Cheney was consecutively elected six times as Wyoming’s at-large representative, serving from 1979–1989. From 1981–1987 Cheney was the Chairman of the Republican Party Committee; in 1988 he was elected House Minority Whip where he served for two months before being appointed Secretary of Defense. His voting record while in Congress was consistently conservative, and became increasingly so as he rose within the Republican Party.
Points of interest in Cheney’s voting record are as follows:
- 1979 – Voted against creating the Department of Education, following the Party line which claimed it would centralize education in Washington and encroach on states’ rights.
- 1982 – Voted against Endangered Species Act amendments which established that only biological factors were to be considered in determining a species’ status; this directly opposed Reagan’s executive order 12291 which required economic analysis of all government agency actions. Congress, but not Cheney, rejected 12291.
- 1983 – Voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, along with 145 other members of Congress.
- 1985 – Voted against the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act which outlawed the manufacturing and importing of armor-piercing (‘cop-killing’) bullets.
- 1986 – Voted against Safe Drinking Act amendments which required more contaminants to be regulated and increased enforcement power.
- 1986 – Voted against overriding Reagan’s veto on the bill to impose economic sanctions on apartheid South Africa because unilateral sanctions “almost never work”.
- 1986 – Voted against a non-binding resolution calling on South Africa to release Nelson Mandela from prison; the resolution was defeated.
- 1986 – Voted for Firearm Owners Protection Act which revised the Gun Control Act of 1968 and weakened gun control legislation.
- 1988 – Voted against a gun control bill (‘Brady amendment’, predecessor to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act) eliminating over-the-counter sales of handguns and mandating a national seven day waiting period, allowing for background checks.
- 1988 – Voted against a gun control bill (S.465) outlawing the manufacturing and use of plastic guns, unidentifiable by metal-detectors and x-rays used at airports.
Cheney’s conservative Congressional voting record reflects his preference for decentralized government and his general disdain for Congress’ checks on the Executive. His stance on gun control was more conservative than the NRA’s, but this is not surprising since he represented Wyoming. Cheney’s seemingly anti-environmental policies also stem from his state, where coal and petroleum are major industries; the regional center for fossil fuels is named the Dick Cheney Federal Building. Dick’s foreign policy hardly changes when he becomes SecDef, where he continues to reject the use of sanctions. The sentiments of these votes are echoed in the coming years as Cheney gains status and power, demonstrating that the man remains steadfast and unchanged from the beginning (or, we could have seen it coming).