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.

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