ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican Mike McFadden and his party have seized on a big number in their efforts to boot Sen. Al Franken from office: 97 percent.
That's how often Minnesota's freshman Democrat has voted with President Barack Obama, according to Congressional Quarterly's vote scoring. McFadden has made it a frequent talking point in interviews, stump speeches and ads.
The score is calculated from a fraction of the votes Franken has cast since taking office in 2009 — only votes for which the president has expressed a public opinion are counted. And Franken's total, like that of many U.S. senators, is inflated by procedural votes and uncontroversial nominations.
In nearly a quarter of those votes, GOP senators unanimously joined with Franken to vote with the president, according to an analysis of Franken's votes, which CQ provided to The Associated Press. A majority of Republicans sided with Obama in another 20 percent of the votes.
When Franken did break with the president, it was often in a more liberal direction. In one of 10 such instances, he voted against a second term for former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2010, citing concern that he hadn't done enough to protect consumers from 2007's economic collapse and bank bailouts.
Franken stands by his voting record from five years in the Senate. His campaign says the vote score unfairly boils down his tenure to a small subset of his work, ignoring the legislative wrangling and policymaking off the Senate floor.
McFadden said the number still shows Franken isn't independent, a case he repeatedly makes to voters while portraying himself as the alternative.
Seventeen Senate Democrats, including Franken and fellow Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, voted 100 percent with Obama in 2013, according to CQ. Another 14 Democrats had scores of 99 percent. Maine's Sen. Susan Collins had the highest presidential support rate among Republicans last year, with 76 percent.
Republicans have employed the presidential support scores against incumbent Democrats across the country, trying to tie incumbent Democrats to Obama's low approval ratings. Democratic groups used the same tactic in their push to oust Sen. Norm Coleman in 2008, when Franken won his seat by 312 votes.
In Minnesota, McFadden's latest ad is simply titled "97 percent." After branding Franken "the most partisan senator in all of Congress," an announcer vows that McFadden wouldn't run for a second term if he voted so frequently with his party or a Republican president.
In an interview, McFadden said Franken shouldn't have voted for President Obama's health care law. And he said Franken should have voted to start building the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Franken is undecided on the project but has voted to ensure it follows the ongoing review process.
"Sen. Franken's record is so extreme in terms of its alignment with the president ... it is evidence of a lack of independence. He is a rubber stamp," McFadden said.
Franken's campaign pushed back against McFadden's latest ad, publishing a list of occasions Franken has opposed the president — including several votes and policy fights with the administration not included in the number McFadden frequently cites. The campaign played up Franken's desire to repeal a medical device tax in Obama's health care law and push to maintain renewable fuel production standards at their current levels.
"Every vote I've taken has been for the people of Minnesota. That means that I sometimes agree with the President, and sometimes I don't," Franken said in a statement.
Looking at Franken's presidential disagreements
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has cast 380 votes that President Obama had an opinion on since taking office in July 2009. He sided with the president on all but 10.
Congressional Quarterly's tally adds up to 97 percent support of the president, on votes ranging from procedural votes to end debate to a handful of major policy packages, like the passage of the massive health care law in 2009. More than half were Senate confirmation votes on Obama appointees or judicial nominations, many of them uncontroversial.
Congressional Quarterly used only votes for which the president has expressed a public opinion — a fraction of the roll call votes scheduled in the U.S. Senate.
Franken agreed with Obama in voting to pass his controversial health care bill. But before that passed, Franken voted to allow the importation of some prescription drugs — a policy Obama opposed. The president ultimately prevailed.
In 2011, he voted against the president's trade agreements with Panama and Colombia, citing concerns about corruption and human rights violations in each country, respectively. The following year, Franken and 24 fellow Democrats voted against a bill that eased regulations for small businesses attracting investors. Franken said the bill, which Obama supported and signed, didn't adequately protect potential investors and eliminated necessary corporate oversight.
Franken also broke with the president twice on post-9/11 surveillance powers by voting against extensions of the Patriot Act, the counterterrorism law, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows some warrantless wiretapping.
Minnesota Republicans criticized Franken's 'nay' votes on military budget bills in 2012 and 2013 as evidence he is out of touch with growing threats abroad. His campaign said he objected to provisions that allowed Americans to be indefinitely detained. Neither vote was included in the 97 percent calculation.
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