Tim Johnson Watch

Representative Tim Johnson was elected to represent the residents of Illinois' 15th Congressional District in Central Illinois. His constituents should know what he's doing.

Location: 15th Congressional District, Illinois, United States

A concerned citizen of Central Illinois.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I Voted Against That Bill Before I Voted For It ... And I Would Do It Again!

Tim Johnson's lamentable voting habits continued with his abrupt reversal of position on the so-called Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act ("LARA"), which passed the House with Johnson's support on October 27.

This insurance-industry backed bill circumvents the normal rulemaking process and -- in the interest of chilling lawsuits against large corporations and insurers -- imposes a series of measures that, contrary to GOP rhetoric about limited federal government, meddles with the workings of state courts. For example, the bill would mandate that state courts apply LARA, rather than their own rules, in determining where within a state a personal injury claim must be brought. Thus, an action that could properly be brought in Urbana under Illinois law might have to be transfered to Chicago under the new federal rule. While one would think the states themselves would be in the best position to decide such a thing, LARA sees a compelling federal interest in such meddling. Even worse, LARA would federalize issues of attorney sanctions for cases that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce -- again meddling with the state courts' own regulation of the conduct of lawyers before them and forcing state courts to waste precious time engaged in the esoteric and potentially time-consuming analysis of whether and how much particular personal injury claims affect interstate commerce.

While TJW is disappointed that Johnson supported LARA, it is not surprised, as only a handful of Republican representatives had the courage to buck DeLay and Bush on this one.* What is more surprising is that, only minutes earlier, Johnson was the only Republican who voted in favor of a motion that would have tabled LARA.** Why would Johnson take such a stand? Did Johnson, who is after all a very successful lawyer (he earned almost $600,000 in his last year in practice), have misgivings about LARA? And if so, having voted against LARA at 4:05 p.m., how could he vote for it at 4:15?

This vote patern is so odd that TJW wondered whether Mr. Johnson was having another bad experience with a paper clip and a voting device. But there may be more to it than that -- because Johnson did exactly the same thing last year. On September 14, 2004, he was one of six Republicans who voted to send the 2004 version of LARA back to committee, yet 10 minutes later he joined the Republican majority that passed the bill 229-174.

It's bad enough that Johnson supported LARA. But it's worse because he seems to know that it was wrong.

*DeLay has been a strong and visible advocate of LARA, as has Bush.

**The motion to recommit, while technically an effort to have the committee consider exempting claims against price gougers from the act, was transparently an effort to defeat a floor vote on the underlying bill.


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