CONGRESS - Voting in Unison

Jan. 27, 1996, 7 a.m.

After wait­ing 40 years to take con­trol of Con­gress, Re­pub­lic­ans dis­played a dis­tinctly con­ser­vat­ive vot­ing pat­tern in 1995. Es­pe­cially on eco­nom­ic is­sues, the Re­pub­lic­ans’ abil­ity in the House to set the agenda pro­duced a re­mark­able de­gree of co­he­sion on their side of the aisle and barely a trace of bi­par­tis­an­ship.

In a year when floor de­bate was dom­in­ated by the House Re­pub­lic­ans’ Con­tract With Amer­ica along with the GOP’s at­tempt to bal­ance the fed­er­al budget, the ex­tent of the po­lar­iz­a­tion was shown by the fact that 115 House Re­pub­lic­ans voted in uni­son on all 22 key eco­nom­ic votes, ac­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Journ­al’s an­nu­al con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings. Only three Demo­crats ranked in the more-con­ser­vat­ive half of the House on those eco­nom­ic is­sues.

Par­tis­an solid­ar­ity on eco­nom­ic votes also pre­vailed in the Sen­ate, where none of the 46 Demo­crats fell in­to the more- con­ser­vat­ive half. On so­cial and for­eign policy is­sues, by con­trast, that solid­ar­ity was broken; the con­ser­vat­ive half of the Sen­ate in­cluded five Demo­crats on so­cial is­sues and three on for­eign policy—all but one of them from the South.

Only two Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans—John H. Chafee of Rhode Is­land and James M. Jef­fords of Ver­mont—were in the lib­er­al half of the Sen­ate in all three is­sue areas. Among Re­pub­lic­ans, Mark O. Hat­field of Ore­gon had the highest com­pos­ite lib­er­al score (across all three is­sue cat­egor­ies), but that was chiefly be­cause of his near-per­fect lib­er­al score on for­eign policy. How­ell T. Heflin of Alabama was the only Demo­crat with a com­pos­ite score that put him in the con­ser­vat­ive half of the Sen­ate. Like Hat­field’s, Heflin’s scores placed him com­fort­ably among the cent­rist third of the Sen­ate.

In the House, only five Re­pub­lic­ans, all from the East, had lib­er­al scores above 50 in each is­sue area. The most lib­er­al of the five was Con­stance A. Mo­rella of Mary­land. Ral­ph M. Hall of Texas, the Demo­crat with the most con­ser­vat­ive scores, defined the oth­er end of the House’s cen­ter. He was joined by four oth­er Demo­crats with con­ser­vat­ive com­pos­ite scores, three of whom have an­nounced that they are re­tir­ing at the end of this year. All five are from the South.

In the House, re­gion­al policy di­vi­sions were most sharply defined in the West; as a group, the re­gion’s 53 Re­pub­lic­ans were the House’s most con­ser­vat­ive, and the 40 West­ern Demo­crats were the House’s most lib­er­al Mem­bers. In the Sen­ate, on the oth­er hand, the most con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans were the 13 from the South, while the most lib­er­al Demo­crats were the 12 from the East.

The Re­pub­lic­an takeover of the House gave a strongly con­ser­vat­ive cast to the party’s lead­er­ship. Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Richard K. Armey of Texas, Ma­jor­ity Whip Tom D. DeLay of Texas and Policy Com­mit­tee chair­man C. Chris­toph­er Cox were among the 28 Re­pub­lic­ans with per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores last year. Not far be­hind were Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence chair­man John Boehner of Ohio and cam­paign com­mit­tee chair­man Bill Pax­on of New York.

House Demo­crat­ic lead­ers fell short of the most lib­er­al end of the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum. Minor­ity Lead­er Richard A. Geph­ardt of Mis­souri and Minor­ity Whip Dav­id E. Boni­or of Michigan each ranked only slightly to the left of the party’s cen­ter.

The rat­ings un­der­score the fact that the wave of Mem­bers re­tir­ing this year in­cludes a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of cent­rists, es­pe­cially in the Sen­ate. Among the 20 Sen­at­ors who ranked in the middle ideo­lo­gic­ally in 1995, are 4 Demo­crats and 4 Re­pub­lic­ans who are step­ping down.

These are some of the s of the 1995 vote rat­ings. The scores, which have been com­piled an­nu­ally since 1981, were based on 103 key roll-call votes, 51 in the Sen­ate and 52 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 is­sue 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.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Robert Dole, R-Kan., for ex­ample, had a con­ser­vat­ive score of 74 and a lib­er­al score of 21 on eco­nom­ic is­sues. That means that he was more con­ser­vat­ive on such is­sues than 74 per cent of his col­leagues, more lib­er­al than 21 per cent of Sen­at­ors and tied with the re­main­ing 5 per cent. (For a fuller de­scrip­tion of the rat­ings sys­tem, see box, p. 182. For a de­scrip­tion of the 103 key roll-call votes on which the rat­ings are based, see pp. 183-85. Sen­ate and House Mem­bers’ scores are lis­ted in tables be­gin­ning on p. 186.)

By provid­ing sep­ar­ate scores for each of the three is­sue areas, the rat­ings dis­play the dif­fer­ences in Mem­bers’ vot­ing pat­terns in each cat­egory. Al­though two Mem­bers might have sim­il­ar com­pos­ite scores when the three rat­ings are com­bined, they of­ten dif­fer markedly when the num­bers are ex­amined by is­sue area At the cen­ter of the Sen­ate’s 1995 com­bined com­pos­ite rat­ings, for ex­ample, were Re­pub­lic­ans Nancy Landon Kasse­baum of Kan­sas and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, each with a com­pos­ite score of al­most pre­cisely 50. But, as the fol­low­ing scores on the con­ser­vat­ive scale show, Kasse­baum was more con­ser­vat­ive on eco­nom­ic is­sues, Snowe was more con­ser­vat­ive on for­eign is­sues and the two were closer on so­cial policy:

Eco­nom­ic So­cial For­eign Kasse­baum 60 43 44 Snowe 50 37 57 Be­cause the rat­ings are based on Mem­bers’ stand­ing in re­la­tion to their col­leagues, many Mem­bers may have a more-lib­er­al score in 1995 than they had in 1994 even though their views did not no­tice­ably change. That’s be­cause the elec­tions in­creased the share of more-con­ser­vat­ive Mem­bers in each cham­ber against whom re­turn­ing Mem­bers were scored. A House Demo­crat who stood at the mid­point of his or her party’s rat­ings in 1994, for ex­ample, would have found 128 fel­low Demo­crats to his or her left; in 1995, there were only 99 Demo­crats to the left of the party’s cen­ter. (For an ex­plan­a­tion of the com­pos­ite scores, and a list of Con­gress’s most con­ser­vat­ive and lib­er­al Mem­bers in 1995, see box, p. 181.) HOUSE RAT­INGS

Con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans’ co­hes­ive­ness on key House votes ran across the board. The fact that nearly half the House Re­pub­lic­ans had identic­al (and per­fectly con­ser­vat­ive) scores on the 22 eco­nom­ic votes was only one ex­ample of the Re­pub­lic­ans’ har­mony. Those 22 votes in­cluded most of the votes on fi­nal pas­sage of the parts of the Con­tract With Amer­ica, along with oth­er key votes se­lec­ted to spot­light dif­fer­ences between Mem­bers.

On so­cial is­sues, 90 Re­pub­lic­ans voted in uni­son, as did 64 Re­pub­lic­ans on for­eign policy-na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues. As for the Demo­crats, 27 cast a straight lib­er­al vote on eco­nom­ic is­sues, 54 did the same on so­cial is­sues and 30 on for­eign policy. No House Re­pub­lic­an had a per­fect lib­er­al score in any of the three is­sue cat­egor­ies, nor did any Demo­crat have a per­fect con­ser­vat­ive rat­ing in any cat­egory; the same was true in the Sen­ate.

Of the 28 Re­pub­lic­ans who had per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores in all three is­sue areas, 7 were from Cali­for­nia and 6 from Texas. Only 4 were from the Mid­w­est (in­clud­ing 3 from Mis­souri) and only 2 from the East. Of the 23 on that list who are not first-ter­mers, 10 also had per­fect con­ser­vat­ive re­cords in 1994.

Eco­nom­ic and so­cial lib­er­al scores for east­ern Re­pub­lic­ans were more than double those for Re­pub­lic­ans in any oth­er re­gion; on for­eign policy is­sues, however, Re­pub­lic­ans from the Mid­w­est scored slightly more-lib­er­al than their party col­leagues from the East. Among House Demo­crats, south­ern­ers av­er­aged a few points more-con­ser­vat­ive on eco­nom­ic and for­eign policy votes, but mid­west­ern­ers had a slight con­ser­vat­ive edge on so­cial policy votes.

Over all, dif­fer­ences between the two parties were widest on eco­nom­ic is­sues and nar­row­est on so­cial policy.

Some as­pects of the House rat­ings did not change sig­ni­fic­antly from past years. The scores of the 73 first-term Re­pub­lic­ans, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, were spread evenly across their party’s ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum. Five fresh­men were among the 28 Re­pub­lic­ans with per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores, and three oth­ers were among the 22 Re­pub­lic­ans whose com­pos­ite scores placed them in the lib­er­al half of the House. Of the 10 fresh­men with the least-con­ser­vat­ive scores, 7 were from the East, in­clud­ing 3 from New Jer­sey.

The 9 Mem­bers (all Demo­crats) who voted con­sist­ently lib­er­al in­cluded 7 mem­bers of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus and two Cali­for­ni­ans; the only re­peat­er from 1994 was Car­diss Collins of Illinois. Of the 20 south­ern­ers whose com­pos­ite rat­ings placed them among the 100 most-lib­er­al Demo­crats, 16 were black or His­pan­ic.

An in­triguing as­pect of the rat­ings is how the 1995 scores re­late to the votes Mem­bers re­ceived the pre­vi­ous Elec­tion Day. Among Demo­crats, the 82 Mem­bers who won elec­tion with at least 65 per cent of the vote had an av­er­age com­pos­ite lib­er­al score of 80; of the 44 Demo­crats who won with less than 55 per cent of the vote, the com­par­able av­er­age was 72. What this sug­gests, of course, is that Mem­bers who were wor­ried about their reelec­tion pro­spects this year voted more-con­ser­vat­ive last year than their less nervous col­leagues. Among Re­pub­lic­ans, however, the 128 who won elec­tion with more than 65 per cent of the vote and the 47 who won with less than 55 per cent had the same av­er­age com­pos­ite lib­er­al score of 29.

Ex­clud­ing Speak­er Newt Gin­grich of Geor­gia, who, in ac­cord­ance with tra­di­tion, rarely votes, 235 House Re­pub­lic­ans cast votes in 1995. That num­ber in­cludes five south­ern­ers who star­ted the year as Demo­crats; for vote rat­ing pur­poses, they were con­sidered to be Re­pub­lic­ans for all of 1995. Each of the party switch­ers ranked in the GOP’s less-con­ser­vat­ive half, and one of them, James A. Hayes of Louisi­ana, tilted slightly to­ward the lib­er­al half of the House.

Of the 199 House Demo­crats who re­ceived rat­ings, 3 of them—Nor­man Y. Mineta of Cali­for­nia, Mel Reyn­olds of Illinois and Wal­ter R. Tuck­er III of Cali­for­nia—resigned in the fi­nal quarter of the year . Each was in­cluded in the rat­ings when he par­ti­cip­ated in at least half of the votes in an is­sue area. SEN­ATE RAT­INGS

Al­though the res­ults for Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans were less con­sist­ent than for their House coun­ter­parts, the par­tis­an pat­terns were sim­il­ar.

The only per­fect con­ser­vat­ive rat­ing was for Robert C. Smith, R-N.H., who also had per­fect scores in 1993 and 1994. Of the 19 oth­er most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­ors, 10 were from the South. As in the past, south­ern Re­pub­lic­ans were their party’s most con­ser­vat­ive group by a sub­stan­tial mar­gin, es­pe­cially on so­cial and for­eign policy is­sues.

Of the five Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ors with com­pos­ite scores in the lib­er­al half of the Sen­ate, all but Hat­field are east­ern­ers. Not sur­pris­ingly, the East was also the GOP’s most lib­er­al re­gion, es­pe­cially on so­cial is­sues.

Of the 11 newly elec­ted Sen­at­ors (all Re­pub­lic­ans), 8 were in the con­ser­vat­ive half of their party’s ranks. Snowe was the only fresh­man with a score in the lib­er­al half of the Sen­ate in any is­sue area. Of the two Sen­at­ors who switched parties after the 1994 elec­tions, Ben Nighthorse Camp­bell of Col­or­ado was among the most lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­ans and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama was among the most con­ser­vat­ive.

The Sen­ate chair­men with prime re­spons­ib­il­ity for budget is­sues were among the least con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans. Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee chair­man Hat­field had the most lib­er­al com­pos­ite score among Re­pub­lic­ans. The rat­ings for Budget chair­man Pete V. Domen­ici of New Mex­ico and Fin­ance chair­man Wil­li­am V. Roth Jr. of Delaware put them in the least- con­ser­vat­ive fourth of Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans; Roth’s score was al­most the same as that of his pre­de­cessor, Bob Pack­wood of Ore­gon, who resigned in Oc­to­ber.

No Demo­crat had a per­fect lib­er­al rat­ing last year. Patrick J. Leahy came closest, with one con­ser­vat­ive vote on for­eign policy; in 1994, he was one of two Demo­crats with an all- lib­er­al score. Of the 20 most lib­er­al Demo­crats, 8 were from the East and 7 from the Mid­w­est; also in that group were 2 south­ern­ers, Dale Bump­ers and Dav­id Pry­or of Arkan­sas, each of whom had per­fect lib­er­al scores on for­eign policy.

Joseph I. Lieber­man of Con­necti­c­ut, who had a strongly con­ser­vat­ive score on for­eign policy, and Harry M. Re­id of Nevada, who leaned to the con­ser­vat­ives on so­cial is­sues, were the only non­south­ern Demo­crats in the con­ser­vat­ive half of the Sen­ate in any of the three is­sue areas. Of the six Demo­crats with the most-con­ser­vat­ive com­pos­ite scores, all but J.J. Exon of Neb­raska are from the South, and all but Wendell H. Ford of Ken­tucky and Ern­est F. Hollings of South Car­o­lina are re­tir­ing.

Phil Gramm of Texas had the most con­ser­vat­ive re­cord in 1995 of the Sen­at­ors seek­ing the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion; Gramm had per­fect con­ser­vat­ive rat­ings on eco­nom­ic and so­cial policy. Dole’s com­pos­ite score leaned slightly to­ward the con­ser­vat­ive side of Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans; in 1994, he fell one vote short of a per­fectly con­ser­vat­ive score. Dole’s eco­nom­ic score would have been more con­ser­vat­ive but for his vote, strictly on pro­ced­ur­al grounds, to op­pose the bal­anced budget con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment in March.

Among the oth­er pres­id­en­tial wanna-bes, Richard G. Lugar of In­di­ana leaned slightly to­ward the lib­er­al wing of his party. The scores of Ar­len Specter of Pennsylvania, who has sus­pen­ded his cam­paign, fell al­most pre­cisely in the cen­ter of the Sen­ate, which may ex­plain why his views did not ex­cite much in­terest in the Re­pub­lic­an elect­or­ate. On the oth­er hand, Rep. Robert K. Dor­nan of Cali­for­nia, des­pite his per­fect con­ser­vat­ive House scores, has also failed to gen­er­ate much sup­port for his bid.

Among Sen­ate Demo­crats, there was a curi­ous con­nec­tion between their rat­ings and their most re­cent mar­gins of vic­tory at the polls. The 29 Demo­crats who won with less than 60 per cent of the vote had a com­pos­ite lib­er­al rat­ing of 78; the re­main­ing 17, who were pre­sum­ably more se­cure polit­ic­ally, had an av­er­age lib­er­al score of 72. The Re­pub­lic­an pat­tern was more pre­dict­able: Those with the largest vic­tory mar­gins ten­ded to be those with the most-con­ser­vat­ive rat­ings.

For Mem­bers of both cham­bers, floor votes, of course, are not the sole guide to their in­flu­ence in Wash­ing­ton or to their polit­ic­al health at home. But the re­cent volat­il­ity in the polit­ic­al sys­tem has shown that there can be a con­nec­tion. De­scrip­tions of key votes fol­low on pp. 183-85. Sen­ate scores are on pp. 186-87. House scores are on pp. 188-201.

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