James McDermott

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U.S. Representative

James McDermott ()
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Leadership: No leadership position
Committees: House Committee on Ways and Means
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Next election: Nov. 6, 2012

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[[Category:Members of the U.S. House of Representatives|]]

James Adelbert "Jim" McDermott, a Democrat, has represented the Seventh Congressional District of Washington in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1988.


Record and controversies

Congressional scorecards

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Organization 2007 Scorecard
Score - Agree ratio
2008 Scorecard
Score - Agree ratio
American Civil Liberties Union not avail. not avail.
American Conservative Union not avail. not avail.
AFSCME not avail. not avail.
Americans for Democratic Action not avail. not avail.
Club for Growth not avail. not avail.
Drum Major Institute not avail. not avail.
Family Research Council not avail. not avail.
Information Technology Industry Council not avail. not avail.
League of Conservation Voters not avail. not avail.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People not avail. not avail.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce not avail. not avail.

Iraq War

McDermott voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.[1]

For more information see the chart of U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Iraq War.

When Jim McDermott was asked by Ross Reynolds on the Conversation show on March 16, 2007 if he was going to vote against the Iraq War Supplemental he said, "I haven't voted for a supplemental since I... since the war began so it would be unlikely I would vote for it". McDermott was lying.

According to the Washington Post voting database the House of Reps. voted for passage of H R 1559 , the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act on April 3, 2003, at 10:59 p.m. This was 2 weeks after the invasion of Iraq began.

Nine Representatives voted against the measure. They were Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Sam Farr, Raúl Grijalva, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Diane Watson, Lynn Woolsey. Contrary to what Mcdermott and his staff have repeatedly stated Jim McDermott was not among them.

Source: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/108/house/1/votes/108

Here is Jim McDermott full Iraq War voting record: Against Oct 2002 House War Vote For April 2003 House Supplemental Against October 2003 House supplemental Against March 2005 House supplemental Against March 2006 House Supplemental.

Source: http://www.vcnv.org/files/voting_records_supplementals.pdf

On March 23, 2007, McDermott did the "unlikely" thing and voted for the Pelosi sponsored Iraq supplemental bill. He cast the 218th vote for the bill. Reference: http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/stark-choice-divided-liberals-led-to-passage-of-supplemental-2007-03-26.html

Trip to Iraq

Rep. McDermott visited Iraq in 2002, prior to the 2003 Invasion. He received sharp criticism from conservatives, both for his visit and for his accusation that President George W. Bush would "mislead the American public" to justify military action. He continuously insisted that no weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq.

After his visit to Iraq, Rep. McDermott received a $5,000 contribution to an unrelated legal defense fund from Shakir al Khafaji, an Iraqi-American businessman with alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Oil for Food scandal. McDermott returned the contribution in 2004 after it was questioned in the media. Aides asserted that Rep. McDermott had no prior knowledge of Khafaji's alleged connections to Iraqi oil money.

Some of McDermott's opponents use the nickname "Baghdad Jim" to call attention to his controversial Iraq visit.[1]

McDermott told a Seattle radio station on December 15, 2003 that the U.S. military could have found Saddam Hussein "a long time ago if they wanted." Asked if he agreed with the conspiracy theory that the weekend capture was timed to help George W. Bush, McDermott laughed and said, "Yeah. Oh, yeah." McDermott went on to say, "There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing."[2]

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal


In 2007, Congress took up the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health care for about 6 million children and 670,000 adults from families who earn too much money qualify for Medicare but not enough to afford health insurance. Congressional Democrats and many Republicans tried to use the opportunity to dramatically expand the program but were opposed by President George W. Bush and other Republicans. In 2006, 5.4 million children were eligible but not enrolled in SCHIP or Medicaid and 9.4 million total children were uninsured.

McDermott voted for the first House bill, which passed along party lines. It would have added $47 billion over five years to the $25 billion cost of the program and added about 5 million people to the program, including children, some legal immigrants, pregnant women and adults aged 18 and 19. The bill was financed mainly by an increase in cigarette taxes.

House Democrats, with 45 Republicans, later compromised and passed a bill which expanded the plan by $35 billion and would have insured about 3.5 million more children from families generally making between 250% and 300% of the federal poverty line (about $51,000 to $62,000 for a family of four). Most non-pregnant, childless adults were excluded, as were most legal immigrants and all illegal immigrants. McDermott voted for the bill.

After President Bush vetoed the bill, Democratic leaders attempted to override the veto with the same bill but failed. McDermott voted for the bill.

House Democrats then attempted to override it with another bill, which gave into Republican demands for increased checks for citizenship, the quick phasing-out of adult coverage, a hard limit of 300% of the federal poverty level and funding for families that covered their children through private insurance instead. Republicans, angry that the vote was scheduled during massive fires in California, blocked the veto override. McDermott voted for the bill. For details on the bills and the debate, see the main State Children's Health Insurance Program page.

Illegal Wiretapping

In December of 2004, McDermott came under investigation by the House ethics committee when they had to determine whether he violated standards of conduct for leaking an illegally recorded telephone conversations during a committee investigation in 1997. At that time the committee was investigating the conduct of Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The illegal telephone conversation was recorded by a Florida couple, John and Alice Martin, who overheard a conversation between Rep. Gingrich and top Republicans, on their police scanner inside their car. After listening to the conversation for several minutes they decided to record it, at first for posterity and after listening further, decided that it might be important for the ethics committee to hear.

It was at that time that they delivered the tape to Rep. McDermott, the senior Democrat on the House ethics committee at that time.

Shortly afterwards McDermott leaked the tape to several media outlets. Rep. John Boehner, who was part of the Gingrich conversation, sued McDermott over leaking the tape and U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan concluded that McDermott was behind the leak and ordered him to pay Boehner for "willfull and knowing misconduct" that "rises to the level of malice".

McDermott challenged the ruling in a federal appeals court. But on March 29, 2006 the court ruled 2-1 that McDermott violated federal law when he turned over the illegally recorded tape to the New York Times and other media outlets. The court ordered McDermott to pay for Boehner's legal costs ($700,000) as well as $60K in damages.[3][4] [5] However, on Monday, June 26, 2006, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Colubmia stated that all nine Justices will will hear McDermott’s appeal of thecase.[6]

Pledge of Allegiance

On April 27, 2004 McDermott omitted the phrase "under God" as he led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance. He was immediately attacked by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) who said, "The liberal wing of the Democrat Party launched yet another salvo today in its ongoing battle to drive a wedge between Americans and the values and ideals we hold dear." McDermott has previously voted against a resolution that condemned the 9th circuit court of appeals ruling the ruled the inclusion in the Pledge of the words "under God" was unconstitutional. In an earlier vote on condemnation of the court McDermott voted "present".[7]

Civil Suit Over Illegal Wiretapping

In 1996, McDermott received an illegally recorded cell phone call between Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican leaders. The recording discussed then House Speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga.) decision to accept a reprimand from the ethics committee in exchange for the committee’s pledge not to hold a hearing. The recording was sent to McDermott, who then passed it to a member of the ethics committee and had it disclosed it to the media despite rules barring him from doing so.[2] In 1998, Boehner filed suit against McDermott for disclosing an "illegally intercepted" call under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.[3] In April 2008, a federal judge ordered Mcdermott to pay nearly $1.2 million in penalties and legal fees to Boehner, settling the decade-long legal dispute between the two gentlemen.[2]

McDermott will be hard-pressed to pay the penalty quickly. At the end of 2007, his campaign had $612,000 in cash, according to the Federal Election Commission. The total penalty is roughly equal to the total he raised in the previous three years.[2] For a similar incident, see Watergate.


McDermott was born on December 28, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. As a licensed physician (MD, University of Illinois Medical School, 1963), he is particularly interested in health care issues including guaranteeing that every American has health care. He served in the United States Navy Medical Corps during the Vietnam War era.

McDermott first won elective office as a state representative in the 43rd district of Washington in 1970. In 1974 he ran for and won a seat in the State Senate. In 1980, then-State Senator McDermott defeated incumbent Dixy Lee Ray in the Democratic primary for Governor of Washington, but lost the general election to John Spellman. McDermott eventually left his State Senate seat in 1987 to work in the Foreign Service office in Zaire providing psychiatric services to Foreign Service, AID, and Peace Corp volunteers.

Congressional career

In 1988 McDermott returned to Washington to run for the House of Representatives and won a decisive victory over his opponent.

One of McDermott's "proudest accomplishments" was a free trade pact with sub-Saharan Africa called the African Growth and Opportunity Act. He also founded the Congressional Task Force on International HIV/AIDS which he now chairs with Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA). McDermott introduced the AIDS Housing Opportunities Act, which authorized $156 million to provide special housing assistance for HIV/AIDS victims. The bill passed into law in 1990. McDermott is outspoken against genocide and is an endorser of the Genocide Intervention Network.[8] He has been vocal on the current genocide undetaken in the Darfur region of Sudan.

McDermott appears in Michael Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 discussing the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

McDermott won his ninth term with over eighty percent of the vote in the election held on 2 November 2004.

2006 elections

In 2006, the Republicans nominated Steve Beren to challenge McDermott in his November 2006 bid for reelection. In addition, Linnea S. Noreen entered the race as an independent candidate. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006) [9] McDermott retained his seat.

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. For specific controversies, see this article's record and controversies section.

Top Contributors to during the 2008 Election Cycle
DonorAmount (US Dollars)
United Food & Commercial Workers Union$ 10,250
American Federation of Teachers$ 10,000
Laborers Union$ 10,000
Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union$ 10,000
National Assn of Insurance & Financial Advisors$ 10,000
National Assn of Real Estate Investment Trusts$ 10,000
Operating Engineers Union$ 10,000
Painters & Allied Trades Union$ 10,000
Sheet Metal Workers Union$ 10,000
Teamsters Union$ 10,000
Source: The Center for Responsive Politics' www.OpenSecrets.org site.
Note: Contributions are not from the organizations themselves, but are rather from
the organization's PAC, employees or owners. Totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.
Links to more campaign contribution information for James McDermott
from the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org site.
Fundraising profile: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2008 election cycle Career totals

Committees and Affiliations


Committees in the 110th Congress (2007-2008)

Committee assignments in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)


More Background Data

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DC office
  • 1035 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515
    Ph: 202-225-3106 Fax: 202-225-6197
    Webform email
District offices
  • 1809 7th Avenue, Suite 1212, Seattle, WA 98101-1399
    Ph: 206-553-7170 Fax: (none entered)
On the Web
Campaign office
  • No campaign website entered.
  • No campaign webform email entered.
  • Friends for Jim McDermott, PO Box 21786, Main Station, Seattle, WA 98111-3786
    Ph: 206-382-5552 Fax: (none entered)

2008 Campaign Contact Information

Official McDermott for Congress campaign website

Friends for Jim McDermott
PO Box 21786
Main Station
Seattle, WA 98111-3786

Phone: 206-382-5552


Articles and resources


  1. Roll call vote, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Paul Kane, "Congressman Ordered to Pay in Wiretap Case," The Washington Post, April 2, 2008.
  3. Bill Mears, " House minority leader wins $1 million plus in suit," Cnn.com, April 1, 2008.
  4. Council and Secretariat, E-Parliament, accessed November 17, 2008.


Local blogs and discussion sites


Works by McDermott



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