards; and (2) anyone who employs such an individual knowingly, or who should reasonably be expected to know the individual is ineligible.

Source: S.1103 2009-S1103 on May 20, 2009

Require all laws to cite Constitutional authorization.

DeMint signed Enumerated Powers Act

A bill to require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws.

Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise explanation of the specific constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. The availability of this point of order does not affect any other available relief.

Constitutional Authority for This Act: This Act proposes to establish new procedures by which legislation shall be considered by Congress and is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 5, clause 2, of the United States Constitution establishing that each House may determine the rules of its proceedings.

Source: S.1319&HR450 2009-S1319 on Jun 22, 2009

Other candidates on Government Reform: Jim DeMint on other issues:
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