Not every great issue of the day comes up for a vote in Congress. In the 101st Congress, for instance, House leaders spared their colleagues acid tests on gun control, campaign finance reform and clean air legislation. The diciest bills on these subjects either never made it to the floor or arrived there with controversies already removed.
As for the savings and loan scandal, it may be potent but the crucial S&L votes happened years ago. In this term the thrift industry needed bailing out. Congress voted to bail.
But in their two-year terms now ending, House members were asked to take stands in a baker's dozen of votes that observers regard as telling. (So were senators, but neither of Florida's is facing re-election this year.)
Some were on bills, others involved crucial amendments.
As the election draws near, the chart at right shows how members in Suncoast districts voted.
They are: Sam Gibbons of Tampa; C.
W. Bill Young of south Pinellas; Michael Bilirakis of north Pinellas and portions of Pasco and Hillsborough; Cliff Stearns of Hernando and Citrus; Andy Ireland, whose district includes Manatee; and Porter Goss, who represents Sarasota.
All but Gibbons are Republicans.
Summit budget: This was the deficit-reduction package produced by congressional leaders and the White House after five months of negotiations. Criticized for the burden it placed on the middle class and Medicare recipients, it went down to quick defeat Oct. 5.
Final compromise budget: Passed just last weekend, this compromise emerged from the House and Senate and has the approval of President Bush. It is easier on Medicare and tougher on the rich, but in many ways resembles the original summit budget.
Capital gains: Last year, the House voted to fulfill the president's dream of cutting the tax on profits realized by the sale of an asset. The measure later died in the Senate, but an opponent, Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice, called the House roll call "the big vote last year on whether there should be a big tax cut for the wealthy." And, as if capital gains weren't confusing enough as a concept, the key vote was actually on an alternative plan presented by the Democratic leadership. So a "No" is, in fact, a vote to reduce the capital gains tax.
Minimum wage: President Bush in July 1989 vetoed legislation that would have raised the minimum wage from $3.35 to $4.55 over three years. This vote was the vain House attempt to override the veto, and a subsequent package raised the wage to $4.25 as of April 1991.
Anti-pollution warranty: Nearly everything in the revamped Clean Air bill was worked out behind closed doors. But one controversial amendment that arrived on the floor was a measure requiring carmakers to extend the warranty on expensive anti-pollution equipment, such as catalytic converters, to 8 years and 80,000 miles (up from the current 5 and 50,000). It passed 239 to 180.
Disabilities Act: The act itself _ requiring accommodations for handicapped Americans in public transportation and in telecommunications _ passed overwhelming. Closer was this vote on an amendment billed as a break for small businesses. It would have limited an employer's expenses to one-tenth the salary of the handicapped employee requiring the accommodation. It lost 187 to 213.
Child care: The March vote was to expand availability of day care to low-income families through both tax breaks and subsidies to care-givers. It passed 265 to 145 and a version of it is about to become law.
Family leave: Later vetoed by Bush as a burden to businesses, the bill instructed employers to grant workers unpaid leave to care for a new baby or sick family member. The vote to override the president's veto was 232-195, 53 short of the two-thirds majority needed.
Abortion: Of a dozen abortion votes House members faced in this Congress, probably the most straightforward came Sept. 18. Members were asked to approve an amendment permitting abortions in military hospitals overseas. There was no question of federal funding, no proviso for rape or incest. It lost 200 to 216.
Civil rights: Advocates framed the intricate bill as a necessary response to a string of Supreme Court decisions on discrimination in hiring. The bill sought to make it easier to sue for discrimination and win bigger awards. Bush rejected it, saying the bill would lead businesses to use racial quotas in hiring. It originally passed the House 272 to 154, but the attempt to override the veto started in the Senate and failed there.
Flag: After the Supreme Court twice ruled that it would take a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag-burning as a form of protest, the House voted on one. The vote for a constitutional amendment fell 34 shy of the required two-thirds majority.
Iraq: Less than a week before Iraq invaded Kuwait, members had a chance to punish Saddam Hussein for threatening his neighbor (and for a poor human rights record) by voting to suspend certain export guarantees. The vote was 234 to 175 to suspend the guarantees.
Chinese students: The vote was a referendum on America's response to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Congress had voted to punish the Chinese government by explicitly permitting Chinese students to remain in the United States. Bush promised to protect the students using existing powers and wanted to spare the Chinese government the embarrassment of a special bill. The House voted overwhelmingly (390 to 25) to override Bush's veto, but the Senate didn't.