CONGRESS - Epitaph for an Era

Jan. 14, 1995, 7 a.m.

Demo­crats went down swinging on Cap­it­ol Hill last year. On most ma­jor is­sues, Pres­id­ent Clin­ton and his party in Con­gress ac­cen­tu­ated their dif­fer­ences with con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans in 1994.

In the end, what happened on the House and Sen­ate floors last year proved far less sig­ni­fic­ant than what happened at the polls in Novem­ber. But an ana­lys­is of last year’s key con­gres­sion­al votes provides an apt epi­taph for the 40-year era in which Demo­crats con­trolled at least one of the two cham­bers: The votes re­vealed strik­ing dif­fer­ences between the two parties on most is­sues and not­able re­gion­al dis­par­it­ies with­in each party. The sharp par­tis­an splits also help to ex­plain why so little ma­jor le­gis­la­tion was en­acted.

The po­lar­iz­a­tion was across the board, ac­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Journ­al’s an­nu­al con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings, but it was es­pe­cially dra­mat­ic between the two parties on eco­nom­ic is­sues. In the Sen­ate, the 56 Demo­crats had av­er­age lib­er­al scores of 68 on eco­nom­ic and for­eign policy is­sues and 67 on so­cial is­sues (on a per­cent­ile scale of 0-99). The 44 Re­pub­lic­ans had av­er­age con­ser­vat­ive rat­ings of 75 on eco­nom­ic is­sues, 71 on so­cial is­sues and 74 on for­eign policy is­sues.

Only three Re­pub­lic­ans—John H. Chafee of Rhode Is­land, Mark O. Hat­field of Ore­gon and James M. Jef­fords of Ver­mont—had com­pos­ite scores (across all three is­sue cat­egor­ies) that placed them in the more lib­er­al half of the Sen­ate. The most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­ate Demo­crat in the 103rd Con­gress, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, switched to the GOP on the day after the elec­tion. Two oth­er Demo­crats were in the more con­ser­vat­ive half of the Sen­ate in each of the three is­sue areas: How­ell T. Heflin of Alabama and Sam Nunn of Geor­gia.

Par­tis­an di­vi­sions were also sharp in the House. Con­stance A. Mo­rella of Mary­land was the only Re­pub­lic­an whose com­pos­ite score ranked her in the more lib­er­al half of the House. Of the 19 Demo­crats who fell in the more con­ser­vat­ive half of the House in each is­sue area, all but 4 were from the South.

That helps to ex­plain why south­ern Demo­crats in the House, as a group, were con­sid­er­ably more con­ser­vat­ive than their oth­er party col­leagues. The dis­par­ity was most evid­ent on so­cial is­sues. For the House’s east­ern Re­pub­lic­ans, so­cial is­sues le­gis­la­tion—on crime, school pray­er and im­mig­ra­tion, for ex­ample- -pro­duced their party’s most lib­er­al scores for a re­gion.

West­ern Re­pub­lic­ans edged out south­ern Re­pub­lic­ans as the most con­ser­vat­ive group in the House; east­ern Demo­crats nar­rowly led west­ern Demo­crats for the mantle of the most lib­er­al. In the Sen­ate, Re­pub­lic­ans from the South and Demo­crats from the East were at the ideo­lo­gic­al bor­ders.

Those trends are likely to con­tin­ue and may be­come more ap­par­ent in the 104th Con­gress, which con­vened on Jan. 4. A dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of the 67 de­par­ted House Demo­crats—the re­tir­ees as well as those who were de­feated for reelec­tion—were from their party’s more con­ser­vat­ive wing. Only 7 of the 28 Demo­crat­ic re­tir­ees and 3 of the 34 Mem­bers who lost their seats on Nov. 8 ranked among the 100 most lib­er­al law­makers (all of them Demo­crats) in 1994.

Like­wise, the 21 de­par­ted House Re­pub­lic­ans were chiefly from their party’s cen­ter, rather than its right flank. The same pat­tern pre­vailed in the Sen­ate, where 6 of the 11 Sen­at­ors who re­tired or lost reelec­tion bids ranked among the cent­rist third of that body.

The re­cent change in party lead­ers in the House and Sen­ate mir­rors the grow­ing po­lar­iz­a­tion in each cham­ber. Of the top five House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers, three of them—Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Richard K. Armey of Texas, Ma­jor­ity Whip Tom D. DeLay of Texas, and cam­paign com­mit­tee chair­man Bill Pax­on of New York—were among the 23 Mem­bers (all Re­pub­lic­ans) who had per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores in last year’s rat­ings, and Con­fer­ence chair­man John Boehner of Ohio nar­rowly missed that mark. Only Newt Gin­grich of Geor­gia, the new Speak­er, fell short of the con­ser­vat­ive end in his for­eign policy rat­ing.

As for the top two House Demo­crats, both Minor­ity Lead­er Richard A. Geph­ardt of Mis­souri and Minor­ity Whip Dav­id E. Boni­or of Michigan were in the most lib­er­al fourth of their party’s ranks, with each re­ceiv­ing per­fect lib­er­al scores on eco­nom­ic is­sues.

Trent Lott of Mis­sis­sippi, who de­feated Alan K. Simpson of Wyom­ing for ma­jor­ity whip, joined new Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Robert Dole of Kan­sas among the 12 most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­ors last year; Simpson ranked slightly to the left of his party’s cen­ter. By con­trast, the scores of Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota, the new Demo­crat­ic lead­er in the Sen­ate, were slightly less lib­er­al than those of Chris­toph­er J. Dodd, D-Conn., whom Daschle de­feated, and of George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, the party’s de­par­ted lead­er.

Those are some of the high­lights of the 1994 vote rat­ings. The scores, which have been com­piled an­nu­ally since 1981, were based on 96 key roll-call votes- -48 in the Sen­ate and 48 in the House. After a pan­el of Na­tion­al Journ­al re­port­ers and ed­it­ors se­lec­ted the key votes, a com­puter-as­sisted tab­u­la­tion ranked Mem­bers from the most con­ser­vat­ive to the most lib­er­al in each of the three cat­egor­ies: eco­nom­ic, so­cial and for­eign policy.

The scores show where each Mem­ber stood last year in re­la­tion to his or her Sen­ate or House col­leagues. Un­like many oth­er con­gres­sion­al rat­ings, they are not de­term­ined by a per­cent­age of ”cor­rect” lib­er­al or con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tions on key votes.

Gin­grich, for ex­ample, had a lib­er­al score of 25 and a con­ser­vat­ive score of 71 on for­eign policy and na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues. That means he was more lib­er­al on such is­sues than 25 per cent of House Mem­bers, more con­ser­vat­ive than 71 per cent of his col­leagues and tied with the re­main­ing 4 per cent. (For a fuller de­scrip­tion of the rat­ings sys­tem, see box, p. 86. For a de­scrip­tion of the 96 key roll-call votes on which the rat­ings are based, see pp. 87-89. Sen­ate and House Mem­bers’ scores are lis­ted in tables be­gin­ning on p. 90.)

By provid­ing sep­ar­ate scores for each is­sue area, the rat­ings dis­play the dif­fer­ences in Mem­bers’ vot­ing pat­terns in each of the cat­egor­ies. Al­though two Mem­bers might have sim­il­ar com­pos­ite scores when the three rat­ings are com­bined , they of­ten dif­fer no­tice­ably when the num­bers are ex­amined more closely. (For an ex­plan­a­tion of the com­pos­ite scores, and a list of Con­gress’s most lib­er­al and con­ser­vat­ive Mem­bers in 1994, see box, this page.)

At the cen­ter of the Sen­ate’s 1994 com­bined com­pos­ite rat­ings, for ex­ample, were Re­pub­lic­an Chafee and Ern­est F. Hollings, D-S.C. Chafee had a lib­er­al rat­ing of 52 in the com­pos­ite scores and Hollings had a 51. But Hollings was more lib­er­al on eco­nom­ic is­sues, Chafee was more lib­er­al on so­cial is­sues and the two were nearly the same on for­eign policy:

Eco­nom­ic So­cial For­eign

Hollings 52 48 50

Chafee 35 74 45

In the new Re­pub­lic­an Con­gress, the cen­ter of grav­ity in each cham­ber is sure to shift. But the pro­spect is that the vote rat­ings of in­di­vidu­al Mem­bers re­l­at­ive to their le­gis­lat­ive col­leagues will re­main roughly the same. HOUSE RAT­INGS

Cali­for­nia’s del­eg­a­tion was home to the greatest ideo­lo­gic­al di­versity with­in the House last year. Five of the 23 House Mem­bers (all Re­pub­lic­ans) who had per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores in 1994 were Cali­for­ni­ans, as were 4 of the 17 Mem­bers (all Demo­crats) who had per­fect lib­er­al scores. In Cali­for­nia, as in oth­er states, there was no safety in the middle. The Cali­for­ni­an closest to the House’s vot­ing cen­ter was Demo­crat Richard H. Leh­man; he was de­cis­ively de­feated for reelec­tion.

Nine of the 23 all-con­ser­vat­ive scores were com­piled by south­ern Re­pub­lic­ans , while 6 of the 17 all-lib­er­al scorers were mid­west­ern Demo­crats. Of the 23 con­ser­vat­ives, 4 were on the the per­fect list in 1993: Armey, DeLay and Sam John­son of Texas and Robert K. Dor­nan of Cali­for­nia. Lib­er­al re­peat­ers were Don Ed­wards of Cali­for­nia, Patsy T. Mink of Hawaii, Ma­jor R. Owens of New York, Bobby L. Rush of Illinois and Bruce F. Vento of Min­nesota.

The most lib­er­al Mem­bers—all Demo­crats—were not­able for their ra­cial and gender di­versity. Among the 17 with per­fect lib­er­al scores were 7 mem­bers of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus, 2 His­pan­ic-Amer­ic­ans and 4 wo­men. Of the sev­en white males, Ed­wards and Wil­li­am D. Ford of Michigan have re­tired and Dan Ham­burg of Cali­for­nia was de­feated in Novem­ber.

The Pres­id­ent’s im­pact on the vote rat­ings is ap­par­ent when his 1992 vote by House dis­trict is ex­amined side by side with Demo­crats’ scores in 1994. The 117 House Demo­crats in whose dis­tricts Clin­ton re­ceived less than 45 per cent of the vote had an av­er­age com­pos­ite lib­er­al rat­ing of 60. By con­trast, the 64 Demo­crats whose con­stitu­ents gave Clin­ton at least 55 per cent of their vote in 1992 had an av­er­age com­pos­ite lib­er­al rat­ing of 77.

Re­gion­ally, di­versity was great­er than usu­al. East­ern Demo­crats had the most -lib­er­al scores on eco­nom­ic and for­eign policy is­sues, and west­ern Demo­crats led on so­cial is­sues. Among House Re­pub­lic­ans, mid­west­ern­ers had the highest con­ser­vat­ive rat­ings on eco­nom­ic is­sues, south­ern­ers on so­cial is­sues and west­ern­ers on for­eign policy.

Demo­crats with con­ser­vat­ive lean­ings were pre­dom­in­antly from the South—24 of the 32 in this cat­egory, in fact. Five of the oth­er eight were from the Mid­w­est. Eight of the 32 aren’t back this year: 4 of them re­tired, 2 were turned out of of­fice by voters and 2 lost bids for the Sen­ate. The re­main­ing 24 will be a prime tar­get of Re­pub­lic­an bland­ish­ments for bi­par­tis­an­ship this year.

At the oth­er end of the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum, 13 south­ern­ers were among the House Demo­crats whose scores were at the lib­er­al end of their party’s rat­ings (12 of those south­ern­ers were black; the lone white, Mike Syn­ar of Ok­lahoma, lost in the primary). Of the 15 Re­pub­lic­ans with the most-lib­er­al scores, all were from the Mid­w­est or the East, in­clud­ing 5 from New York.

No Demo­crat in the House had a per­fect con­ser­vat­ive score in any of the three is­sue cat­egor­ies. Like­wise, no House Re­pub­lic­an had a per­fect lib­er­al rat­ing in any cat­egory. The same was true in the Sen­ate. SEN­ATE RAT­INGS

For Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, party co­he­sion, largely free of the re­gion­al dif­fer­ences of past years, was the dom­in­ant factor in 1994. The five per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scorers last year came from all parts of the coun­try—two from Idaho, two from North Car­o­lina and one from New Hamp­shire. Dole, who missed a per­fect con­ser­vat­ive rat­ing by a single for­eign policy vote, filled out the re­gion­al pic­ture from the Mid­w­est. Jesse A. Helms, R-N.C., and Robert C. Smith, R-N.H., were the only Sen­at­ors to re­peat their 1993 re­cord of ideo­lo­gic­al pur­ity.

The South was a bas­tion of con­ser­vat­ism last year. The 10 Re­pub­lic­ans from the re­gion had av­er­age con­ser­vat­ive rat­ings of 78 on eco­nom­ic is­sues, 80 on so­cial is­sues and 86 on for­eign policy. Even south­ern Demo­crats, as a group, leaned slightly con­ser­vat­ive on so­cial is­sues. But that didn’t help Jim Sas­s­er, D-Tenn., who lost his bid for reelec­tion des­pite a con­ser­vat­ive score of 60 on so­cial is­sues (in 1992, by com­par­is­on, his so­cial is­sues con­ser­vat­ive rat­ing was 36).

Tom Har­kin, D-Iowa, and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., were the only Sen­at­ors with per­fect lib­er­al scores in 1994. East­ern Demo­crats held 5 of the top 11 po­s­i­tions on the lib­er­al end of the Sen­ate scale. In that re­gion, only Joseph I. Lieber­man of Con­necti­c­ut had a con­ser­vat­ive-lean­ing score in any of the is­sue cat­egor­ies.

Minor­ity Lead­er Daschle faces a po­ten­tial man­age­ment prob­lem this year be­cause sev­er­al rank­ing com­mit­tee Demo­crats have con­ser­vat­ive vot­ing re­cords, par­tic­u­larly on so­cial is­sues. The list in­cludes Robert C. Byrd of West Vir­gin­ia at Ap­pro­pri­ations, J.J. Exon of Neb­raska at Budget, Hollings at Com­merce, Sci­ence and Trans­port­a­tion, J. Ben­nett John­ston of Louisi­ana at En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources and Nunn at Armed Ser­vices. And Wendell H. Ford of Ken­tucky, the hol­d­over Demo­crat­ic whip, also ranked near the Sen­ate’s cen­ter.

At the oth­er end of the scale, Dole must con­tend with lib­er­al-lean­ing chair­men. New Re­pub­lic­an chair­men who had at least one lib­er­al-lean­ing score in 1994 were Chafee at En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works, Hat­field at Ap­pro­pri­ations and Bob Pack­wood of Ore­gon at Fin­ance.

Many of those vot­ing pat­terns may per­sist in the 104th Con­gress. But with a new party in con­trol of Con­gress and 98 new Sen­at­ors and House Mem­bers on board , don’t bet on it.

What We're Following See More »
SAYS HE WAS THREATENED BY TRUMP
Cohen Postpones Testimony
16 hours ago
THE LATEST
INCLUDES KUSHNER
House Democrats Investigating White House Security Clearances
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

"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.

Source:
IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE NEXT WEEK
House GOP Cancels Retreat
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
UNLIKELY EITHER BILL WILL PASS
Senate Will Vote on Competing Plans to End Shutdown
20 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"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."

Source:
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
McConnell Promises a Vote This Week
1 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

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.

Login