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Fact Squad | Gary Peters ad highlights attendance, hits back at John James

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ re-election campaign is becoming a referendum on his effectiveness, as the first-term Democrat launched a TV ad last week to dispute claims that he doesn’t show up for work.

Republican challenger John James, a Farmington Hills businessman, has portrayed Peters as a career politician who has few accomplishments to show for his five-plus years in the Senate and six years in the House.

In a response ad, Peters argues he’s not only highly rated as a senator but has one of the panel’s best attendance records. The Bloomfield Township Democrat makes the case with three claims, all of which are accurate but require explanation.


The ad argues that “Gary Peters shows up for Michigan, and that means results for you.”

“No one has written and passed more bills through the Senate in the past two years.”

The argument is made with three assertions: his 99.2 percent voting attendance record, his ability to pass bills and Lugar Center for Effective Lawmaking naming him “one of the most bipartisan and effective senators.” 

The Facts

The three claims are true.

Peters has been present at 99.2 percent of votes since 2015, including perfect attendance in 2019, per GovTrack. He’s also passed nine bills through the Senate since the start of the 116th session in 2019, the most of any senator

In the past two years, the Lugar Center — which was founded by former Republican Sen. RIchard Lugar — has named Peters the 12th most bipartisan senator and fourth most effective senator in the minority party.

“Gary Peters is one of the most effective and bipartisan leaders in the Senate,” campaign spokesperson Vanessa Valdivia told Bridge Michigan.

Some context adds nuance to the claims.

Peters’ attendance record is for Senate votes, not committee hearings, which are harder to quantify. The median lifetime attendance record of all 100 active senators is 98.3 percent, according to GovTrack, which notes that senators typically only miss votes “due to medical absences and major life events” such as running for president.

Peters has passed nine bills through the Senate, but two became law outright: the Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act, which increased access to apprenticeship programs, and the Protecting America's Food and Agriculture Act, which increased the number of federal agricultural inspectors. 

Two other bills had provisions passed within another law, per GovTrack. This means that four of nine Peters bills passed both chambers and were signed into law in the past two years. Six senators surpassed that total.

James’ campaign called the ad a “pathetic attempt to pass off a failing performance as a passing grade … His voting record is nothing exceptional.” As proof, the campaign repeated claims that Peters missed hearings as a House member dating back to 2011 and a task force on China from 2015 to 2019.

Bridge Michigan already examined those accusations and deemed them misleading.

The Conclusion

Peters’ ad uses facts to support his argument about his attendance and ability to pass bills.

Claims from the James campaign that the Michigan senator is absent from his duties are demonstrably false.

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