Senator Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ) has only been in the U.S. Senate for about two months. During that time, he has mostly adjusted to being one of a hundred senators and essentially serving as a place sitter until either Newark Mayor Cory Booker or former Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan is elected in less than two months. Chiesa has voted on an immigration reform bill as well as some President Barack Obama appointments among other votes. However, during his short time; Chiesa has also not exactly had the best attendance record.
Despite only be a temporary fill-in for Governor Chris Christie and New Jersey, there is a still standard that Chiesa is held to as a member of the U.S. Senate. According to a Star Ledger review of voting records, Chiesa has missed 12 of 56 votes or 21% of votes. That missed attendance is the highest of any senator during Chiesa's time in the U.S. Senate. While U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chiesa's colleague from New Jersey, has missed only one vote during that same period.
Moreover, Chiesa has missed multiple hearings for the Senate Commerce Committee. Chiesa sits on the Senate Commerce Committee and one of his missed hearings involved a vote on moving forward 22 bills to the U.S. Senate floor.
Chiesa's office has looked to deflect the criticism directed at the senator for his absences. A couple missed hearings and votes were during a previously planned family vacation late last month.
Furthermore, his office would state;
The senator had numerous commitments made well prior to the appointment. Most of those fell away due to his Senate commitment, but it was his decision to honor two familial commitments including attending his son’s 8th grade graduation. Jeff was called to serve for five months, with no guarantees of what’s next for his career, but he didn’t hesitate.
Chiesa's missed votes would not have played a major role in impacting the outcome of any final tallies.
While not always guaranteed to be in attendance, Chiesa has attempted to not be a guaranteed vote for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The fact that he is not running for reeelection and comes from a state that leans more Democratic certainly makes it easier for Chiesa to break from his party on multiple votes.
As his office would add,
The senator votes his conscience. He does what he believes is the right thing to do for New Jersey’s families
Possibly his biggest vote was the one on immigration reform that 68 senators voted in favor of and he was part of a small group of Republicans who would vote along with Democrats on the measure. However, on other occasions; Chiesa has served as a key member of his party in stonewalling anything that could make Senate Democrats or President Barack Obama look good.
In terms of Chiesa's spotty tenure in the U.S. Senate; Ross Baker, Rutgers University political science professor, would voice;
It was kind of dropped on him (Chiesa). So I don’t think people expected much. Placeholders tend to be asterisks in history, and I think he understands that and is under no assumptions that he can really change things.
Chiesa would also go onto to express in regard to the criticism directed at him,
I had pre-existing family commitments. The first one was my son’s eighth grade graduation. That was something I was simply not going to miss. We also had a longstanding plan for a family getaway in July. I skipped a good part of it, but I stayed for part of it. That was the decision I made. I have no hesitation about it. I’m a father first.
Chiesa certainly was sort of thrown into the U.S. Senate by Governor Christie a couple months ago. While Chiesa might have had obligations lined up, it could have been possible to work those around his role as a member of the U.S. Senate. His tenure will not be much longer, but Chiesa's record and time there might not go as just another asterisk like many other "interim" senators before him. A key "yes" vote on the immigration reform bill and a couple "no" votes along with his party have allowed him to leave his mark on the U.S. Senate. The press he has now gotten for his attendance record adds to his legacy and his tenure in the U.S. Senate.