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Key Votes Used to Calculate the Ratings Key Votes Used to Calculate the Ratings

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Magazine / 2010 Vote Ratings

Key Votes Used to Calculate the Ratings

February 24, 2011

Here are the 96 Senate votes and 93 House votes on which National Journal’s 2010 vote ratings are based. The Congressional Record roll-call number is followed by the bill number, a description of the vote, the date, the outcome, the prevailing side—conservative (C) or liberal (L)—and the weight given to each (from 1 for the lowest weight to 3 for the highest) based on how closely the vote fits the overall pattern.

 

SENATE (96 votes)

Economic Issues (60 votes)       

2/HJR45: Terminate the Troubled Asset Relief Program. January 21. (53-45; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

 

12/HJR45: Reimpose statutory pay-as-you-go budget rules. January 28. (60-40) L-3

14/HJR45: Increase the statutory limit on the public debt. January 28. (60-39) L-3

23/HR2847: Invoke cloture on a $15 billion jobs bill that includes a payroll-tax break for businesses that hire certain new workers. February 22. (62-30; 60 votes required for cloture) L-3

27/HR1299: Prohibit the Interior Department from establishing national monuments in certain areas. February 25. (38-58) L-3

33/HR4213: Waive budget rules to offset the cost of a tax-extender bill with unobligated funds from the 2009 economic-stimulus law. March 3. (38-61; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

40/HR4213: Waive budget rules to provide a six-month employee payroll-tax holiday, offset with unobligated funds from the 2009 economic-stimulus law. March 4. (44-56; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

42/HR4213: Waive budget rules to establish discretionary spending limits beginning in fiscal 2011. March 4. (59-41; 60 votes required for passage) L-2

45/HR4213: Waive budget rules to provide $2.6 billion for a summer jobs program and aid for needy families. March 9. (55-45; 60 votes required for passage) C-3

48/HR4213: Approve a one-year extension of various tax breaks and make extended unemployment benefits available to jobless workers. March 10. (62-36) L-3

49/HR2847: Invoke cloture on the conference report on a $17.6 billion jobs bill that includes a payroll-tax break for businesses that hire people who had been out of work. March 15. (61-30; 60 votes required for cloture) L-3

55/HR2847: Send to the president a $17.6 billion jobs bill that includes a payroll-tax break for businesses that hire people who had been out of work. March 17. (68-29) L-3

59/HR1586: Establish discretionary spending limits for nonsecurity programs. March 18. (41-56; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

60/HR1586: Ban earmarks in fiscal years in which the Congressional Budget Office reports a budget deficit. March 18. (26-70) L-2

67/HR4872: Table a bid to remove the mandate in the health care law that employers provide health insurance for employees. March 24. (58-41) L-3

72/HR4872: Table a bid to prohibit cuts to the Medicare Advantage program as part of health care law. March 24. (56-42) L-3

74/HR4872: Table a bid to allow states to opt out of certain Medicaid and Medicare mandates and tax provisions in the health care law. March 24. (58-41) L-3

78/HR4872: Table a bid to strike a provision in the health care law that applies a 3.8 percent Medicare tax to upper-income taxpayers. March 24. (52-46) L-3

82/HR4872: Waive budget rules to freeze Medicare payments to physicians through 2013. March 24. (42-56; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

87/HR4872: Table a bid to repeal the health care law’s Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. March 25. (59-37) L-3

101/HR4872: Table a bid to repeal provisions in the health care law that impose penalties on individuals who do not have health insurance. March 25. (58-40) L-3

105/HR4872: Approve a reconciliation bill that would make changes in the health care law. March 25. (56-43) L-3

109/HR4851: Invoke cloture on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits and other government programs. April 12. (60-34; 60 votes required for cloture) L-3

133/S3217: Create a consumer regulator within the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as part of a bill to overhaul federal regulation of the financial-services sector. May 6. (38-61) L-3

136/S3217: Impose leverage and liability limits on bank- holding companies and financial companies. May 6. (33-61) C-1

140/S3217: Establish a time frame for ending the government’s support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. May 11. (43-56) L-3

141/S3217: Bar mortgage brokers and loan originators from receiving payments based on the terms of the loans they sell. May 12. (63-36) L-3

142/S3217: Direct federal banking regulators to establish minimum loan-underwriting standards for mortgage loans. May 12. (42-57) L-3

148/S3217: Preclude the Federal Reserve from using its emergency authority to assist certain insolvent companies. May 13. (42-58) L-3

150/S3217: Eliminate the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection in the financial-regulatory reform bill after four years. May 13. (40-55) L-3

151/S3217: Waive budget rules to cap Treasury funds for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. May 17. (47-46; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

153/S3217: Prohibit taxpayer bailouts of fiscally irresponsible state and local governments. May 18. (47-50; 60 votes needed for passage) L-3

160/S3217: Invoke cloture on a bill to overhaul federal regulation of the financial-services sector. May 20. (60-40; 60 votes required for cloture) L-3

162/HR4173: Approve a bill imposing new federal regulations on the financial-services sector. May 20. (59-39) L-3

173/HR4899: Bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing lead-paint regulations against certain contractors. May 27. (60-37) C-2

176/HR4899: Approve a $59 billion supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2010. May 27. (67-28) L-2

184/SJR26: Consider a resolution disapproving an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that greenhouse gases can be regulated under the Clean Air Act. June 10. (47-53) L-3

187/HR4213: Repeal certain tax benefits for oil and gas companies. June 15. (35-61) C-2

189/HR4213: Create an Office of Homeowner Advocate in the Treasury Department. June 15. (63-33) L-3

191/HR4213: Extend a tax break for first-time homeowners. June 16. (60-37) L-3

193/HR4213: Waive budget rules to extend several expired tax provisions and overhaul the medical- malpractice system. June 17. (41-57; 60 votes needed for passage) L-3

197/HR4213: Table a motion to permanently extend the 15 percent capital gains tax rate. June 23. (57-40) L-3

206/HR4173: Invoke cloture on the conference report on a bill imposing new federal regulations on the financial-services sector. July 15. (60-38; 60 votes required for cloture) L-3

208/HR4173: Send to the president the conference report on a bill imposing new federal regulations on the financial-services sector. July 15. (60-39) L-3

213/HR4213: Provide for a permanent repeal of the estate tax. July 21. (39-59; 66 votes required for passage) L-3

215/HR4213: Extend expanded unemployment benefits through November 30. July 21. (59-39) L-3

219/HR4899: Invoke cloture on a House-passed $59 billion supplemental appropriations bill. July 22. (46-51; 60 votes required for cloture) C-2

228/HR1586: Provide expanded Medicaid and educational assistance to the states. August 5. (61-39) L-3

235/HR5297: Waive budget rules to make permanent an expired tax credit for research-and-development investment. September 16. (51-48; 66 votes required for passage) L-2

237/HR5297: Approve a $30 billion small-business lending fund administered by the Treasury Department and various small-business tax breaks. September 16. (61-38) L-3

245/HR3081: Amend a continuing resolution to cut spending by 5 percent, except for defense, homeland security, veterans, and certain other programs. September 29. (48-51) L-3

247/HR3081: Approve a continuing resolution to fund government operations through December 3. September 29. (69-30) L-2

257/S510: Approve a bill overhauling food-safety laws and expanding Food and Drug Administration enforcement powers. November 30. (73-25) L-2

258/HR4853: Invoke cloture on a bill to make permanent 2010 income-tax rates for individuals with incomes under $200,000 and families with incomes under $250,000. December 4. (53-36; 60 votes are required for cloture) C-3

259/HR4853: Invoke cloture on an amendment that would make permanent 2010 income-tax cuts for most people with incomes under $1 million. December 4. (53-37; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

267/S3985: Invoke cloture on a bill to provide onetime payments of $250 to Social Security recipients. December 8. (53-45; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

269/HR847: Invoke cloture on a bill that would provide medical services to first-responders with conditions related to the 9/11 attacks. December 9. (57-42; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

273/HR4853: Waive budget rules to include spending reductions and rescissions in a tax-cut package negotiated by President Obama and congressional Republican leaders. December 15. (47-52; 66 votes required for passage) L-3

274/HR4853: Waive budget rules to permanently extend the 2010 individual income-tax rates. December 15. (37-63; 67 votes required for passage) L-3

275/HR4853: Waive budget rules to eliminate continued tax breaks for the top 2 percent of taxpayers. December 15. (43-57; 67 votes required for passage) C-2

 

Foreign Issues (13 votes)

242/S3816: Invoke cloture on a bill giving U.S. companies a tax break for hiring workers to replace ones performing similar duties overseas. September 28. (53-45; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

282/TreatyDoc111-5: Amend the preamble of New START, a strategic arms pact with Russia, to strike language regarding the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms. December 18. (37-59) L-3

283/TreatyDoc111-5: Amend the preamble of New START to acknowledge the interrelationship between no-strategic and strategic offensive arms. December 19. (32-60) L-3

285/TreatyDoc111-5: Increase the number of Type One and Type Two inspections allowed under New START. December 20. (33-64) L-3

286/TreatyDoc111-5: Modify the deployed delivery-vehicle limits of New START. December 20. (33-64) L-3

287/TreatyDoc111-5: Amend New START to address the disparity between tactical nuclear weapons stockpiles. December 20. (35-62) L-3

292/TreatyDoc111-5: Invoke cloture on New START. December 21. (67-28; 60 votes required for cloture) L-3

293/TreatyDoc111-5: Amend New START to provide for a clear definition of rail-mobile missiles. December 21. (32-63) L-3

294/TreatyDoc111-5: Table an amendment to New START regarding the return of stolen U.S. military equipment. December 21. (61-32) L-3

295/TreatyDoc111-5: Require that certain provisions adopted by the Bilateral Consultative Commission be submitted to the Senate for a vote. December 21. (34-59) L-3

296/TreatyDoc111-5: Require a certification that the president has negotiated an agreement that Russia will not deploy a significant number of nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles for the duration of New START. December 21. (31-62) L-3

297/TreatyDoc111-5: Require a legally binding side agreement to New START on telemetric exchanges on new ballistic-missile systems. December 21. (30-63) L-3

298/TreatyDoc111-5: Ratify New START. December 22. (71-26; 65 votes required for ratification) L-3

 

Social Issues (23 votes)  

18/PN319: Confirm Patricia Smith to be solicitor for the Labor Department. February 4. (60-37) L-3

22/PN1351: Invoke cloture on the nomination of Craig Becker to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board. February 9. (52-33; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

53/HR1586: Authorize a five-year program to provide vouchers for low-income District of Columbia students. March 16. (42-55) L-3

89/HR4872: Waive budget rules to suspend marriages of gay couples in the District of Columbia. March 25. (36-59; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

93/HR4872: Waive budget rules to protect certain providers of pro bono care against medical-malpractice lawsuits. March 25. (40-55; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

95/HR4872: Table a bid to require individuals in certain health insurance programs to certify that they are U.S. nationals or eligible immigrants. March 25. (55-43) L-3

120/PN228: Confirm Marisa Demeo as an associate judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. April 20. (66-32) L-3

121/PN1379: Confirm Christopher Schroeder as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy. April 21. (72-24) L-2

165/HR4899: Waive budget rules to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border. May 27. (51-46; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

166/HR4899: Waive budget rules to provide additional funds for the prosecution of illegal immigrants. May 27. (54-44; 60 votes required for passage) L-2

167/HR4899: Waive budget rules to provide additional funding for border security. May 27. (54-43; 60 votes required for passage) L-3

172/HR4899: Suspend Senate rules to permit consideration of an amendment to require completion of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border. May 27. (45-52; 65 votes required for passage) L-3

214/HR4213: Prevent the federal government from taking legal action challenging Arizona’s immigration laws. July 21. (43-55; 66 votes required for passage) L-3

229/PN1768: Confirm the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. August 5. (63-37) L-3

239/SJR30: Proceed to consideration of a joint resolution disapproving a National Mediation Board rules change on airline and railway union elections. September 23. (43-56) L-3

240/S3628: Invoke cloture on a bill requiring more campaign finance disclosure. September 23. (59-39; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

249/S3772: Invoke cloture on a bill requiring employers to show that any pay disparity between men and women is job-related and not based on gender. November 17. (58-41; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

266/S3991: Invoke cloture on a bill that would extend bargaining rights to police and firefighters in states where they’re not allowed to join unions. December 8. (55-43; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

278/HR5281: Invoke cloture on a measure to allow the children of illegal immigrants to be granted conditional nonimmigrant status if they meet certain conditions. December 18. (55-41; 60 votes required for cloture) C-3

279/HR2965: Invoke cloture on a bill lifting the ban on openly gay men and women from serving in the military. December 18. (63-33; 60 votes required for cloture) L-3

281/HR2965: Lift the ban on openly gay men and women from serving in the military. December 18. (65-31) L-3

290/PN1248: Confirm Benita Pearson as a U.S. District judge for the Northern District of Ohio. December 21. (56-39) L-3

291/PN1472: Confirm William Martinez as a U.S. District judge for the District of Colorado. December 21. (58-37) L-3

 

HOUSE (93 votes)

Economic Issues (59 votes)

2/HJR64: Override President Obama’s veto of a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government. January 13. (143-245; 259 votes needed for passage) L-3

46/HR1065: Approve the rule for floor debate on a resolution increasing the federal debt ceiling. February 4. (217-212) L-3

90/HR2847: Approve a bill providing payroll-tax breaks for businesses that hire workers who had been unemployed. March 4. (217-201) L-2

109/HR3650: Establish a national program to reduce algal blooms. March 12. (251-103) L-2

137/HR3671: Authorize funding for a program to monitor the environmental quality of the upper Mississippi River Basin. March 19. (289-121) L-2

142/HR3644: Reauthorize two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs. March 19. (244-170) L-3

148/HR1612: Freeze federal funding at existing levels for a federal land-conservation program. March 20. (227-180) C-2

165/HR3590: Send to the president the Senate-passed version of health care reform. March 21.
(219-212) L-3

167/HR4872: Approve a reconciliation bill making changes in the health care bill. March 21. (220-211) L-3

182/HR4849: Approve a jobs bill providing tax incentives for state and local governments and small businesses. March 24. (246-178) L-3

186/HR4899: Approve a supplemental funding bill for summer jobs programs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. March 24. (239-175) L-3

190/HR1586: Authorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and require airlines and airports to develop contingency plans for stranded passengers. March 25. (276-145) L-3

194/HR4872: Send to the president a Senate-passed reconciliation bill making changes in the health care law. March 25. (220-207) L-3

207/HR4715: Require the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor the impact of sea-level changes on estuaries. April 15. (294-109) L-2

209/HR4715: Authorize $50 million annually for the Environmental Protection Agency’s national estuary program. April 15. (278-128) L-3

255/HR5019: Authorize a program to encourage energy-efficient home renovations. May 6. (246-161) L-3

263/HR5116: Remove language in a science bill creating an Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. May 12. (163-258) L-3

264/HR5116: Create a program in the Energy Department to promote the commercial application of clean-energy technologies. May 12. (254-173) L-3

273/HR2288: Authorize funding for endangered-fish programs. May 18. (264-122; 258 votes required for passage) L-3

324/HR4213: Extend certain tax provisions, such as the research-and-development credit, and fund a summer jobs program. May 28. (215-204) L-3

325/HR4213: Increase Medicare reimbursements to doctors by 2.2 percent in 2010 and by 1 percent in 2011. May 28. (245-171) L-3

332/HR5116: Authorize $86 billion over five years for science and research programs. May 28. (262-150) L-3

343/HR4173: Instruct House conferees to oppose giving the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. the authority to act as a receiver for failing financial companies. June 9. (198-217) L-3

348/HR5072: Increase the minimum down payment required for a Federal Housing Administration loan. June 10. (131-289) L-2

362/HR5486: Repeal the mandate in the health care law that individuals carry health insurance. June 15. (187-230) L-3

363/HR5486: Approve a bill providing tax incentives to small businesses by increasing deductions for start-up expenses. June 15. (247-170) L-3

375/HR5297: Approve a bill creating a Treasury Department lending fund for small businesses. June 17. (241-182) L-3

383/HR3993: Require prepaid calling card providers and distributors to furnish more information to consumers. June 23. (381-41) L-1

412/HR4173: Instruct House conferees to insist on House language giving the Government Accountability Office increased audit authority over the Federal Reserve. June 30. (198-229) L-3

413/HR4173: Approve the conference report on a bill to overhaul federal regulation of the financial- services sector. June 30. (237-192) L-3

422/HR5618: Table a motion to rescind $34 billion in unobligated stimulus funds. July 1. (220-196) L-3

423/HR5618: Extend expanded unemployment benefits through November 30. July 1. (270-153) L-3

440/HR1722: Require that federal agency heads certify that a new telework program will result in agency savings. July 14. (303-119) C-1

441/HR1722: Approve legislation encouraging teleworking by federal workers. July 14. (290-131) L-3

447/HR5114: Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program through September 2015. July 15. (329-90) L-2

474/HR4899: Send to the president a bill making supplemental appropriations for fiscal 2010. July 27. (308-114; 282 votes required for passage) L-1

488/HR5850: Reduce funding for a Housing and Urban Development Department transformation initiative. July 29. (206-217) L-3

489/HR5850: Reduce funding in an appropriations bill for national infrastructure investments and high-speed rail. July 29. (197-225) L-3

494/HR5850: Reduce funding in a transportation appropriations bill for Amtrak by $1.2 billion. July 29. (129-293) L-3

499/HR5850: Approve an appropriations bill for the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments. July 29. (251-167) L-3

506/HR5851: Prohibit employers from discriminating against workers in the offshore-energy industry who report suspected safety violations to the government. July 30. (315-93) L-2

512/HR3534: End a deepwater-drilling ban issued by the Minerals Management Service on May 30. July 30. (166-239) L-3

513/HR3534: Abolish the Minerals Management Service and reorganize its functions. July 30. (209-193) L-3

518/HR1586: Send to the president a bill providing additional Medicaid and education assistance to the states. August 10. (247-161) L-3

530/HR4785: Authorize $5 billion over five years for two energy-efficiency loan programs. September 16. (240-172) L-3

539/HR5297: Send to the president a bill providing various tax benefits for small businesses. September 23. (237-187) L-3

549/HR847: Repeal certain sections of the health care law and cap awards in medical-malpractice cases. September 29. (185-244) L-3

550/HR847: Provide medical services for first-responders with conditions related to the 9/11 attacks. September 29. (268-160) L-3

557/HR3421: Prohibit certain practices by credit-reporting agencies. September 29. (336-82) L-2

603/S3307: Reauthorize child-nutrition programs through fiscal 2015. December 2. (264-157) L-3

604/HR4853: Make permanent the 2010 tax rates for individuals with incomes less than $200,000 and families with incomes less than $250,000. December 2. (234-188) L-3

611/HR5987: Provide a onetime $250 payment to Social Security recipients. December 8. (254-153; 272 votes required for passage) C-3

616/HR6495: Expand federal authority for mine inspections and investigations. December 8. (214-193; 272 votes required for passage) C-3

646/HR4853: Stiffen the treatment of estate taxes in the tax-cut deal negotiated by President Obama and congressional Republicans. December 16. (194-233) C-2

655/HR5510: Provide legal assistance to homeowners whose mortgages are in default. December 17. (210-145; 237 votes required for passage) C-3

656/S3874: Remove exemptions for certain types of lead pipes from the Safe Drinking Water Act. December 17. (226-109; 224 votes required for passage) L-3

660/HR2142: Send to the president a bill requiring federal agencies to establish plans for improving performance. December 21. (216-139) L-3

661/HR2751: Send to the president a bill overhauling food safety laws and expanding the powers of the Food and Drug Adminstration. December 21. (215-144) L-3

662/HR3082: Send to the president a continuing resolution funding government operations through March 4, 2011. December 21. (193-165) L-3

 

Foreign Issues (15 votes)

59/HR2314: Recognize Native Hawaiians as a distinct indigenous group. February 23. (245-164) L-3

72/HR2701: Require the CIA director to release unclassified memos on congressional briefings about interrogations involving torture. February 26. (186-217) L-3

73/HR2701: Approve the Intelligence Authorization Act and delay the transfer of Guantanmo Bay detainees to the United States. February 26. (235-168) L-3

98/HConRes248: Direct President Obama to remove U.S. forces from Afghanistan by December 31, 2010. March 10. (65-356) C-1

242/HR2499: Approve a two-state process to determine Puerto Rico’s political status. April 29. (223-169) L-2

315/HR5136: Allow the Government Accountability Office to investigate intelligence agencies at the request of congressional committees. May 27. (218-210) L-2

335/HR5136: Prohibit use of defense funds to transfer or release Guantanamo detainees. May 28. (282-131) C-2

341/HR989: Express the sense of the House that the United States should pursue international agreements to prevent ocean acidification. June 9. (241-170; 274 votes required for passage) C-3

432/HR4899: Limit the use of military funding in Afghanistan to activities related to a troop withdrawal. July 1. (100-321) C-1

433/HR4899: Require President Obama to develop a plan by April 4, 2011, for redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. July 1. (162-260) C-2

480/HR5822: Bar the use of funds to renovate or construct any facility within the continental United States to house any Guantanamo detainees. July 28. (353-69) C-1

514/HR5982: Repeal certain tax-compliance language in the health care law and restrict the use of foreign tax credits. July 30. (241-154; 264 votes required for passage) L-3

554/HR2378: Permit the Commerce Department to impose countervailing duties on imported goods if it finds that a foreign government has undervalued its currency. September 29. (348-79) L-1

558/HR2701: Send to the president a bill authorizing intelligence programs for fiscal 2010. September 29. (244-181) L-3

645/S987: Express the sense of Congress that child marriage is a violation of human rights. December 16. (241-166; 272 votes required for passage) C-

 

Social Issues (19 votes)

57/HR2314: Require that a new Native Hawaiian governing authority comply with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. February 23. (177-233) L-3

67/HR3961: Extend until February 28, 2011, three provisions of the USA Patriot Act. February 25. (315-97) C-1

82/HR4247: Set minimum federal standards for the use of certain kinds of punishment in schools that receive federal funds. March 3. (262-153) L-3

151/HR1612: Expand and fund a youth volunteer program dealing with public-land conservation. March 20. (288-116) L-2

166/HR4872: Restrict the use of federal funds for abortion in the health care reconciliation bill. March 21. (199-232) L-3

241/HR2499: Stipulate that English would be the official language of Puerto Rico and that residents could own and carry firearms. April 29. (194-198) L-3

265/HR5116: Require colleges and universities to promptly respond to union requests for information. May 12. (250-174) L-3

270/HR5116: Freeze funding levels for the National Science Foundation and other science programs and ban the use of funds to pay for salaries of government employees disciplined for viewing pornography. May 13. (292-126) C-2

271/HR1338: Acknowledge the accomplishments of AmeriCorps members, alumni, and community partners. May 13. (280-128; 272 votes required for passage) L-3

317/HR5136: Repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the military. May 27. (234-194) L-3

330/HR5116: Bar funding in a science bill from going to educational institutions that limit or deny military recruiting on campus. May 28. (348-68) C-1

360/HR4855: Establish a Labor Department award to recognize employers who promote a work-life balance. June 15. (249-163; 275 votes required for passage) C-3

389/HR5175: Require sponsors of political advertisement to make public their locations. June 24. (274-152) L-3

391/HR5175: Approve legislation setting new campaign finance reporting requirements for corporations, interest groups, and unions. June 24. (219-206) L-3

479/HR5827: Add firearms valued up to $3,000 to the list of items exempted from repossession during the bankruptcy process. July 28. (301-113) C-2

563/HR512: Ban a chief state election administration official from partisan activities in a federal campaign that the official supervises. September 29. (296-129) L-3

584/HR4783: Send to the president a bill approving claims for American Indians and African-American farmers. November 30. (256-152) L-3

625/HR5281: Allow children of illegal immigrants to be granted conditional nonimmigrant status if they meet conditions. December 8. (216-198) L-3

638/HR2965: Repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the military. December 15. (250-175) L-3

_________________

How the vote ratings are calculated

For the past three decades, National Journal has rated members of Congress based on selected roll-call votes from the previous year to see how they compared with each other on an ideological scale. Unlike interest groups that rate lawmakers, National Journal does not attempt to say how members should have voted. Our goal is to describe how they voted in comparison with one another.

The ratings system was devised in 1981 under the direction of Bill Schneider, a political analyst and commentator, and a contributing editor to National Journal.

For the 2010 ratings, National Journal examined all of the roll-call votes in Congress last year—664 in the House and 299 in the Senate—and identified the ones that show ideological distinctions between members. Many votes did not make the cut—those that involve noncontroversial issues or that fall along regional lines, for instance. Just under 100 votes in each chamber were selected and were categorized as economic, foreign, or social.

One challenge in compiling the ratings for 2010 was that economic issues dominated the attention of the House and Senate; there were relatively few votes on social issues (such as abortion or gun control) or foreign issues (such as war funding or international aid). This was particularly true in the Senate, which held hardly any roll-call votes on foreign issues until December, when it debated a new strategic arms treaty with Russia.

Lists were downloaded from the House and Senate websites showing how all the members voted on the selected votes. The votes in each issue area were then subjected to a principal-components analysis, a statistical procedure designed to determine the degree to which each vote resembled other votes in the same category (the same members tending to vote together).

The analysis also revealed which yea votes correlated with which nay votes within each issue area (members voting yea on certain issues tended to vote nay on others). The yea and nay positions on each roll call were then identified as conservative or liberal.

Each roll-call vote was assigned a weight from 1 (lowest) to 3 (highest), based on the degree to which it correlated with other votes in the same issue area. A higher weight means that a vote was more strongly correlated with other votes and was, therefore, a better test of economic, social, or foreign-policy ideology. The votes in each issue area were combined in an index (liberal or conservative votes as a percentage of total votes cast, with each vote weighted 1, 2, or 3).

Absences and abstentions were not counted; instead, the percentage base was adjusted to compensate for missed roll calls. A member who missed more than half of the votes in any issue category was scored as “missing” in that category (shown as an asterisk [*] in the vote-rating tables).

Members were then ranked from the most liberal to the most conservative in each issue area. These rankings were used to assign liberal and conservative percentile ratings to all members of Congress.

The liberal percentile score means that the member voted more liberal than that percentage of his or her colleagues in that issue area in 2010. The conservative figure means that the member voted more conservative than that percentage of his or her colleagues.

For example, a House member in the 30th percentile of liberals and the 60th percentile of conservatives on economic issues voted more liberal than 30 percent of the House and more conservative than 60 percent of the House on those issues, and was tied with the remaining 10 percent. The scores do not mean that the member voted liberal 30 percent of the time and voted conservative 60 percent of the time.

Percentile scores can range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 100. Some members, however, voted either consistently liberal or consistently conservative on every roll call. As a result, there are ties at both the liberal and the conservative ends of each scale. For that reason, the maximum percentiles are usually less than 100. This was most apparent in the social and foreign categories last year. Many members had the same scores because they voted alike on the relatively few number of votes in each category. In the economic category, there were fewer ties because there were more votes.

Members also receive a composite liberal score and a composite conservative score determined by their issue-based scores. Members who missed more than half of the votes in any of the three issue categories do not receive composite scores (shown as an asterisk [*] in the vote-rating tables).

To determine a member’s composite liberal score, for example, first add the liberal scores in all three issue areas. Next, in each issue area, calculate 100 minus the member’s conservative score and add the three results together. The two figures are then combined and divided by 6 (the number of individual scores).

The fact that most of the foreign votes in the Senate occurred in late December during the New START debate meant that some senators who missed some of the debate didn’t receive composite scores because they didn’t have enough votes in the foreign category. For instance, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., missed many of the New START votes because he was being treated for prostate cancer. As a result, he did not receive a composite score.

Critics have sometimes accused National Journal of rigging the vote ratings so that certain members of Congress are ranked as the most liberal or most conservative. The criticism is unfounded. When we select the votes, we don’t have any idea how an individual member of Congress will be ranked.

National Journal’s vote ratings, like any other vote ratings, should be viewed as a tool in assessing a member of Congress but not the only tool. Other vote ratings should also be taken into consideration, as should attributes beyond the capability of a rating system to assess—qualities such as leadership and effectiveness.

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