During the routine calling of names on the Senate floor, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) cast her 5,000th consecutive roll-call vote this afternoon, marking a streak with which few Members in either chamber can compare.
The vote was a nay on a motion regarding an amendment to a small-business tax relief bill. After the vote closed, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both praised the accomplishment and applause came from her colleagues.
“I do believe that a Senator’s most important responsibility is to vote,” Collins said a few minutes before casting her vote. “While I recognize that not every vote is a critical vote, at this time when the public’s confidence in Congress is so low, casting every single vote sends a strong signal to one’s constituents of dedication to the job and to respect for the high privilege that we have been given.”
Collins doesn’t hold the record for consecutive votes in either chamber — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) cast his 6,446th consecutive roll-call vote today, and the chamber’s all-time record belongs to Democrat William Proxmire of Wisconsin, who cast 10,252 votes between April 20, 1966, and Oct. 18, 1988. In the House, Democrat William Natcher of Kentucky, who served until his death in 1994, holds the record for the most consecutive roll-call votes: He cast 18,401 straight without missing a vote over his 41-year term.
Collins has never missed a vote in her career, though she didn’t have the idea of a Ripken-like streak in mind when she came to the Senate in 1997.
But once she had gone several years without missing any votes, she kept up the habit, often returning from trips to Maine early and hustling out of committee hearings to make it to the floor. She admires her Maine GOP predecessor, the legendary Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who responded to 2,941 consecutive roll calls before hip surgery ended her streak in 1968.
“I recognize that I have been blessed with good health and I haven’t had family emergencies that cause me to miss a vote,” Collins said. “An illness or a family emergency is a certainly a good reason to miss a vote, so in some ways, I have been fortunate.”
On the other side of the rotunda, the House holds more roll-call votes, so such streaks are more difficult to maintain. But Members still take pride in the effort.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) praised Collins’ achievement and said with a laugh that he used to be an “iron horse” for votes in the House until a delegation to Iraq disrupted his record. “I have always tried to set the bar high,” he said.
Collins has no plans to give up on her record, even reportedly scheduling her upcoming wedding for the August recess.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.