CONGRESS - Gridlock, By the Numbers

Feb. 3, 2001, 7 a.m.

When George W. Bush vowed dur­ing his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign to re­move bi­par­tis­an­ship from Wash­ing­ton’s list of dirty words, con­gres­sion­al in­siders snickered that he was set­ting a daunt­ing task for him­self. Now, Na­tion­al Journ­al’s an­nu­al con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings provide fur­ther evid­ence of the tough chal­lenge await­ing Bush.

The rat­ings of House mem­bers and Sen­at­ors, based on key votes they cast last year, show that the un­usu­ally par­tis­an pat­terns that took hold in 1999 con­tin­ued throughout 2000. Dur­ing the 106th Con­gress, law­makers clearly had little ex­per­i­ence work­ing across the aisle on a sus­tained basis. And keep in mind that the Novem­ber elec­tion changed the over­all par­tis­an bal­ance of Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats only slightly-just about 10 per­cent of each cham­ber’s mem­bers were re­placed.

Con­sider some of the find­ings from the re­cently tab­u­lated 2000 vote rat­ings:

* In the Sen­ate, where 55 Re­pub­lic­ans were serving un­til Sen. Paul Cover­dell, R-Ga., died in Ju­ly, 53 of them had a more con­ser­vat­ive vot­ing re­cord than did the most con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crat, Sen. Herb Kohl of Wis­con­sin. Only GOP Sens. Lin­coln D. Chafee of Rhode Is­land and James M. Jef­fords of Ver­mont sided fre­quently with the lib­er­al ranks.

* In the House, about a dozen mem­bers from each party crossed party lines so fre­quently that their scores put them on the op­pos­ite side of the par­tis­an di­vide in the rat­ings. But most of these middle-of-the-road­ers’ scores stayed close to the polit­ic­al cen­ter. The ex­cep­tions were Reps. Ral­ph M. Hall of Texas, the most con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crat, and Con­stance A. Mo­rella of Mary­land, the most lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­an.

* The pat­terns were sim­il­ar in the three is­sue areas-eco­nom­ic, so­cial, and for­eign policy-that com­prise the rat­ings. Among House Demo­crats, only Reps. Ken Lu­cas of Ken­tucky, Mat­thew G. Mar­tinez of Cali­for­nia (who switched to the GOP last sum­mer after los­ing his Demo­crat­ic primary), and Hall voted in the more con­ser­vat­ive half of the House in each area. Among Re­pub­lic­ans, only Rep. Sher­wood L. Boehlert of New York joined Mo­rella in the lib­er­al half of the House on each of the three sets of is­sues. Chafee and Jef­fords were the sole Sen­at­ors of either party to jump ship in the three is­sue areas.

* Among party lead­ers, House Re­pub­lic­ans showed the strongest ideo­lo­gic­al vot­ing pat­terns: Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Dick Armey and Ma­jor­ity Whip Tom DeLay, both of Texas, and GOP Con­fer­ence Chair­man J.C. Watts of Ok­lahoma all com­piled nearly per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores. By con­trast, Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers-as well as the Demo­crat­ic lead­ers in each cham­ber-had scores re­l­at­ively close to the middle of their own re­spect­ive parties.

These are some of the high­lights of Na­tion­al Journ­al’s con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings for 2000. The scores, which have been com­piled since 1981, show where law­makers rank re­l­at­ive to one an­oth­er in the House and Sen­ate on a lib­er­al-to-con­ser­vat­ive scale in each of the three cat­egor­ies: eco­nom­ic, so­cial, and for­eign. The scores are de­term­ined by a com­puter-as­sisted cal­cu­la­tion that ranks the mem­bers from one end of the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum to the oth­er based on key votes-53 in the House and 42 in the Sen­ate-that were se­lec­ted by Na­tion­al Journ­al re­port­ers and ed­it­ors. Un­like rat­ings pro­duced by in­terest groups, these scores do not dic­tate what a “cor­rect” vote is.

For ex­ample, the res­ults show that on for­eign is­sues, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Trent Lott, R-Miss., had a con­ser­vat­ive score of 86 and a lib­er­al score of 5. This means that he was more con­ser­vat­ive than 86 per­cent of oth­er Sen­at­ors on for­eign is­sues and more lib­er­al than 5 per­cent; he tied with the rest. On eco­nom­ic is­sues, by con­trast, Lott’s lib­er­al score was 36 and his con­ser­vat­ive score was 63, pla­cing him closer to the cen­ter of the Sen­ate.

The vote rat­ings for all Sen­at­ors and House mem­bers, plus a list of the votes that were used to de­term­ine the rat­ings and a de­tailed ex­plan­a­tion of how the vote rat­ings were cal­cu­lated, are avail­able to Na­tion­al Journ­al sub­scribers on our Web site, na­tion­al­journ­

Sen­ate Rat­ings

In the Sen­ate, the scores re­veal that the most con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers were pre­dom­in­antly ju­ni­or and hailed from the South. For ex­ample, the only Sen­at­or who had per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores in each of the three is­sue areas was Tim Hutchin­son, R-Ark., who was first elec­ted in 1996. Of the sev­en most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­ors, all of whom were Re­pub­lic­an, six were first-

ter­mers and four were from the South. The next three most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­ors were more seni­or, but all from the South: Cover­dell and Sens. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky.

In­ter­est­ingly, former pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., was among the Re­pub­lic­ans to­ward the cen­ter of the Sen­ate in each is­sue area. And former Sen. John Ash­croft, R-Mo., Bush’s con­tro­ver­sial choice to be At­tor­ney Gen­er­al, con­tin­ued mov­ing to­ward the middle. Al­though Ash­croft tied as the most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­or in the 1997 and 1998 vote rat­ings, he ranked as the 15th-most-con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­or in 1999 and plummeted to the 36th-most-con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­or in 2000, when he faced the voters for the first time for re-elec­tion.

On the oth­er side of the spec­trum, six of the 10 most lib­er­al Sen­at­ors, all Demo­crats, were from the East. Strik­ingly, five of this group were in at least their third term; only two were first-ter­mers. No Sen­ate Demo­crat had per­fect lib­er­al scores in all three sets of is­sues, al­though three-Bar­bara Box­er of Cali­for­nia, Tom Har­kin of Iowa, and Paul Well­stone of Min­nesota-missed by only one vote each.

The Sen­at­ors who make up the cham­ber’s fra­gile cen­ter were mostly East­ern Re­pub­lic­ans and South­ern Demo­crats. In­clud­ing Chafee and Jef­fords, the five most lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ors were from the East; aside from Kohl, the next three most con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats were from the South. Sen. Joe Lieber­man of Con­necti­c­ut, last year’s Demo­crat­ic vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee, fol­lowed close be­hind these Demo­crat­ic cent­rists in each of the three is­sue areas. The two Sen­at­ors whose scores placed them at the pre­cise cen­ter of the Sen­ate were Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Maine Re­pub­lic­ans. Their scores in the three is­sue areas were identic­al.

A sep­ar­ate stat­ist­ic­al ana­lys­is that was pre­pared for these rat­ings by In­form­a­tion Tech­no­logy Ser­vices at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion showed that the 13 Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ors from the East had the most-lib­er­al com­pos­ite scores as a re­gion­al group, while the nine South­ern Demo­crats were their party’s least lib­er­al group. The 14 South­ern GOP Sen­at­ors had their party’s most-con­ser­vat­ive over­all scores, while the nine East­ern Re­pub­lic­ans had their party’s least-con­ser­vat­ive scores as a re­gion.

House Rat­ings

The rat­ings for the House found that sev­en mem­bers-all Re­pub­lic­ans-had per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores in each is­sue area; four were from the South and three from the West. With the ex­cep­tion of Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee Chair­man Chris­toph­er Cox of Cali­for­nia and Rep. Cliff Ste­arns of Flor­ida, who have served since 1988, all of the most con­sist­ent con­ser­vat­ives were first elec­ted in 1991 or later.

Only two mem­bers-Reps. Bob Fil­ner, D-Cal­if., and Jose Ser­rano, D-N.Y.-had per­fect lib­er­al scores in each area. The 10 most lib­er­al mem­bers, all Demo­crats, in­cluded sev­en from the East (five of them from New York), two from the Mid­w­est, and one from the West. Of this group, five are Afric­an-Amer­ic­an and one is His­pan­ic.

As was the case in the Sen­ate, the House cent­rists were pre­dom­in­antly South­ern Demo­crats and East­ern Re­pub­lic­ans. Of the 10 House Demo­crats whose com­pos­ite rat­ing fell to the right of the cham­ber’s cen­ter, sev­en were from the South and two were from the Mid­w­est, and one-Mar­tinez-was from Cali­for­nia. In­cluded in this group was Rep. James A. Trafic­ant Jr. of Ohio, whose vote last month to re-elect Rep. J. Den­nis Hastert, R-Ill., as Speak­er res­ul­ted in his loss of priv­ileges with­in the House Demo­crat­ic Caucus. Of the 13 Re­pub­lic­ans whose com­pos­ite rat­ing leaned to the left of the House’s cen­ter, eight were from the East, four from the Mid­w­est, and one from the West. The mem­bers whose scores placed them lit­er­ally at the cen­ter of the House were Re­pub­lic­an Reps. Rick A. Lazio of New York, Jim Ram­stad of Min­nesota, and Fred Up­ton of Michigan, and Demo­crat­ic Rep. Jim Bar­cia of Michigan.

The ana­lys­is of the House’s re­gion­al groups re­vealed that the 71 South­ern Re­pub­lic­ans had the highest con­ser­vat­ive scores. The least con­ser­vat­ive GOP scores, by re­gion, went to the 37 mem­bers from the East. The 44 West­ern Demo­crats had the highest lib­er­al com­pos­ite scores, and the 53 South­ern Demo­crats were the least lib­er­al, as a group.

The Fringes

These are the 20 most lib­er­al Sen­at­ors and 23 most lib­er­al House mem­bers (all Demo­crats), along with the 20 most con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­ors and 23 most con­ser­vat­ive House mem­bers (all Re­pub­lic­ans), based on the com­pos­ite scores in Na­tion­al Journ­al’s con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings for 2000.


Lib­er­als (all Demo­crats)

93.5 Box­er, Cal­if.

93.2 Well­stone, Minn.

92.8 Har­kin, Iowa

89.3 Durbin, Ill.

88.7 Reed, R.I.

88.7 Kennedy, Mass.

88.3 Lauten­berg, N.J.

87.2 Mikul­ski, Md.

85.8 Dodd, Conn.

85.0 Sar­banes, Md.

84.8 Schu­mer, N.Y.

84.7 Akaka, Hawaii

82.3 Mur­ray, Wash.

82.3 Lev­in, Mich.

81.8 Leahy, Vt.

81.8 Wyden, Ore.

81.3 Ker­rey, Neb.

81.2 Daschle, S.D.

80.8 Ed­wards, N.C.

80.7 Moyni­han, N.Y.

Con­ser­vat­ives (all Re­pub­lic­ans)

95.2 Hutchin­son, Ark.

92.8 Bun­ning, Ky.

92.8 En­zi, Wyo.

91.0 Ses­sions, Ala.

91.0 Smith, N.H.

90.3 In­hofe, Okla.

88.7 Al­lard, Colo.

88.0 Cover­dell, Ga.

86.5 Helms, N.C.

86.3 Mc­Con­nell, Ky.

84.8 Roberts, Kan.

82.2 San­tor­um, Pa.

81.7 Craig, Idaho

81.7 Thomas, Wyo.

81.5 Brown­back, Kan.

80.8 Shelby, Ala.

80.2 Murkowski, Alaska

80.0 Nickles, Okla.

79.8 Lott, Miss.

79.8 Crapo, Idaho


Lib­er­als (all Demo­crats)

97.7 Ser­rano, N.Y.

97.7 Fil­ner, Cal­if.

97.0 Owens, N.Y.

97.0 Dav­is, Ill.

96.2 McGov­ern, Mass.

95.8 Jack­son Jr., Ill.

95.8 Hinchey, N.Y.

95.0 Cap­uano, Mass.

94.7 Ran­gel, N.Y.

94.3 Towns, N.Y.

93.7 Wax­man, Cal­if.

93.5 Payne, N.J.

93.3 Mc­Der­mott, Wash.

93.0 Rush, Ill.

93.0 Al­len, Maine

93.0 Cum­mings, Md.

92.8 Lewis, Ga.

92.7 Pelosi, Cal­if.

92.7 Mil­lender-Mc­Don­ald, Cal­if.

92.3 Con­yers Jr., Mich.

92.3 Olver, Mass.

92.0 Saw­yer, Ohio

91.8 Schakowsky, Ill.

Con­ser­vat­ives (all Re­pub­lic­ans)

93.5 Bry­ant, Tenn.

93.5 Cox, Cal­if.

93.5 Gra­ham, S.C.

93.5 Hay­worth, Ar­iz.

93.5 John­son, Texas

93.5 Pombo, Cal­if.

93.5 Ste­arns, Fla.

91.0 Armey, Texas

91.0 Barr, Ga.

91.0 Blunt, Mo.

91.0 Brady, Texas

91.0 Can­non, Utah

91.0 Hast­ings, Wash.

91.0 Jones, N.C.

91.0 Ri­ley, Ala.

91.0 Vit­ter, La.

91.0 Watts, Okla.

91.0 Wel­don, Fla.

89.8 Bart­lett, Md.

89.8 King­ston, Ga.

89.8 Miller, Cal­if.

89.8 Ry­un, Kan.

89.8 Taylor, N.C.

The Cent­rists

These are the 11 most lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­ans and the 10 most con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats in the Sen­ate, along with the 14 most lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­ans and 15 most con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats in the House. For each group, the first num­ber in­dic­ates the mem­ber’s rank­ing on the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum; the second num­ber shows his or her rel­ev­ant com­pos­ite lib­er­al score or com­pos­ite con­ser­vat­ive score.


Most-Lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­ans

Com­pos­ite Lib­er­al

Rank* Score

Jef­fords, Vt. 38 66.5

Chafee, R.I. 39 66.5

Snowe, Maine 48 50.2

Collins, Maine 49 50.2

Roth Jr., Del. 50 49.2

Fitzger­ald, Ill. 51 47.8

Smith, Ore. 52 45.0

Lugar, Ind. 53 42.3

Ab­ra­ham, Mich. 54 41.8

DeW­ine, Ohio 55 41.8

Voinovich, Ohio 56 41.8

Most-Con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats

Com­pos­ite Con­ser­vat­ive

Rank* Score

Kohl, Wis. 54 39.5

Byrd, W.Va. 55 39.2

Br­eaux, La. 56 38.8

Cle­land, Ga. 57 38.5

Con­rad, N.D. 58 38.0

Lieber­man, Conn. 59 35.5

Landrieu, La. 60 33.8

Tor­ri­celli, N.J. 61 33.5

Hollings, S.C. 64 33.3

Re­id, Nev. 65 31.5

*Rank among 100 Sen­at­ors.


Most-Lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­ans

Com­pos­ite Lib­er­al

Rank* Score

Mo­rella, Md. 151 67.7

Port­er, Ill. 181 59.0

Boehlert, N.Y. 188 56.8

Horn, Cal­if. 190 56.5

John­son, Conn. 196 55.0

Shays, Conn. 197 54.8

Leach, Iowa 199 53.5

Castle, Del. 207 51.5

Ganske, Iowa 208 51.3

Kelly, N.Y. 209 51.3

Houghton, N.Y. 210 51.3

Gil­chrest, Md. 213 50.8

Ram­stad, Minn. 215 50.3

Up­ton, Mich. 217 49.7

Most-Con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats



Rank* Score

Hall, Texas 73 80.5

Mar­tinez, Cal­if.** 155 66.7

Lu­cas, Ky. 166 65.2

Shows, Miss. 189 59.2

McIntyre, N.C. 192 58.5

Taylor, Miss. 202 56.0

Trafic­ant, Ohio 207 55.0

Sten­holm, Texas 210 53.5

John, La. 211 53.3

Dan­ner, Mo. 213 52.3

Bar­cia, Mich. 220 49.8

Phelps, Ill. 222 49.5

Skelton, Mo. 224 49.2

For­bes, N.Y. 225 48.8

Hold­en, Pa. 230 48.3

*Rank among 433 House mem­bers. (Hastert and Vento do not have com­pos­ite rat­ings.)

**Switched to Re­pub­lic­an Party in Ju­ly 2000.

Richard E. Co­hen Na­tion­al Journ­al

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