In 1992, Americans voted for the political accountability that had been absent during a dozen years of divided government. In 1993, under President Clinton’s leadership, the largely cohesive House and Senate Democrats delivered the results.
Although Congress focused in 1993 on setting new priorities for the national economy, its vigorous partisan divisions ran across the range of issues. On social and foreign policy issues, as well as on economic ones, few Members of either party were inclined toward bipartisan accommodation, a review of last year’s major votes reveals. Even regional groupings that typically stood at the political center during the Reagan and Bush presidencies were far apart in 1993 in their ideological rankings.
In the House, according to National Journal’s annual congressional vote ratings, Democrats had an average liberal score of 67 (on a percentile scale of 0-99) and Republicans had an average conservative score of 76 across all three issue areas, with no more than 2 points separating either party’s scores in the three voting categories.
In the Senate, Democrats again had an average liberal rating of 67, with the scores consistent in all three issue areas. Republicans had an average conservative score of 73. The only scores that diverged more than slightly from those averages were for Republican Senators, whose conservative ratings averaged 75 on economic issues, 73 on social issues and 72 on foreign policy issues.
Comparable divisions prevailed geographically. On the economy, for example, the average liberal rating of 60 for House Democrats from the South was twice the score of House Republicans from the East. During the prior decade, those two groups often had similar scores. On the regional extremes, Senate Democrats from the East had average liberal ratings of 77 on economic issues, while Senate Republicans from the South averaged 12 on the liberal scale.
Interestingly, the average liberal ratings for Democrats in 1993 weren’t much different from the party’s scores a year earlier — before a Democrat won the White House. But some important internal shifts mirrored the large membership turnover, especially in the House. (For a report on the 1992 vote ratings, see NJ, 1/30/93, p. 258.)
The 1993 scores for southern Democrats in the House, for example, were considerably closer to the party’s over-all ratings than they were in 1992, largely because 12 black lawmakers from the region joined the 5 southern blacks who were already in the House. And 12 of the 17 southern blacks were among the 72 Members — all Democrats — who had composite liberal ratings of at least 80. Only one white southerner, John Bryant of Texas, was in that group. (For a list of Members with the top liberal and conservative composite scores, and an explanation of how those scores are calculated, see box, p. 171.)
The substantial increase in blacks and Hispanics in the House also helps explain why freshman Democrats had notably higher composite liberal ratings than did Democrats as a group. On the other end of the scale, the average conservative scores for freshman House Republicans were virtually identical to Republican ratings as a whole on economic and foreign policy issues but slightly higher on social ones. (See table, this issue, p. 160; for a report on the Class of 1992, see this issue, p. 158.)
In both chambers, Members’ average scores correlated closely with Clinton’s vote in their state or district: The better Clinton did at the polls in 1992, the higher the Member’s liberal vote rating. That was true for Republicans as well as Democrats. A similar analysis of Ross Perot’s vote as an independent presidential candidate showed no comparable pattern. (See box, p. 172.)
The high degree of partisanship revealed by last year’s ratings also applied to party leaders in the Senate and House. Except for Senate Majority Whip Wendell H. Ford, D-Ky., the Democratic leaders ranked among the most liberal 25 per cent and the Republican leaders among the most conservative 25 per cent in each chamber.
That pattern was most apparent on economic issues: Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, and House Majority Whip David E. Bonior, D-Mich., had perfect liberal scores on economic issues, while Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., and House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., had perfect conservative scores.
Those are some highlights of the 1993 vote ratings. The ratings, which National Journal has compiled annually since 1981, are based on 96 key roll-call votes — 47 in the Senate and 49 in the House. After a panel of editors and reporters selected the key votes, a computer-assisted tabulation ranked Members from the most conservative to the most liberal in each category of issues — economic, social and foreign policy-national security.
The scores show where Members stood last year in relation to their House or Senate colleagues. Unlike many other congressional ratings, they are not determined by a percentage of “correct” liberal or conservative positions on key votes.
House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., for example, had a liberal score of 78 and a conservative score of 12 on the 17 House votes on economic issues. That means he was more liberal than 78 per cent of House Members, more conservative than 12 per cent of them and tied with the remaining 10 per cent on such issues. (For a fuller description of the ratings system, see box, p. 174. For a description of the 96 key votes on which the ratings are based, see pp. 175-77. Senate and House Members’ scores are listed in tables beginning on p. 178.)
By providing separate scores for each issue area, the ratings display the differences in Members’ voting patterns in each area. Though two Members might have similar composite scores when the separate ratings are combined, they often differ noticeably when the numbers are examined more closely.
Senate Democrats David L. Boren of Oklahoma and Robert Graham of Florida, for example, each scored in the middle of the Senate ratings, with a composite liberal score of 51. A breakdown of their liberal ratings shows, however, that Boren was more liberal on foreign policy issues, Graham was more liberal on economic issues and they were virtually even on social issues: $M04,10,10,10,10$Q $Q$JEconomic$JSocial$JForeign$D$Q$QBoren$Y45$Y60$Y44 $QGraham$Y56$Y58$Y32$X RATING THE HOUSE
The large House freshman class, with a disproportionate share of blacks and women, had a significant impact on the Democrats’ ratings in each issue area. The average liberal rating on economic issues, for example, was 67 for the 254 Democrats who received a score. But the 63 freshman Democrats had an average rating of 69, the 35 female Democrats had a 72 average and the 36 black Democrats had a score of 82.
This pattern was even more pronounced among Members who had the highest liberal ratings. Of the 13 Democrats who had perfect liberal scores in all three issue areas, 5 were blacks, 3 were freshmen and 2 were women (including two Members who were in two of the groups). Of the 13, only Don Edwards of California and Donald M. Payne of New Jersey were among the 8 Members who also had perfect liberal scores in 1992.
Eight House Members, all Republicans, had perfect conservative scores in 1993, and 4 of them were among the 19 Republicans with perfect conservative scores in 1992: Bill Archer, Jack Fields and Sam Johnson of Texas, and Carlos J. Moorhead of California.
The California ratings reflected that state’s traditional pattern of strong ideological diversity. Among the 52 Californians were 3 Democrats with perfect liberal scores and 3 Republicans with perfect conservative scores. Eight other California Democrats were in the liberal top 10 per cent on the basis of their composite scores, and seven other Republicans were in the conservative top 10 per cent. That helps to account for why the Californians ranked among both the most liberal and the most conservative state delegations. (For the state delegation rankings, see table, p. 173.)
House Democrats on the conservative side of the scale last year were predominantly from the South. Of the 13 Democrats in the conservative camp in all three issue areas (down from 24 in 1992), only Bill Orton of Utah was not from the South. The Democrats with the lowest composite liberal ratings were, besides Orton, first-termer Nathan J. Deal of Georgia; Pete Geren, Ralph M. Hall and Charles W. Stenholm, all of Texas; Earl Hutto of Florida; Mike Parker and Gene Taylor of Mississippi; and W.J. (Billy) Tauzin of Louisiana. No House Democrat had a perfect conservative rating on any of the three scores.
No House Republican had a higher liberal than conservative score on economic issues. And only two Republicans had composite scores that placed them in the most liberal half of the House: Jim Leach of Iowa and Constance A. Morella of Maryland, who were also among the five House Republicans in that category in 1992.
Only six other Republicans had even one liberal-leaning score in any issue area: Sherwood L. Boehlert and Benjamin A. Gilman of New York; Wayne T. Gilchrest of Maryland; Nancy L. Johnson and Christopher H. Shays of Connecticut; and Fred Upton of Michigan. The six, along with Leach and Morella, leaned to the left on social issues, and Leach also was in the liberal camp on foreign policy.
As in 1992, eastern Democrats had the most liberal voting pattern on economic issues, and western Democrats were the most liberal on social and foreign policy. Among Republicans, southerners were the most conservative on economic and social policy and westerners were the most conservative on foreign policy — a partial reversal of the 1992 pattern, when westerners were most conservative on economic issues and southerners most conservative on foreign policy as well as social issues.
An analysis of the relationship between the vote ratings and the House Members’ winning percentages in November 1992 reveals some surprises. The 46 Dem-ocrats who were elected with less than 55 per cent of the vote and presumably would be most skittish in their legislative voting recorded an average liberal rating of 69, while the 45 Democrats elected with 55-59 per cent of the vote had an average liberal score of 65. Less surprisingly, the 120 Democrats who won at least 65 per cent of the vote had an average liberal score of 73.
The same was true for House Republicans. The 43 who won with less than 55 per cent of the vote had an average liberal rating of 20, as did the 34 who won 55-59 per cent of the vote. But the 63 Republicans who won at least 65 per cent of the vote and are therefore considered politically more secure had an average liberal rating of 22.
Not surprisingly, House Democrats whose districts went heavily for Clinton in November 1992 were likelier to have higher liberal scores than those in whose districts Clinton fared poorly. The 49 Democrats whose districts gave Clinton at least 60 per cent of the vote had an average liberal rating of 87; the 119 from districts where he received less than 45 per cent of the vote had an average liberal rating of 62. RATING THE SENATE
The Senate’s conservative flank was relatively diverse regionally. The three Senators, all Republicans, who had perfect conservative scores were Jesse A. Helms of North Carolina, Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire and Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming. The same trio had perfect conservative scores on economic and social issues in 1992.
In 1993, the three were among the 10 most conservative Senators, a group that numbered five from the South, three from the West and one each from the East and Midwest. All 10 were Republicans.
On the liberal end of the scale were seven Democrats from the East and three from the Midwest, including the only two Senators with perfect liberal ratings: Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio and Paul D. Wellstone of Minnesota. In 1992, Wellstone was the only Senator with a perfect liberal score.
Geographically, the highest average liberal rating (75) was recorded by the Senate’s 14 eastern Democrats, and the lowest (13) by the 10 southern Republicans. Eastern Democrats were the most liberal on economic and social issues, and midwestern Democrats had a slightly higher liberal score on foreign policy. Southern Republicans had the lowest average liberal rating in each of the three issue areas.
Although Senate Democrats and Republicans were far apart on economic issues, southern Democrats and eastern Republicans were relatively close on social issues: The 12 southern Democrats had an average liberal rating of 50, and the 8 eastern Republicans had a 42.
Only three Senate Democrats had conservative-leaning scores in all three issue areas: Howell T. Heflin and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Sam Nunn of Georgia. Other Democrats who were in the conservative half of the Senate in at least one issue area were John B. Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston of Louisiana, Richard H. Bryan of Nevada, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, J.J. Exon of Nebraska, Ford, Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina and Jim Sasser of Tennessee on social issues; Boren, Bryan and Herbert H. Kohl of Wisconsin on the economy; and Max Baucus of Montana, Boren, Exon, John Glenn of Ohio, Graham, Hollings, Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut on foreign policy issues.
Four Republican Senators had composite scores that placed them in the liberal half of the Senate: John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, Dave Durenberger of Minnesota, Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon and James M. Jeffords of Vermont. Each of them had liberal-leaning ratings on social and foreign issues, with Jeffords in the most liberal fifth of the Senate in each of those areas. In addition, Bob Packwood of Oregon and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania had relatively liberal scores on social issues, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa voted more liberal than conservative on foreign policy. No Republican Senators were in the liberal half of the Senate on economic issues.
That Senate Republicans’ average liberal rating of 19 on economic issues was 5 points below their average score on social issues and 4 points below their average score on foreign policy is additional evidence that the economy was the main line of partisan demarcation in Congress in 1993.
For the electorate, of course, the same was true in 1992. Descriptions of key votes follow on pp. 175-77. Senate scores are on pp. 178-79. House scores are on pp. 180-89.