CONGRESS - Soft Center

Dec. 14, 1996, 7 a.m.

The le­gis­lat­ive agenda and the le­gis­lat­ive out­put moved to­ward the polit­ic­al cen­ter this year. But the vot­ing pat­terns were as strongly par­tis­an as ever.

Com­prom­ise be­came the pre­dom­in­ant mo­tif as party lead­ers and most Mem­bers of Con­gress de­cided that they needed to show the voters be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tions that they could en­act pop­u­lar meas­ures. Nev­er­the­less, law­makers’ over-all vot­ing pat­terns this year wer­en’t too dif­fer­ent from those in the highly con­ten­tious 1995 ses­sion, ac­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Journ­al’s an­nu­al con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings.

In both the House and the Sen­ate, Mem­bers di­vided mostly along party lines, an ana­lys­is of their vote rat­ings re­veals. This was es­pe­cially true on eco­nom­ic is­sues, where only a hand­ful of Re­pub­lic­ans had rat­ings that were more lib­er­al than those of the most con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats. In neither cham­ber did a single Re­pub­lic­an rank among the 40 per cent of Mem­bers at the lib­er­al end of the scale on eco­nom­ic is­sues. Like­wise, no Demo­crat in either cham­ber had an eco­nom­ic score that would have put him or her among the 40 per cent at the con­ser­vat­ive end of the scale.

On oth­er kinds of is­sues, the par­tis­an pat­terns were less clear-cut. In the House, in par­tic­u­lar, east­ern Re­pub­lic­ans leaned no­tice­ably to the left of their party col­leagues on so­cial is­sues and south­ern Demo­crats were more con­ser­vat­ive than oth­ers in their party on for­eign policy and na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues. A sim­il­ar soften­ing of par­tis­an­ship could be found among east­ern Re­pub­lic­ans and south­ern Demo­crats in the Sen­ate.

The vote rat­ings point up some in­ter­est­ing con­trasts with the lock­step pat­tern that of­ten pre­vailed in 1995, when the House GOP’s Con­tract With Amer­ica dom­in­ated the de­bate. There was, for ex­ample, less po­lar­iz­a­tion among House Re­pub­lic­ans this year than last, when 115 of the 235 House Re­pub­lic­ans voted in uni­son on all 22 key eco­nom­ic votes; this year, only 79 House Re­pub­lic­ans voted to­geth­er on every key eco­nom­ic roll call.

But the move to­ward the polit­ic­al cen­ter this year provided little com­fort or be­ne­fit to the year’s biggest polit­ic­al losers. Of the 18 House Re­pub­lic­ans who were de­feated for reelec­tion, 12 had com­pos­ite rat­ings for all three is­sue areas (eco­nom­ic, so­cial and for­eign policy) that placed them among the least con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans; 7 of the 12, in turn, ranked fur­ther left along the House’s ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum than they did a year earli­er.

The de­par­ture of Mem­bers who didn’t seek reelec­tion this year ap­pears likely to en­large the par­tis­an di­vide. In the Sen­ate, all five re­tir­ing Re­pub­lic­ans ranked among the most lib­er­al third of their party. And of the six Demo­crats ranked in the more con­ser­vat­ive half of the House, three are re­tir­ing.

Those are some of the high­lights of the 1996 vote rat­ings. The scores, which have been com­piled an­nu­ally since 1981, were based on 103 key roll-call votes, 47 in the Sen­ate and 56 in the House. Fol­low­ing the se­lec­tion of the key votes by a pan­el of Na­tion­al Journ­al re­port­ers and ed­it­ors, a com­puter- as­sisted tab­u­la­tion ranked Mem­bers from most con­ser­vat­ive to most lib­er­al in each of the three is­sue cat­egor­ies.

The scores show where each Mem­ber stood in 1996 re­l­at­ive to his or her Sen­ate or House col­leagues. They are not struc­tured like many oth­er con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings, which are de­term­ined by a per­cent­age of ”cor­rect” lib­er­al or con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tions on key is­sues.

Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., for ex­ample, had a lib­er­al score of 70 and a con­ser­vat­ive score of 27 on eco­nom­ic is­sues. That means that he was more lib­er­al on such is­sues than 70 per cent of his Sen­ate col­leagues, more con­ser­vat­ive than 27 per cent of his col­leagues and tied with the re­main­ing 2 per cent. (For a fuller de­scrip­tion of the rat­ings sys­tem, see box, p. 2684. For a de­scrip­tion of the 103 key roll- call votes on which the rat­ings are based, see pp. 2685-87. Sen­ate and House Mem­bers’ scores are lis­ted in tables be­gin­ning on p. 2688.)

By provid­ing sep­ar­ate scores for 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, their scores in each is­sue area of­ten dif­fer markedly.

In the 1996 rat­ings, for ex­ample, Ben­jamin A. Gil­man of New York, the chair­man of the In­ter­na­tion­al Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, and Lee H. Hamilton of In­di­ana, the pan­el’s rank­ing Demo­crat, had com­pos­ite scores that placed each near the mid­point of the House. But, as the fol­low­ing scores on the con­ser­vat­ive scale show, Hamilton was more con­ser­vat­ive on so­cial is­sues, Gil­man was more con­ser­vat­ive on for­eign policy is­sues and the two had nearly identic­al scores on eco­nom­ic policy.

Eco­nom­ic So­cial For­eign Gil­man 45 29 72 Hamilton 43 58 40

Many Mem­bers may have cast a great­er share of ”lib­er­al” votes this year than they did in 1995, but their vote rat­ings wer­en’t ne­ces­sar­ily any more lib­er­al. That’s be­cause the rat­ings are based on Mem­bers’ stand­ing in re­la­tion to their col­leagues, and both the House and the Sen­ate moved some­what to the left this year, es­pe­cially on such eco­nom­ic is­sues as health care re­form and a min­im­um-wage in­crease. In any case, House and Sen­ate mem­ber­ship did not change much from 1995 to 1996; there­fore, Mem­bers were com­pared with vir­tu­ally the same col­leagues this year as last. (For an ex­plan­a­tion of the com­pos­ite scores, and a list of Con­gress’s most-con­ser­vat­ive and lib­er­al Mem­bers in 1996, see box, p. 2683.) HOUSE RAT­INGS

In the House, south­ern Re­pub­lic­ans and west­ern Demo­crats set the ideo­lo­gic­al ex­tremes. As a group, the GOP’s south­ern­ers had the most con­ser­vat­ive av­er­age scores on so­cial and for­eign policy is­sues; on eco­nom­ic is­sues, west­ern Re­pub­lic­ans as a group were slightly more con­ser­vat­ive than the south­ern­ers. In each cat­egory, west­ern Demo­crats had the most lib­er­al av­er­age re­gion­al scores.

Among Re­pub­lic­ans, the party’s re­gion­al schism was most evid­ent on so­cial is­sues, where the av­er­age lib­er­al score for the east­ern­ers was 47, nearly at the mid­point for the House, and the score for south­ern­ers was 17. On for­eign policy, the east­ern Re­pub­lic­ans’ av­er­age score of 33 was closer to the party’s over- all rat­ing on that is­sue than their av­er­age eco­nom­ic and so­cial scores were to the GOP’s over-all scores in those is­sue areas.

These pat­terns were mirrored by in­di­vidu­al Re­pub­lic­ans at the ends of the philo­soph­ic­al spec­trum. Of the 14 Re­pub­lic­ans with per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores in all three is­sue areas, 8 were from the South. The only re­peat­ers from 1995 in this cat­egory were two mem­bers of the party lead­er­ship: Ma­jor­ity Whip Tom D. DeLay of Texas and Policy Com­mit­tee chair­man C. Chris­toph­er Cox of Cali­for­nia. But the oth­er Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers also rated high on the con­ser­vat­ive scale. (For a re­port on the 1995 rat­ings, see NJ, 1/27/96, p. 179.)

At the oth­er end of the scale, of the eight Re­pub­lic­ans with lib­er­al-lean­ing scores in each of the three is­sue areas, six were from the East and two from the Mid­w­est. Con­stance A. Mo­rella of Mary­land, with a com­pos­ite lib­er­al score of 74, was the most lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­an. No House Re­pub­lic­an had a per­fect lib­er­al score in any is­sue area, nor did any Demo­crat have a per­fect con­ser­vat­ive rat­ing in any cat­egory (the same was true in the Sen­ate).

Among House Demo­crats, the av­er­age con­ser­vat­ive scores for south­ern Mem­bers were sev­er­al points high­er on eco­nom­ic and for­eign policy is­sues than those for Mem­bers from any oth­er re­gion. But mid­west­ern Demo­crats edged out their south­ern col­leagues for the most con­ser­vat­ive re­gion­al rat­ing on so­cial is­sues.

The 19 Demo­crats with per­fect lib­er­al scores in­cluded six from Cali­for­nia and five from New York. Also in that group were nine mem­bers of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus. There were four re­peat­ers from last year’s list of those with per­fect lib­er­al scores.

All six Demo­crats whose com­pos­ite scores leaned con­ser­vat­ive were from the South. Ral­ph M. Hall of Texas was the most con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crat, with a com­pos­ite con­ser­vat­ive score of 65. Like the GOP’s Mo­rella, Hall was also the Mem­ber most out of step with his party in 1995.

Un­like their Re­pub­lic­an coun­ter­parts, Demo­crat­ic lead­ers had scores that fell in the cen­ter of their party’s rat­ings. With a com­pos­ite lib­er­al score of 76, Minor­ity Lead­er Richard A. Geph­ardt, D-Mo., was at vir­tu­ally the mid­point of the rat­ings for all House Demo­crats.

Re­pub­lic­an Gil­man of New York had a com­pos­ite score— 50.0—that placed him pre­cisely at the cen­ter of the House. Slightly above and be­low the cen­ter were sev­er­al oth­er mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans: Rod­ney Frel­inghuysen of New Jer­sey, Fred Up­ton of Michigan, Steve Horn of Cali­for­nia and Jon D. Fox of Pennsylvania. SEN­ATE RAT­INGS

The par­tis­an lines in the Sen­ate, were, if any­thing, more vis­ible than in the House. Not a single Demo­crat fell among the 40 per cent of the Sen­ate ranked as most con­ser­vat­ive in any of the three is­sue areas. And only two Re­pub­lic­ans placed among the 40 most lib­er­al Sen­at­ors on so­cial and for­eign policy.

Of the 50 Sen­at­ors whose com­pos­ite scores put them in the con­ser­vat­ive half of the cham­ber, only one—John B. Br­eaux of Louisi­ana—was a Demo­crat. In fact, Br­eaux’s score in each of the three is­sue areas, as well as his com­pos­ite score, was at the Sen­ate’s cen­ter. Br­eaux’s le­gis­lat­ive work has in­creas­ingly made him the Sen­ate’s man in the middle. Minor­ity Lead­er Daschle tapped Br­eaux to be the party’s chief deputy whip, and the Louisi­anan is also a con­fid­ant of Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Trent Lott of Mis­sis­sippi.

Three of the next four most-con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats are re­tir­ing: How­ell T. Heflin of Alabama, J. Ben­nett John­ston of Louisi­ana and Sam Nunn of Geor­gia. The oth­er Demo­crat whose com­pos­ite rat­ing put him at the Sen­ate’s cen­ter was Minor­ity Whip Wendell H. Ford of Ken­tucky.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans with com­pos­ite scores that leaned to­ward the lib­er­al side were James M. Jef­fords of Ver­mont, Mark O. Hat­field of Ore­gon, who is re­tir­ing, John H. Chafee of Rhode Is­land and Ar­len Specter of Pennsylvania. Jef­fords, who had the most lib­er­al over-all score in his party, was also the only Re­pub­lic­an who leaned lib­er­al in all three is­sue areas.

The Re­pub­lic­ans with the most con­ser­vat­ive re­cords fig­ure prom­in­ently in the party’s new lead­er­ship ranks. Among the top six were Con­fer­ence sec­ret­ary Paul Cover­dell of Geor­gia, Policy Com­mit­tee chair­man Larry E. Craig of Idaho and Ma­jor­ity Whip Don Nickles of Ok­lahoma. Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Lott wasn’t far be­hind. Cover­dell and Nickles were also among the Sen­at­ors with per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores, along with Phil Gramm of Texas and James M. In­hofe of Ok­lahoma. In­ter­est­ingly, Wil­li­am S. Co­hen, R-Maine, Pres­id­ent Clin­ton’s De­fense Sec­ret­ary-des­ig­nate, was more con­ser­vat­ive than 70 of his fel­low Sen­at­ors this year on for­eign policy is­sues.

Each of the dozen Re­pub­lic­ans with the most con­ser­vat­ive com­pos­ite scores was from the South or West. Robert Dole of Kan­sas—who resigned in June to pur­sue his pres­id­en­tial can­did­acy—and Sheila Frahm, his ap­poin­ted suc­cessor, would have placed among those most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­ors, but each failed to par­ti­cip­ate in a ma­jor­ity of votes in at least one cat­egory.

At the oth­er end of the Sen­ate spec­trum, no Demo­crat had per­fect lib­er­al scores in all three areas. Patty Mur­ray of Wash­ing­ton, who cast a single con­ser­vat­ive vote on so­cial policy, had the most lib­er­al com­pos­ite score. Of the 10 Sen­at­ors with the next most lib­er­al com­pos­ite scores, five were from the Mid­w­est, four from the East and one—Dale Bump­ers of Arkan­sas—from the South.

As a group, east­ern Demo­crats had the highest av­er­age lib­er­al score on eco­nom­ic and so­cial is­sues and nar­rowly trailed the party’s mid­west­ern­ers on for­eign policy votes. The widest re­gion­al splits between Sen­ate Demo­crats came on so­cial policy, where south­ern­ers had their highest av­er­age con­ser­vat­ive score.

Among Re­pub­lic­ans, south­ern­ers had the highest av­er­age con­ser­vat­ive rat­ing on eco­nom­ic and for­eign policy is­sues and nar­rowly trailed mid­west­ern Re­pub­lic­ans on so­cial is­sues. Re­pub­lic­ans from the East were the least con­ser­vat­ive in each area. In­tern­al Re­pub­lic­an dif­fer­ences were the greatest on eco­nom­ic is­sues and the slim­mest on for­eign policy.

The 105th Con­gress, which con­venes next month, is con­sti­tuted along lines sim­il­ar to those of the de­part­ing 104th. So it’s a good bet that the over-all pic­ture will be sim­il­ar next year. But the many new faces in each cham­ber make it likely that there’ll be con­sid­er­able change in the way in­di­vidu­al Mem­bers vote on spe­cif­ic bills. De­scrip­tions of key votes fol­low on pp. 2685-87. Sen­ate scores are on pp. 2688-89. House scores are on pp. 2690-99.

What We're Following See More »
STILL NO PAY
Trump Calls 50,000 Feds Back to Work
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Trump administration on Tuesday said it has called back tens of thousands of federal workers to fulfill key government tasks, including disbursing tax refunds, overseeing flight safety and inspecting the nation’s food and drug supply, as it seeks to blunt the impact of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The nearly 50,000 furloughed federal employees are being brought back to work without pay — part of a group of about 800,000 federal workers who are not receiving paychecks during the shutdown."

Source:
UNTIL SHUTDOWN IS RESOLVED
Pelosi Asks Trump to Postpone SOTU
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
RESOLUTION PASSES 424-1
House Votes to Condemn Rep. King for Racist Comments
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The House voted overwhelmingly to rebuke GOP Rep. Steve King for making racist comments in a recent interview. The rare resolution of disapproval, which included a broad denunciation of white supremacist and white nationalist movements, was passed on a 424-1 vote. But some House Democrats argue the move doesn't go far enough and are pushing censure motions against the Iowa Republican."

Source:
SAYS HE WAS MISQUOTED
Steve King Will Vote For Resolution
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
CANNOT BE PAID DURING SHUTDOWN
Judge Rules Against Air Traffic Controllers
21 hours 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