Dold is not the poster child for the Tea Party. But the more important fact for 10th district voters in Cook and Lake Counties is that their representative mostly sided with a rightward-moving Republican Party. We offer a closer look at the 10th congressional district race between incumbent Robert Dold and Democratic challenger Brad Schneider.
Shortly after the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives green lighted the annual Department of Defense spending bill this July, U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sponsored an amendment to the spending package that, of all things, called for a ban on same-sex weddings on international military bases.
King, who is best known for his virulent anti-immigrant views, he once compared immigrants to dogs, declared on the House floor that military chaplains were stealthily defying the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as an institution between one woman and one man. “This same-sex marriage that has been taking place on our military bases, where otherwise legal around the world, contravenes the Defense of Marriage Act,” King huffed.
As with a plethora of Republican legislation in the 112th Congress, the King bill passed the House and was dead on arrival in the Democratic-lead Senate. U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) joined all but five Republicans in voting 'yes.' This is despite Dold being a self-styled moderate on gay marriage. The lawmaker says he supports same-sex civil unions and thinks gay marriage should be left to the states.
In a deadlocked race in the redrawn and slightly Democratic-leaning Illinois 10th congressional district, Dold has run to the center. “Right in the middle is where you find me,” Dold told the Chicago Tribune today.
In making such statements, the incumbent is trying to fight back charges from Democratic challenger Brad Schneider, a business consultant from Deerfield, that Dold is a Tea Partier at heart.
It's true: Dold is not the poster child for the Tea Party. But the much more important fact for 10th district voters in Cook and Lake Counties is that their representative mostly sided with a rightward-moving Republican Party.
“Congressman Dold can call himself whatever he wants,” Schneider wrote in an-email. “But look at his record, closely look at it; it simply doesn’t match up to his rhetoric.”
Dold, whose campaign did not return multiple messages for this story, ran for Congress in 2010 to replace Mark Kirk who made an ultimately successful bid for U.S. Senate. Dold exuded during the primary that, “The Tea Party has a great voice out there.”
Then, as now, Dold tacked to the center in the general election. But he also received major contributions from Tea Party sympathetic groups such as FreedomWorks Political Action Committee, raising questions about where he really stands on the political spectrum.
Dold’s first two years in Washington answers some of these questions.
The Paul Ryan Budget
Probably the biggest story within the Republican Party over the last couple of years has been the gradual and then sudden embrace of a once marginal long-term budget plan by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). Dold voted with House Republicans in March to pass the Ryan plan.
Schneider calls this his opponent’s most “disappointing” vote, stating that the plan would, “end the Medicare guarantee, turn the critical program into an expensive voucher system, put seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies, and cost seniors nearly $6,400 more – all in order to fund tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and companies that ship jobs overseas.”
Dold supported the Ryan budget even before party leaders like Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) did and well before Ryan ascended to the vice-presidential nomination. Dold gave his support during the 2010 campaign and later told the National Journal in April of 2011 that, “House Republicans put forward a responsible budget that stops spending money we don’t have, helps spur job creation, and lifts the crushing burden of debt.”
A crucial – maybe the crucial – plank in Dold’s pitch that he stands in the political center is that he’s a “pro-choice Republican.” But the Ryan budget calls for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, an area where Schneider has repeatedly chastised his opponent.
Dold also voted for a bill in October 2011 that would change the Affordable Care Act in order to let hospitals deny abortion care for patients, even in emergency situations. As with the Ryan budget, it appears Dold compromised his stance on abortion for a larger Republican cause, in this case steadfast opposition to the national health care reform law.
Dold did sponsor a bill this March to prohibit discrimination of health care providers who perform abortions. But the legislation has predictably gone nowhere in the GOP House, and is seen by some Democrats as a hollow election year gesture.
Environment is the other significant area where Dold draws a contrast with his party.
House environmental legislation since 2011 has had a particular navel-gazing quality to it as Republicans have written various bills that make clear their distaste for the Environmental Protection Agency and fondness of oil drilling. These bills always die in the Senate. City council votes in Lake Forest or Buffalo Grove have more tangible impact on the world.
Still, the votes do show where lawmakers stand on the environmental concerns of the day.
Dold has bucked Republicans and opposed legislation to curb the EPA's power to regulate water and air pollution, including regulation of coal-fired power plants. These votes are part of the reason that Dold sided with the Republican Party “only” 82 percent of the time over the last two years.
By contrast, unapologetic Tea Partier Joe Walsh (R-McHenry) has sided with the party 89 percent of the time, sometimes voting to the right of party leadership. Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale), who like Dold is a self-styled moderate, also voted with the GOP 89 percent of the time.
But Dold was not always in the center when it came to the environment. He vote for loosening permits for oil and gas leases, and Schneider has claimed that such legislation could lead to drilling in Lake Michigan. Schneider also points out that Dold “voted to slash $250 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”
The Republican Agenda
On scores of other issues, Dold votes with his party. This includes laws curbing National Labor Relation Board powers to recognize unionization efforts. It also includes ending Obama foreclosure prevention and home stabilization programs.
Dold is not above sticking it to pet GOP bogeymen – such as his March 2011 ‘yes’ vote on prohibiting federal funding for National Public Radio.
For what it’s worth, Dold has cast his lot with the Republican Party, sometimes bucking Tea Party ideals.
Unlike, for example, Walsh, Dold voted with Boehner on the very few bipartisan items that the House passed and President Obama signed into law the past two years. This includes lifting the debt ceiling as well as temporarily extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax credit.
The Choice For 10th District Voters
Dold, the self-identified man of the middle, is running against Schneider, who was the centrist candidate in a close 10th district primary. Dold and Schneider will likely vote with their respective party's leadership 90 percent of the time, or maybe only 82 percent. So the choice for voters lies in what direction they'd like to see the country move.
The modern Republican Party has clear views on the future of government spending, reproductive rights, gay marriage, the environment, labor and social services. There is little evidence to suggest Dold will transcend or reverse much of an ever hardening party line.