CONGRESS - Choosing Sides

Jan. 22, 1994, 7 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
Pelosi Won't Back Down on SOTU
10 hours ago
Cohen Postpones Testimony
11 hours ago
House Democrats Investigating White House Security Clearances
13 hours ago

"The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into the White House security clearance process, an inquiry that promises to put a spotlight on how President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, overcame concerns to gain access to highly classified information." Others to be investigated are former staffer Seb Gorka, National Security Adviser John Bolton, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland, and former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter.

House GOP Cancels Retreat
15 hours ago
Senate Will Vote on Competing Plans to End Shutdown
15 hours ago

"After spending weeks on the sideline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has entered the shutdown fray, striking an agreement with Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on competing proposals to reopen the government. The two votes will happen on Thursday...Senators will first have an opportunity to go on the record on President Trump's proposal to extend legal protections for some immigrants for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion for a border wall....If (and when) that bill fails, McConnell will move on to… a 'clean' continuing resolution to reopen the government for three weeks, with no additional border wall money."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.