Where's Markey? Senator misses dozens of votes in pandemic

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FILE In this June 8, 2020, file photo, Sen. Edward Markey, left, D-Mass., and challenger Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., participate in a televised debate ahead of the Democratic primary, in East Providence, R.I. During the coronavirus pandemic, Markey missed 34 of 42 Senate votes in May and the first half of June, or about 80 percent, according to information from GovTrack, an independent clearinghouse for congressional data. (Jessica Bradley/WPRI-TV via AP, Pool, File)

BOSTON – When the U.S. Senate gathered to debate a major, bipartisan bill aimed at spending nearly $3 billion on conservation projects last week, just two senators failed to cast votes.

One was Sen. Edward Markey, who is locked in a tough re-election primary battl e against a fellow Democrat — U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. Only Markey and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state missed the vote.

It was one of many Markey missed during the prior month and a half as the coronavirus pandemic raged and both he and Kennedy struggled to come up with ways to campaign without holding traditional rallies or shaking hands with voters.

Of 42 Senate votes in May and the first half of June, Markey missed 34 or about 80%, according to information from GovTrack, an independent clearinghouse for congressional data.

Of those missed votes, one of the more notable for Markey was last week’s vote on the Great American Outdoors Act. Markey has touted his support of environmental efforts during his decades in Congress, including the Green New Deal resolution he introduced last year with New York Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

The bill, which passed on a bipartisan 73-25 vote vote, would spend $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands. Supporters say it would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.

Giselle Barry, an aide to Markey, said most of the votes he’s missed have been for judicial or executive nominations and other measures expected to pass decisively in the Republican-controlled chamber.

“When it matters, he’s definitely in town,” Barry said, adding that Markey hasn’t missed a debate where his vote would have decided the outcome.