Voting attendance for Congress by state
Part of the reason I bring this issue up is that my current representative in congress has missed over 10% of the votes in the House. They are on medical leave.
I certainly can understand being on medical leave (having been on medical leave recently myself). And I think that it's not unreasonable to have a job waiting for you when you return from medical leave.
But when your job is in the US Congress, and the voting majority is so close, more is at stake. You are representing thousands of voters who expect you to make your voice heard with legislation. I am almost certain there are votes on the War in Iraq and countless other important issues that they have missed.
It's no wonder that many Americans (particularly those my age) are disaffected. If I didn't show up to my job one day out of every ten, I might be out of a job.
But my representative has served many terms. They keep running for office and keep getting re-elected. I think at one point, they were probably a good representative for this community. But even in this last election, the other party almost had a majority. It's clear that if someone doesn't step in, my current rep may soon be out of a job and someone from another party in their place (which may or may not be a good thing).
Why does this person stay? It's hard to say. If someone resigns due to medical reasons, a person from a different party could appoint the successor. And most representatives and their parties are loathe to give that advantage to their opponents. The solution (which isn't a solution) is that you have people who may not be able to leave a hospital bed but are still on the rolls of Congress. Sure, everyone gets ill and has emergencies. But you need to take a hard look at your record and start admitting if it's time to retire - to let someone else serve who can vote when needed.
And sadly, some of these people know they will not be able to serve a full term in the US House or Senate, yet run for office anyway. I'm not sure if that's because of name recognition, or everyone in their immediate party wants to show loyalty (and will not tell a 85 year old party boss it's time to hang up their gloves).
It just seems time to change this system. If it requires a Constitutional amendment, so be it. I don't know if a solution is to have a state party committee appoint a successor when someone resigns - and hold a special election. Many people would cry foul at this suggestion, as it hearkens back to the bad old days when elections were decided in smoky back rooms. But if the party decides who replaces the leaving representative, perhaps the person will be more willing to consider retiring with honor.
The reality is, we have a two party system in the US. Right or wrong, that's the way it is. We need to have representatives serving the country, not hanging on to a seat or an idea if they're not physically or mentally up to the challenge. Yet no one seems willing to tell an incumbent it's time to let someone else have a turn. And with the current system, no one will retire if they don't trust the person who is supposed to appoint their replacement.