Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, is gearing up for what many believe will be a tough re-election campaign as she vies for her third term in the U.S. Senate. Recent polls indicate that Lincoln's approval ratings have dropped over the past year, and she represents a state that voted for Republican presidential candidate John McCain by a margin of 20 percentage points in 2008.
Last week, Lincoln kicked off her ad campaign for the upcoming Democratic primary with a commercial that said, "I don't answer to my party, I answer to Arkansas." In the 30-second-spot, Lincoln depicts herself as a Washington outsider by listing four issues that she says she voted against even though they were generally backed by Democrats. The Fact Check Desk decided to see if these claims are consistent with her voting record.
Fact Check: What's Lincoln's voting record like when it comes to the issues outlined in her newest commercial?
- Lincoln's ad touts the senator voting against "giving more money to Wall Street." In January 2009, she did vote against an extension of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, more commonly known as TARP. Though the joint resolution was defeated, its intent was to prevent the release of the second half of the $700 billion in TARP funds given to the financial industry. In a press release, Lincoln said that she voted against this continuation of TARP "because the program had failed to provide relief to families and small businesses in Arkansas hit by the credit crisis." Lincoln did vote for the bailout three months earlier.
- The commercial also claims Lincoln voted against the "auto company bailout," which is true. In December 2008, the senator voted against invoking cloture for the Automobile Industry Loan Program Shell, which helped prevent the bill from moving towards a vote on the floor. The bill would have provided an emergency loan package for American automakers. Other dollars allocated to General Motors, Chrysler LLC and suppliers came from the already approved TARP funds, an idea that Lincoln actually advocated. Her reasoning for her vote in
December 2008 was that "TARP funds should be the source for any auto relief" because "we don't have to throw new money at the problem."
- The senator's ad goes on to say she voted against the "public option health care plan." Lincoln, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, voted against two public option proposals that were discussed during the committee's shaping of its health care bill. Lincoln rejected those amendments, which were proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, in part because she believes having a public option is too expensive. But this is an issue that Lincoln has flip-flopped on. In July 2009, Lincoln expressed her support for the public option in an op-ed that ran in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She wrote that "individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan."
- Lincoln also said she voted against a "cap and trade bill that would've raised energy costs for Arkansans." The American Clean Energy and Security Act passed in the House in June 2009, but has not actually been voted upon in the Senate. Lincoln did voice her opposition to the legislation in a Senate Finance Committee hearing regarding climate change in August 2009. She called it a "deeply flawed bill" that "places a disproportionate share of the economic burden on families and businesses particularly in rural America," a stance on climate legislation that Lincoln has taken in the past. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) recently placed Lincoln on its "Dirty Dozen" list of candidates it would like to see lose this year. On its Web site, LCV President Gene Karpinski says that "most regrettable is the fact that Sen. Lincoln is walking away from her previous support for climate legislation," as in the past Lincoln co-sponsored the bipartisan Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007.
- According to CQ Press, Lincoln's voting record indicates that she has sided with the Democratic Party 83.96 percent of the time when considering all of the floor votes she has cast.
Lincoln's recent stances on the issues included in her commercial have been consistent with what she purports in the ad. However, her position on some of these issues has changed over time. It's also worth noting that despite Lincoln's efforts to highlight her independence from the Democratic Party, she does have the support of the White House, and she has voted with Democrats more than 80 percent of the time.
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- CNN's Craig Broffman contributed to this report