WASHINGTON — Trying to land his dream job is harming Rep. Gresham Barrett's performance in the job he holds.
Barrett, a Westminster Republican who is running for governor, has missed more than one-third — 337 — of all votes taken this year in the U.S. House of Representatives, by far the highest number among all members.
Barrett declined to comment Wednesday on his skipped votes. Aides said he tries hard to balance the demands of representing his constituents in the 3rd Congressional District while actively campaigning for a statewide post.
"As far as missed votes go, Congressman Barrett believes it is very important to strike a balance any time he is serving in one office and running for another office," said Emily Tyner, a Barrett spokeswoman in Washington.
Tyner said the fourth-term congressman and his aides work hard to maintain close contact with House Republican leaders and with Sen. Jim DeMint, a Greenville Republican, to monitor key legislative issues and votes.
"Serving in Congress while running for governor is a balancing act," Tyner said. "He hopes that people will understand that."
One person who doesn't understand is Attorney General Henry McMaster, a Columbia Republican who with Barrett is among four GOP gubernatorial candidates.
"Conservatives need every single vote in Congress we can get to stop the radical Obama-Pelosi agenda," McMaster told McClatchy. "It's a dangerous agenda."
B.J. Boling, a spokesman for Barrett's gubernatorial run, said he often reschedules events tied to his bid to succeed Gov. Mark Sanford in order not to miss important congressional votes or other events in Washington.
As an example, Boling said, Barrett asked Greenville Mayor Knox White to change a ceremony Wednesday, where White endorsed Barrett for governor, to a breakfast event so that Barrett could fly to Washington for important votes.
Barrett also planned to miss a fundraiser Wednesday evening in Ridge Spring, 50 miles southwest of Columbia in Saluda County, because of late House votes.
"He takes his responsibilities very seriously," Boling said. "When there's major legislation being decided, he's going to be there. Particularly when the votes are close, he's going to be there."
Barrett participated in two key votes Wednesday: He joined 175 other Republicans — including the other three from South Carolina — and 39 Democrats in opposing a measure that barely passed, 218-214, to authorize temporary funding of the federal government while several major appropriations bills are stalled.
Barrett also voted for a Pentagon spending measure that passed overwhelmingly, by a 395-34 margin, with all six House members from South Carolina supporting it.
Aides to Barrett noted that the vast majority of congressional votes are procedural or ceremonial in nature.
In addition to the Pentagon and broader federal spending bills passed Wednesday, the House approved measures honoring the American Kennel Club on its 125th anniversary and recognizing the 70th anniversary of Justice Louis Brandeis' Supreme Court retirement.
Barrett, though, has missed some key votes in recent months, among them the Sept. 15 measure reprimanding Rep. Joe Wilson, a Lexington Republican, for having yelled "You lie!" at President Barack Obama.
Barrett also skipped one of several votes to ban federal funding of abortions and a vote on a measure to halt federal funding of the ACORN community organizing group because of alleged ballot irregularities.
Lachlan McIntosh, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mullins McLeod, a Charleston attorney, said Barrett's missed congressional votes don't bode well for how he would perform as governor.
"If he can't get the job he has now done, why in the world would he expect somebody to hire him for a new one?" McIntosh said.
Trav Robertson, a spokesman for S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen's gubernatorial run, said Barrett's voting record troubles the Camden Democrat.
"Obviously, it's extremely disheartening when someone misses votes, especially when our elected officials are trying to create jobs, promote business and help spur the economy," Robertson said.
Tim Pearson, gubernatorial campaign manager for S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley, said the Lexington Republican would decline comment.
"His voting record is between him and the people of the 3rd Congressional District who he represents," Pearson said.
Four other gubernatorial candidates — Democrats Dwight Drake and S.C. schools chief Jim Rex, and Republicans Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and S.C. Sen. Larry Grooms — declined to comment.
Wilson said Barrett is not the first U.S. House member from South Carolina to seek statewide office while serving in Congress.
"It's the equivalent to twice as much work because you're traveling the entire state," Wilson said. "(Sen.) Jim DeMint served very capably in the United States House while running for the Senate. I've seen the same with Gresham."
Lawmaker......................Votes cast.....Votes missed.....% votes missed
Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-Westminster..... 634..........337..........34.7
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla......742..........229..........23.6
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif...........753..........218..........22.5
Average, House of Representatives.....935.......... 36.......... 3.7
Average, Democratic members.....934.......... 37.....3.8
Average, Republican members.....936.......... 35.......... 3.6
Rep. Henry Brown, R-Hanahan.....938.......... 33.......... 3.4
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia.....948.......... 23.......... 2.4
Rep. John Spratt, D-York..........955.......... 16.......... 1.6
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale.....962..........9...........9
Rep. Bob Inglis, R-Greenville..........965..........6...........6
Source: Washington Post
McClatchy Newspapers 2009