What has Michele Bachmann accomplished?

Rep. Michele Bachmann
MinnPost photo by Raoul Benavides
Michele Bachmann: “I am in the deep minority in Congress and a fairly new freshman, so I don’t have substantive bills that I have passed. I would love to.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It was a straightforward question.

“Name three bills or amendments that you have gotten passed that are the most beneficial to the people of the 6th Congressional District,” GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann was asked by St. Cloud Times reporter Dave Aeikens.

The answer wasn’t.

“I was involved in a foster care amendment to support and encourage people in foster care. It is a very important issue. Sen. Mary Landrieu and I are working on the Haiti situation. We are trying to put together initiatives so that children can actually go into homes and not stay in institutions their whole life. I was able to pass this resolution honoring people in foster care. I am in the deep minority in Congress and a fairly new freshman, so I don’t have substantive bills that I have passed. I would love to. The very first bill I introduced was the Health Care Freedom of Choice Act.”

That third-to-last sentence — “I am in the deep minority in Congress and a fairly new freshman, so I don’t have substantive bills that I have passed” — has in just a few days become the center of the opposition against Bachmann this year. (It should be noted that Bachmann isn’t a freshman, she’s a legislative sophomore.)

“We’ve been saying all along in our campaign is that Michele Bachmann isn’t working for the people, and that she’s pursuing a national agenda and not working for the district,” said Trevor Willett, communications director for Maureen Reed.

“Michele has spent her time in Congress building her celebrity status, and she’s got some agenda, but it’s not what she’s elected to do,” agreed Zach Rodvold, campaign manager for state Sen. Tarryl Clark.

Bachmann’s record
Since Bachmann didn’t exactly give it, here’s the answer to Aeikens’ question — the first part of it anyways.

In her first term in office, Bachmann worked with Democrat Tim Mahoney of Florida to pass the Credit and Debit Card Receipt Clarification Act, which spokesman Dave Dziok said aimed to “bring an end to frivolous lawsuits aimed chiefly at small businesses.” President Bush signed it into law in June, 2008.

According to the Library of Congress, Bachmann has succeeded in getting exactly zero bills passed so far this session. She’s had one resolution adopted by the House, “expressing support for designation of the month of September as ‘National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month.’

She has had a few amendments passed, among the most famous of which aimed to prevent groups like ACORN from sitting on a proposed consumer advisory panel on financial protection and making them ineligible for certain federal grants.

But most of her legislation, like her health-care reform bill that would make all health care costs tax deductible and allow the purchase of insurance across state lines, has been introduced and referred to committee, never to be heard from again.

“Now if Democrats decide they’re not going to reach across the aisle and play ball, then what is she going to do?” Dziok asked. “But at least she’s out there and trying.”

Minnesota’s other Republicans have had similar success rates with original legislation this term. Freshman Republican Erik Paulsen has seen one piece of stand-alone legislation pass the House this year — though it has stalled in the Senate. Rep. John Kline has had no bills and just a single resolution pass, that one “Supporting the goals and ideals of Veterans of Foreign Wars Day.” [PDF]

Kathryn Pearson, political science professor at the University of Minnesota, said the Bachmann’s lack of a legislative footprint isn’t surprising.

“Obviously, if you’re a minority member it’s harder to get a bill passed,” Pearson said.

Lawmaking isn’t the only way to measure effectiveness, Pearson said. Another measure is how much money has been sent back to the district via appropriations earmarks.

“Members of Congress who don’t pursue earmarks for political purposes often face political consequences for not bringing federal dollars back to their district,” Pearson said, though noting that “she may score some political points” for not requesting any earmarks.

Bachmann makes it a point to not request appropriations earmarks — neither do Kline or Paulsen, for that matter.

“I don’t think she’s in it to see her name in the history books about what she can get named after her in Minnesota,” Dziok said.

Unlike, say, former Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, whose influence can still be seen every time someone flies to Alaska and lands at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Or Senate Democrat Robert Byrd, for whom much of the state of West Virginia seems to be named.

A change in campaign tactics
While she may have a thin legislative resume and doesn’t have much to show in the earmark department, Bachmann is without peer when it comes to being a spokeswoman for the issues she believes deeply in.

“I can’t think of another sophomore in Congress with as high of a national presence,” Pearson said. “Really, it’s hard to think of another rank and file member that has as high of a national profile as she does.”

Bachmann has emerged as a leader in the Tea Party movement, decrying federal deficit spending and launching herself full-throat into the health care debate. They’re not issues specific to the 6th District, but Dziok pointed out that “if they affect people throughout the country, they affect the residents of the 6th District as well.”

She’s a mainstay on conservative radio and television shows hosted by Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. She regularly gets asked to speak around the country — last weekend she taped a message for state Republican convention in Pennsylvania while personally attending an event in North Dakota. Perhaps most notably this year, Bachmann missed President Obama’s question time with House Republicans to head to California for a previously scheduled trip filled with rallies and fundraisers.

Officials with both the Clark and Reed campaigns said they plan to run against Bachmann on her celebrity status — specifically questioning how much time and energy she’s actually devoting to the 6th District.

That would represent a shift from the tactics of prior Democratic campaigns.

Twice now, Democrats have run against Bachmann on charges that she’s too conservative for the 6th District, a slightly right-of-center district that in 2008 gave 53 percent of its vote for president to Republican John McCain.

Democrats haven’t been able to win on that message yet. Bachmann pulled out a three-point win over Democrat El Tinklenberg last time despite a late gaffe suggesting members of Congress should be investigated for possibly being anti-American.

“All of her elections have been multi-million dollar elections, and we’re expecting this to be one as well,” Dziok said.

As to what the race will ultimately hinge on, Dziok said voters will ask themselves “what has my representative done to protect my wallet, protect my health care, things like that.”

But this time, with a campaign aimed squarely at her celebrity status and legislative record (and armed with Bachmann’s own quote), Democrats think they’re in with a chance.

“I think that people who have supported her in the past are going to take another look,” Rodvold said. “I think that she was elected to do a job, and people will look and see if she’s done it.

“If she wants to be some sort of a talking head or celebrity, that’s fine, but that’s not what she was elected to do,” Rodvold said.

“I think it’s definitely true that now you have it — in her own words — that she hasn’t delivered for her district,” Willett said. “It definitely is going to be something that’s going to be an issue in the campaign.”

Derek Wallbank is MinnPost’s Washington, D.C., correspondent and can be reached at wallbank[at]minnpost[dot]com.

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Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/17/2010 - 11:04 am.

    It’s a good thing I’m new to Minnesota – that way, I don’t have to worry about offending old friends when I say I admire Bachmann’s stance against legislative pork. “Bringing home the bacon” to one’s legislative district is among the most long-standing Congressional traditions, and also among the most corrupting and fiscally irresponsible.

    That’s one big point for Michele.

    All the others I can think of are very much against her, and frankly, I take it to be a very good sign that she hasn’t accomplished much legislatively. Given her public pronouncements, often hysterical, often based on factually-incorrect pseudo-information, I’d argue that we’re all much better off that most of her policy positions have not been put into practice.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2010 - 11:37 am.

    Leftists can judge the effectiveness of this line of critique by remembering how well it worked for opponents of Wellstone!.

  3. Submitted by John Olson on 02/17/2010 - 12:00 pm.

    A non-story.

  4. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 02/17/2010 - 12:36 pm.

    Taxpayers are paying her to work for them, and she’s not doing it. She’s just being a prima donna.
    I agree, though, that that’s a good thing: who wants to see her inaccurate and often hysterical views put into legislation?
    Oh, I suppose some do.

  5. Submitted by myles spicer on 02/17/2010 - 12:54 pm.

    As I noted in an op-ed piece I wrote last year, we liberals LOVE Michele Bachmann because… she is the gift that keeps on giving!

  6. Submitted by Phyllis Stenerson on 02/17/2010 - 12:56 pm.

    There is, in this case among many, an inverse relationship of face time on cable news and actual accomplishment. Bachmann gets attention because she’s controversial, and entertaining to some, not because she is effective on behalf of her constituents or a spokesperson for democracy.

  7. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 02/17/2010 - 01:00 pm.

    I don’t necessarily think it is fair to judge Rep. Michele Bachmann on whether or not she passed bills. It is hard for someone in the minority to do that. However, let’s face it: she hasn’t done ANYTHING for her district. She hasn’t done an economic development tour, she hasn’t worked to get federal funding for anyone, she hasn’t done one wit to help people in over their heads in mortgages, she doesn’t pay attention to environmental or business regulations that have an effect on her district. Like Gov. Tim Pawlenty, it’s all about her. It’s about her getting national press, going on junkets to speak to hyperconvervatives, helping other hyperconservatives get reelected. The fact of the matter is, Bachmann doesn’t represent her district either in a matter of practicality, theory or of principle.

  8. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 02/17/2010 - 01:20 pm.

    You cite Bachmann’s resolution in support of National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month. However, you neglect to inform your readers that Bachmann has voted against hydrocephalus research every time it has come before her in Congress. You can read about it right here in your MinnPost archives:


    When resolutions instead of research starts curing diseases, Rep. Bachmann, please let me know. Meanwhile, this is hypocrisy at its worst.

  9. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/17/2010 - 01:49 pm.

    We conservatives love MB. She is the gift that keeps on winning!

  10. Submitted by jim hughes on 02/17/2010 - 02:01 pm.

    Well if nothing else she’s managed to get all the local media following her around, hanging on every word. The first manned mission to Mars won’t get this much coverage.

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 02/17/2010 - 02:51 pm.

    Sad to say, but in the sixth district which is overwhelmingly conservative Catholic and evangelical Christian, Mickey will win reelection based on her stance on one issue: abortion.

    Both Democratic candidates are pro-choice. Mickey is anti-abortion. That’s all that’s necessary for her to win in the Sixth.

    Until the Democrats run an anti-abortion candidate (which is not going to happen), or the Sixth is altered by reapportionment, Mickey will continue to have her national stage and continue to give the impression that Central Minnesotans are a bunch of ignorant hicks.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/17/2010 - 03:07 pm.

    “She hasn’t done an economic development tour, she hasn’t worked to get federal funding for anyone, she hasn’t done one wit to help people in over their heads in mortgages, she doesn’t pay attention to environmental or business regulations that have an effect on her district.”

    Yeah, you’ve got a point there; she’s completely ignored the left’s agenda, and wasn’t very impressed with the results of Wellstone!’s laughable “economic development tour”.

  13. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/17/2010 - 08:43 pm.

    The Mars mission isn’t as far from this planet as some of MB’s proposals.

  14. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 02/17/2010 - 10:10 pm.

    Given her record Thomas, I admire your brass.

  15. Submitted by Pat Igo on 02/17/2010 - 11:59 pm.

    What has Betty McCollum accomplished for the 4th district? Has she had an economic development tour? For that matter, what has Kieth Ellison done to enhance business in the 5th district. Have either of them signed onto to any amendments to help the folks here at home? If either one of these elected officals would like to make the local media’s spot light, let alone the national media’s (always available for the camera)headlines, for God’s sake, do something.

  16. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/18/2010 - 01:15 am.

    “Sad to say, but in the sixth district which is overwhelmingly conservative Catholic…”

    As a Catholic, I can easily forgive your bigotry, Greg.

    But as a conservative I have to admit I’m having a problem with the ignorance part.

    Richard, please divert your attention from my brass.

  17. Submitted by David Ritsema on 02/18/2010 - 01:31 am.

    Compare her sophomore legislative record with that of freshman Al Franken. She has no excuse. She’s out to promote a personal agenda rather than represent and serve the people of Minnesota.

  18. Submitted by Susan White on 02/18/2010 - 07:59 am.

    She has accomplished making a fool of herself and of her state. As a born and raised Minnesotan, I cringe when I hear her spout such idiotic and false comments.I don’t understand why her supporters don’t pay attention to facts rather than old John Bircher nonsense.

  19. Submitted by David Day on 02/18/2010 - 10:24 am.

    The fact is that Michele Bachmann has never authored a bill that was put into law in her entire 8 years of legislative experience; which includes her four years in the Minnesota Senate. She has however worked diligently to oppose all measures and bills to ease the pain of foreclosures, even those proposed by the Bush Administration. In today’s Star Tribune there is an article in the Business Section that highlights the fact that 4 out of the five counties in her Congressional District lead in the number of foreclosures state wide. Michele has been quoted as saying that people in foreclosure were “irresponsible”. In October of 2008 she and her husband Marcus bought a new home that was originally listed for 1.75 million dollars. They reportedly paid much less. The housing crash has been good to the Bachmanns but not to her constituents. It is a sad fact that many of the people who are loosing their homes voted for her in the past. If they knew she considered them “irresponsible”, how would they vote this November? Who will tell them of her true record?

  20. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/18/2010 - 10:39 am.

    Pat Igo (#15). Surely you jest.

    Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison have worked tirelessly to write and help pass legislation that addresses the real problems faced by people in the 4th and 5th Congressional Districts — poverty; housing and homelessness; lack of access to health care (see Betty M’s proposed constitutional amendment),\; consumer protection from credit card companies, banksters and health insurance companies; education; energy policy; infrastructure, budgeting to meet the needs of people, et cetera.

    Please visit the web site thomas.loc.gov for lists of legislation written by each and perhaps their web sites mccollum.house.gov and ellison.house.gov for policy statements.

  21. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/18/2010 - 11:52 am.

    Bernice, of the 10 pieces of legislation Rep. McCollum has sponsored (none of which address poverty; housing or homelessness BTW), she has managed to get one passed…through her tireless efforts, she managed to push through a resolution expressing support for designation of January 2010 as “National Mentoring Month”.

    Ellison sponsored 18 bills, 18 of which have failed to pass.

    Mr. Igo it seems, does not jest.

  22. Submitted by Dave Thul on 02/18/2010 - 12:55 pm.

    Based on the number of bills she has authored and important legislation she has worked on, it seems clear that Michelle Bachmann is more than qualified to run for president.


  23. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/18/2010 - 03:09 pm.

    Thomas: I’d say you looked at only the first pages of legislation offered by each and did not visit their web sites.

    There are also the pieces of legislation co-sponsored by each — which would then appear on the lists for other members of the House — and the work on committees (incuding finance for Ellison and appropriations for McCollum) and for constituent services and education.

  24. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/18/2010 - 05:25 pm.

    So, Bernice, what you’re saying is that to prove the statement you made, one should not follow the link you provided to prove the statement you made, and even if the statement you made cannot be verified at all, one should take other activities not related to the topic at hand into account.

    Lot of work to go through to “not prove” a point, isn’t it?

  25. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/18/2010 - 10:21 pm.

    Actually, the Democratic candidate in 2008, El Tinklenberg, is Pro-life. But this year’s candidate will not be.

  26. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 02/19/2010 - 12:50 pm.

    Much of what passes for accomplishment in this world is symbolic

  27. Submitted by William Pappas on 02/21/2010 - 01:52 pm.

    Bachmann is not a freshman congresswoman as she tried to say but is in the middle of her second term. Bachmann is not a true patriot but a true chicken hawk. She is more concerned with turning every terrorist act into a political point. Colin Powell discredited just about all of her (and Pawlenty’s) poorly thought out positions on Guantanamo, torture, miranda rights and the progress of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq on CBS this morning. In fact I find Bachmann’s pseudo patriotism offensive and pandering to those most susceptible to conservative demagoguery.

  28. Submitted by Nancy Gertner on 02/22/2010 - 01:43 am.

    So has Congressperson Bachmann done anything to reduce the rate of abortion for your family in the Sixth District?

  29. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 02/24/2010 - 02:37 am.

    The only problem that I really see with Mrs Bachmann is that she is conservative. Her political persuasions are dictating her actions in office. Her actions; or apparent lack of, are really one side of a sword. She is a participating vote in many things; many things that the liberals and those who can’t balance a checkbook just loath. I think she’s doing fine, and looking at her record, and the language of the press that she is getting, I really can see very visibly; the bias that exists in a lot of news organizations and in some instances; the writers. So; all I have to say on this; is keep going Mrs. Bachmann.

  30. Submitted by Aubrey Immelman on 02/25/2010 - 01:06 am.

    From the article: “Officials with both the Clark and Reed campaigns said they plan to run against Bachmann on her celebrity status …”

    That’s fluff. The real issue is Bachmann’s protofascist status.





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