Mark Harmon Mug

Now that he’s been a U.S. congressman for 10 months, how is Tim Burchett doing representing Blount, Claiborne, Grainger, Knox and Loudon counties, as well as parts of Campbell and Jefferson? A check of the Congressional Record shows he is failing to exercise independent and good judgment.

One bad sign came early in his term when he voted against HR 676, the NATO Support Act. The resolution affirmed our support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, expressed the bipartisan sense of Congress that the president should not withdraw from NATO, and prohibited the use of funds for such a withdrawal. NATO, of course, has been a key Western military alliance, helping constrain first the Soviet Union and later Russia. Only 22 voted against this obvious resolution; Burchett was one of them.

Perhaps Burchett was demonstrating his mindless devotion to Donald Trump. Burchett has a 95.7% Trump Support Score.

Burchett could have expressed some reasoned disapproval of this administration, and joined other Republicans in several resolutions disapproving of arms sales and transfers to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Burchett instead sucked up to the administration and its worst behavior, just as he refused to condemn Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in their defiance of congressional subpoenas (HR 497), and Trump’s racist comments about members of Congress (H. Res. 49).

So, when Burchett appeared on WBIR’s Inside Tennessee in mid-August and told folksy stories about his cordial and respectful conversations with fellow freshman legislator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, his vote did not match his words.

Our local congressman also was a strident voice seeking to gut the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency that keeps banks away from the risky abuses that led to the financial crash/crimes of 2008. Burchett took to the floor to say the bureau was “vulnerable to political whims.” The opposite is true. The bureau was set up to be financed indirectly through the Federal Reserve, just so bank-friendly congressmen can’t punish it with budget cuts every time it gets tough on crime in the suites. Burchett wanted to put it directly under Congress’ thumb.

One should note that Burchett, according to Open Secrets’ tally of 2018 contribution data, took in $138,574 in campaign cash from sources connected to banking/finance/real estate. That’s more than one in every eight dollars on Burchett’s 2018 campaign war chest of more than a million dollars. The same sources already have chipped in substantially to Burchett’s reelection campaign.

Let’s credit Burchett with a couple good votes, notably one vote standing up for Russia sanctions, and another reaffirming the Violence Against Women Act. Nevertheless, time after time Burchett has found excuses not to vote for reasonable legislation: raising the minimum wage (HR 582), requiring Customs and Border Protection to meet minimum health and hygiene standards relating to its custody of undocumented immigrants (HR 3239), and establishing election security grants and safety requirements for voting systems and paper ballots (HR 2722).

As our FBI director warns of right-wing hate violence and the body count builds from mass shootings, Burchett distracts us with Fox News Antifa memes. He proclaimed in July that he had “introduced the Unmasking Antifa Act, a bill that seeks to punish, with fines and/or imprisonment for up to 15 years, any person wearing a mask or disguise while committing a crime, including threatening or intimidating another individual exercising their constitutional rights or privileges.”

Walter Shaub, former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, put it well. “Two groups go to Charlottesville. A big group chants racist filth, wields semi-automatic assault rifles, fires a gun into a crowd (and) murders a woman with a car. A small group wears masks,” he wrote. “It’s the small group these congressmen want to lock up for 15 years. Authoritarianism rises.”

During that Inside Tennessee appearance, panelist Don Bosch pressed Burchett on his votes against two gun-buyer background checks bills. Bosch swatted away all of Burchett’s attempts at diversion and distraction and left our freshman congressman stammering, “If you wanna grab my guns, just say I wanna take away your guns. Don’t come at me with all this stuff.” Background checks aren’t gun grabs and the roughly nine in every 10 Americans who support such checks know pathetic political excuse-making when they see it.

Burchett’s 2018 Democratic Party opponent Renee Hoyos ran a credible and enthusiastic campaign, and will challenge Burchett again in 2020. She now calls him fist-bump Trump, and the record strongly supports the nickname.

Mark D. Harmon is a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee and a regional vice chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party. His opinions are his own.

(2) comments


[rolleyes] Snowflake.


This is the equivalent of “Reviewer Number Two” stating that “this is not the paper I would have wrote.”

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