Vernon Ehlers

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Vernon J. Ehlers previously served the Third Congressional district of Michigan

Vernon James Ehlers, a Republican, is a former U.S. Representative for the 3rd Congressional District of Michigan, having served 1993 to 2011. Ehlers announced his retirement in February 2010. The 3rd district is based in Grand Rapids. (map)[1]

Record and controversies

General information about important bills and votes for can be found in Congresspedia's articles on legislation. You can add information you find on how Vernon Ehlers voted by clicking the "[edit]" link to the right and typing it in. Remember to cite your sources!

Iraq War

On October 10, 2002, Ehlers voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. Ehlers justified his vote by explaining on the floor of Congress and in The Grand Rapids Press that Saddam Hussein was developing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Ehlers described the "destructive force of nuclear weapons" by describing what would happen if a bomb was detonated over Grand Rapids' Calder Plaza source:

...the blast would devastate all of Grand Rapids and the near suburbs, a firestorm would consume the rest of the suburbs and a lethal dose of radiation would envelop much of the downwind area. All told, upwards of 300,000 people would be killed.

Prior to his vote, Ehlers was the target of letter writing by opponents of the war. In an October 11, 2002 article published in The Grand Rapids Press ("Local sentiment divided on next step," Ted Roelofs), Ehlers spokesperson admitted that calls, letters, and emails to the office were 50 to 1 against the war. He dismissed the opposition as being part of an "organized campaign" (source). Shortly before the invasion, antiwar protestors were arrested at Ehlers' Grand Rapids office where they claimed that he was violating international law and war crimes. The activists later detailed their charges in a publication and video titled The Trial of Vern Ehlers.

Main article: Congressional actions on the Iraq War

Through April 2007, Ehlers had voted in favor of all funding requests and had opposed an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. In 2006, Rep. Ehlers voted in favor of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which limited the Habeus Corpus rights of detainees in the War on Terror.

Main article: Military Commissions Act of 2006
For more information see the chart of U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Iraq War.

"Public Enemies of the Middle Class"

In response to his voting record in the 110th Congress, Representative Ehlers was named as one of 18 "Public Enemies of the Middle Class" by Americans United for Change. Ehlers was included on the list due to his vote against the Fair Minimum Wage Act and the Employee Free Choice Act.

2007 SCHIP Vote

In 2007, Congress took up the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health care for about 6 million children and 670,000 adults from families who earn too much money qualify for Medicare but not enough to afford health insurance. Congressional Democrats and many Republicans tried to use the opportunity to dramatically expand the program but were opposed by President George W. Bush and other Republicans. In 2006, 5.4 million children were eligible but not enrolled in SCHIP or Medicaid and 9.4 million total children were uninsured.

Ehlers voted against the first House bill, which passed along party lines. It would have added $47 billion over five years to the $25 billion cost of the program and added about 5 million people to the program, including children, some legal immigrants, pregnant women and adults aged 18 and 19. The bill was financed mainly by an increase in cigarette taxes.

House Democrats, with 45 Republicans, later compromised and passed a bill which expanded the plan by $35 billion and would have insured about 3.5 million more children from families generally making between 250% and 300% of the federal poverty line (about $51,000 to $62,000 for a family of four). Most non-pregnant, childless adults were excluded, as were most legal immigrants and all illegal immigrants. Ehlers voted for the bill.

After President Bush vetoed the bill, Democratic leaders attempted to override the veto with the same bill but failed. Ehlers voted for the bill.

House Democrats then attempted to override it with another bill, which gave into Republican demands for increased checks for citizenship, the quick phasing-out of adult coverage, a hard limit of 300% of the federal poverty level and funding for families that covered their children through private insurance instead. Republicans, angry that the vote was scheduled during massive fires in California, blocked the veto override. Ehlers voted against the bill claiming that Democrats failed to get enough Republican input. For details on the bills and the debate, see the main State Children's Health Insurance Program page.

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal

Contested elections

On March 16, 2007, Ehlers, as House Administration Committee Ranking Member, shot down a suggestion that the committee examine the contested 2006 election for Florida's 13th District between Democratic candidate Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan . Ehlers cited the standard of allowing states to complete their reviews before the committee takes up a case as the reason for dismissing the suggestion.

Main article: U.S. congressional actions regarding contested elections


Ehlers was born February 6, 1934 in Pipestone, Minnesota. He attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids from 1952-1956. He earned an A.B. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1956, and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from UC Berkeley in [1960. After six years of teaching and research at UC Berkeley, he moved to Calvin College in 1966 where he taught physics for 16 years and later served as chairman of the Physics Department.

He began his political career in 1974 while still at Calvin, when he was elected to the Kent County board of commissioners. He served four terms, then spent 10 years in the Michigan state legislature--two years in the state house and eight in the state senate.

Congressional career

In 1993, he won a special election for the 3rd District, which had been vacant since Congressman Paul B. Henry died six months into his fifth term. He won a full term in 1994 and has been reelected since with no significant Democratic opposition.

Ehlers is a moderate Republican. He has voted with congressional Democrats on issues such as affirmative action and environmental protection. He is one of the few Republicans to oppose the death penalty and he also opposes the Flag Desecration Amendment. In the 107th Congress, Ehlers led the development of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which authorized spending $270 million over five years to clean up sediments in the Great Lakes.

2006 elections

In 2006, the Democrats nominated James Richard Rinck to face Ehlers in his November 2006 bid for reelection. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006) [1] Ehlers retained his seat.

2010 elections

In February 2010, Ehlers announced his retirement after his wife suffered a heart attack. The seat stayed Republican when Justin Amash won the fall election.[1]

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. <crpcontribdata>cid=N00004166&cycle=2006</crpcontribdata>

Links to more campaign contribution information for Vernon Ehlers
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals

Committees and affiliations


Committee assignments in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

Coalitions and caucuses

More background data

Wikipedia also has an article on Vernon Ehlers. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

Former contact

DC Office:
2182 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-3831
Fax: 202-225-5144
Web Email

District Office- Grand Rapids:
Gerald R. Ford Federal Building
110 Michigan Street, Room 166
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2313
Phone: 616-451-8383
Fax: 616-454-5630

Articles and resources


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Vernon Ehlers profile, The Washington Post, accessed January 2011.
  2. Honorary Board, Republicans for Environmental Protection, accessed September 14, 2010.

Local blogs and discussion sites


Corresponding article on Wikipedia and Cause Caller. (If Cause Caller link does not work, pick from its list of senators and representatives.)

Current Office: U.S. House of Representatives
111th Congress
Leadership Position:
Committees Chaired:
Ranking Member On:

110th Congress
Leadership Position:
Committees Chaired:
Ranking Member On:

House Committee on Science and Technology/Subcommittee on Research and Science Education
Republican Main Street Partnership, Peak Oil Caucus
Committees: House Committee on Education and Labor, House Committee on Education and Labor/Subcommittee on Early Childhood Elementary and Secondary Education, House Committee on Education and Labor/Subcommittee on Higher Education Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness, House Committee on House Administration, House Committee on Science and Technology, House Committee on Science and Technology/Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, House Committee on Science and Technology/Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure/Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure/Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, Joint Committee on Printing
Congressional Career
First Elected to Current Office:
December 7, 1993
First Took Current Office:
December 7, 1993
Next Election:
November 2, 2010
Term Ends:
Freshman Member?
Previous Political Work?
Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives, Kent County Board of Commissioners
Other Party Membership:
District Offices:
1. Gerald R. Ford Federal Building 110 Michigan Street, Room 166 Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2313
Phone: 616-451-8383 / Fax: 616-454-5630

Campaign Contact:

Webform Email: / Email:

Campaign Offices:

Phone: / Fax:

Zip Code Affiliations:

Date of Birth: February 6, 1934