CONGRESS - A Shallow Bipartisanship

Feb. 2, 2002, 7 a.m.

After prom­ising dur­ing his cam­paign to change the tone in Wash­ing­ton, Pres­id­ent Bush took of­fice last Janu­ary hop­ing to re­duce the par­tis­an strife that had para­lyzed much of the Clin­ton era. Over the year that fol­lowed, Bush reg­u­larly won the sup­port of a hand­ful of Demo­crats in both the Sen­ate and the House, and he built a some­what broad­er bi­par­tis­an­ship for his two show­case pro­pos­als-tax cuts and edu­ca­tion re­form. Ef­forts at con­sensus-build­ing also en­joyed lim­ited suc­cess im­me­di­ately after the Septem­ber 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

But over­all, Na­tion­al Journ­al’s an­nu­al con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings for 2001 re­veal little change from pre­vi­ous vot­ing pat­terns. House mem­bers and Sen­at­ors con­tin­ued to vote pre­dom­in­antly along par­tis­an lines on most ma­jor is­sues.

In the Sen­ate, a cent­rist co­ali­tion was evid­ent last year, but it did not reach as deeply in­to either party as some have claimed. Con­sti­tut­ing the Sen­ate’s ideo­lo­gic­al cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to the vote rat­ings, were only six Re­pub­lic­ans, three Demo­crats, and one in­de­pend­ent-Sen. James M. Jef­fords of Ver­mont, whose de­cision last May to aban­don the GOP put the cham­ber un­der Demo­crat­ic con­trol. Even that lim­ited de­gree of bi­par­tis­an­ship was far-reach­ing when com­pared with pre­vi­ous years: In 2000, the rat­ings showed only two Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans whose av­er­age scores were more lib­er­al than those of any Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­or. And in 1999, all Demo­crats were on one side of the Sen­ate’s ideo­lo­gic­al di­vide, and all Re­pub­lic­ans were on the oth­er.

Vot­ing pat­terns changed even less in the House, where lead­ers con­tin­ued to en­cour­age a draw­ing of par­tis­an lines. The House mem­bers with the most-clear-cut cent­rist vot­ing pat­tern in­cluded roughly the same dozen “usu­al sus­pects” from each party as dur­ing the pre­vi­ous two years-not­ably, lib­er­al Re­pub­lic­an Reps. Con­stance A. Mo­rella of Mary­land and Jim Leach of Iowa, and con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crat­ic Reps. Ken Lu­cas of Ken­tucky and Ral­ph M. Hall of Texas.

In both cham­bers, party lead­ers con­tin­ued to po­s­i­tion them­selves to­ward op­pos­ing ends of the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum. In the House, for in­stance, Ma­jor­ity Whip Tom DeLay of Texas was one of six Re­pub­lic­ans with per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores. And Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­if., who took over re­cently as the minor­ity whip, wasn’t far be­hind the House’s most-lib­er­al mem­bers. Sim­il­arly, in the Sen­ate, the vote rat­ings of Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., and Minor­ity Lead­er Trent Lott, R-Miss., ranked among their most-lib­er­al and most-con­ser­vat­ive col­leagues, re­spect­ively.

These are some of the high­lights of Na­tion­al Journ­al’s con­gres­sion­al vote rat­ings for 2001. The scores, which have been com­piled each year since 1981, show where law­makers rank re­l­at­ive to one an­oth­er in the Sen­ate and House on a con­ser­vat­ive-to-lib­er­al scale, based on their votes in each of three is­sue areas: eco­nom­ic, so­cial, and for­eign. The scores are de­term­ined by a com­puter-as­sisted cal­cu­la­tion that ranks mem­bers from one end of the spec­trum to the oth­er, based on key votes-42 in the Sen­ate and 57 in the House-that Na­tion­al Journ­al re­port­ers and ed­it­ors se­lec­ted.

For ex­ample, the res­ults show that on so­cial is­sues, Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., had a lib­er­al score of 33 and a con­ser­vat­ive score of 59. This means that he was more lib­er­al than 33 per­cent of oth­er Sen­at­ors on so­cial is­sues and more con­ser­vat­ive than 59 per­cent; he tied the re­main­ing 8 per­cent. On for­eign is­sues, Mc­Cain’s lib­er­al score was 7 and his con­ser­vat­ive score was 72, pla­cing him among the more-con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­ors.

Sen­ate Rat­ings

The two Sen­at­ors with per­fect con­ser­vat­ive scores were Jesse Helms of North Car­o­lina and Strom Thur­mond of South Car­o­lina-two aging GOP icons whose in­flu­ence has di­min­ished in re­cent years be­cause of their health prob­lems. Both are re­tir­ing at the end of this year. Tim Hutchin­son of Arkan­sas-whose scores as the most-con­ser­vat­ive Sen­at­or in 2000 have made him the tar­get of Demo­crat­ic cri­ti­cism in his re-elec­tion bid this year-moved to­ward the cen­ter of Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans last year. His com­pos­ite score left 26 oth­er Sen­at­ors with more-con­ser­vat­ive rat­ings.

A single Sen­at­or was at the oth­er end of the spec­trum, with per­fect lib­er­al scores: Demo­crat Paul Well­stone of Min­nesota, who this year faces a tough re-elec­tion chal­lenge in which his vot­ing re­cord will likely be an is­sue. In­ter­est­ingly, four of the next sev­en most-lib­er­al Sen­at­ors are newly elec­ted Demo­crats. They are Jon Corz­ine of New Jer­sey, who won an open seat, plus Maria Can­t­well of Wash­ing­ton, Mark Dayton of Min­nesota, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, each of whom de­feated a Re­pub­lic­an in­cum­bent in Novem­ber 2000. Can­t­well, in par­tic­u­lar, had por­trayed her­self as a mod­er­ate “New Demo­crat” dur­ing her 2000 cam­paign.

Among the Sen­ate’s cent­rists, Jef­fords’s 2001 rat­ings changed little from his rat­ings in re­cent years. His scores were sand­wiched between those of Ar­len Specter of Pennsylvania and Lin­coln D. Chafee of Rhode Is­land, the two most-lib­er­al Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans. Specter was the only Re­pub­lic­an whose scores were in the lib­er­al half of the Sen­ate in each of the three is­sue areas. Only three Demo­crats were more con­ser­vat­ive than Jef­fords. They were Zell Miller of Geor­gia-the only Demo­crat to fall in­to the con­ser­vat­ive half of the Sen­ate in every is­sue area-plus John Br­eaux of Louisi­ana and Ben Nel­son of Neb­raska. Miller and Nel­son were first elec­ted in 2000.

The Sen­ate rat­ings also shed light on the per­form­ance of vari­ous past and pro­spect­ive pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates. Mc­Cain con­tin­ued his move to­ward the Sen­ate’s cen­ter, es­pe­cially on eco­nom­ic is­sues, as he did dur­ing his 2000 pres­id­en­tial bid. Joe Lieber­man of Con­necti­c­ut, the Demo­crats’ 2000 vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee, ranked to­ward the con­ser­vat­ive wing of Sen­ate Demo­crats, es­pe­cially on for­eign-policy is­sues. Among oth­er po­ten­tial Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial con­tenders for 2004, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and John F. Kerry of Mas­sachu­setts leaned to­ward the lib­er­al end of the Sen­ate, slightly ahead of Daschle, while John Ed­wards of North Car­o­lina was nearly tied with Lieber­man.

Mean­while, Sen­ate new­comer Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton ranked vir­tu­ally in the middle of the cham­ber’s Demo­crats. Her com­pos­ite lib­er­al score of 76 was near that of fel­low New York­er Charles E. Schu­mer.

On a re­gion­al basis, the 13 Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ors from the East had the most-lib­er­al av­er­age rat­ing, while the 13 Re­pub­lic­ans from the South were the most con­ser­vat­ive; the dif­fer­ences between those two groups were the strongest on eco­nom­ic is­sues. The nine South­ern Demo­crats and the nine East­ern Re­pub­lic­ans had av­er­age scores that placed them closest to the Sen­ate’s cen­ter, es­pe­cially on for­eign-policy is­sues.

It should be noted that last year the Sen­ate cast few­er votes than usu­al on di­vis­ive so­cial and for­eign-policy is­sues, pre­sum­ably be­cause of the cham­ber’s razor-thin mar­gin. In stark con­trast to the House, as well as to its own re­cent past, the Sen­ate agenda in­cluded not a single vote on abor­tion or crime is­sues. Al­though between 15 and 20 Sen­ate for­eign-policy votes typ­ic­ally are se­lec­ted for com­put­ing Na­tion­al Journ­al’s rat­ings, only sev­en votes in 2001 were suit­able. The small­ness of that sample ac­counts for the many tie scores in the res­ults.

House Rat­ings

In the House, each of the six Re­pub­lic­ans with a per­fect con­ser­vat­ive score in the three is­sue areas-with the ex­cep­tion of DeLay-has served less than a dec­ade, and all hail either from the South or from west of the Mis­sis­sippi River. Among House Demo­crats, eight re­ceived a per­fect lib­er­al score on every set of is­sues. They in­cluded four Cali­for­ni­ans, two New York­ers, and two oth­ers from the North­east.

Two of the House’s most-in­de­pend­ent spir­its pos­ted sig­ni­fic­ant new marks. The scores of James A. Trafic­ant Jr. of Ohio were the most con­ser­vat­ive of any House Demo­crat. Trafic­ant-who faces a fed­er­al cor­rup­tion tri­al this month-still calls him­self a Demo­crat, even though his party stripped him of his com­mit­tee as­sign­ments after he voted for J. Den­nis Hastert, R-Ill., for Speak­er a year ago. (Hall of Texas, who had been rated as the most-con­ser­vat­ive House Demo­crat in re­cent years of the rat­ings, and Lu­cas were the only oth­er Demo­crats to re­ceive a con­ser­vat­ive score in each of the three is­sue areas.)

Ron Paul of Texas, whose liber­tari­an ap­proach to gov­ern­ing has in­creas­ingly made him an icon­o­clast, trailed only Mo­rella and Leach among the most-lib­er­al House Re­pub­lic­ans. The nay-say­ing Paul re­peatedly votes against bills, from de­fense spend­ing to edu­ca­tion re­form pro­pos­als, that most Re­pub­lic­ans view as routine.

At the ideo­lo­gic­al cen­ter of the House was Sue W. Kelly, R-N.Y., whose com­pos­ite score of pre­cisely 50 meant that there were as many lib­er­als to one side of her in the cham­ber as there were con­ser­vat­ives to the oth­er side. The oth­er House mem­bers closest to the cen­ter were Demo­crats Wil­li­am Li­p­in­ski of Illinois and Mike McIntyre of North Car­o­lina, and Re­pub­lic­ans Mi­chael N. Castle of Delaware and Ben­jamin A. Gil­man of New York.

Among the 28 House Re­pub­lic­an fresh­men, five-Todd Akin of Mis­souri, John Cul­ber­son of Texas, Mike Pence of In­di­ana, and Eric Can­tor and Ed­ward Schrock of Vir­gin­ia-were among the 20 most-con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Robert Sim­mons of Con­necti­c­ut were the most-lib­er­al House GOP fresh­men. Among the 13 House Demo­crat­ic fresh­men, Brad Car­son of Ok­lahoma, Jim Math­eson of Utah, and Mike Ross of Arkan­sas were closest to the House’s cen­ter. Betty Mc­Col­lum of Min­nesota and Mike Honda and Hilda Sol­is, both of Cali­for­nia, were the most lib­er­al from that group.

In re­gion­al terms, the 72 South­ern Re­pub­lic­ans com­prised the House’s most-con­ser­vat­ive group, and the 50 West­ern Demo­crats were the most lib­er­al. The con­trast between their scores was most pro­nounced on so­cial is­sues. To­ward the cen­ter of the House were the 39 East­ern Re­pub­lic­ans and the 52 South­ern Demo­crats.

Richard E. Co­hen Na­tion­al Journ­al

What We're Following See More »
SCOTUS Will Hear DC Sniper Case
4 hours ago

"The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider Virginia’s plea to reinstate the life-without-parole sentence of a man who as a teenager participated in sniper shootings that terrorized the Washington, D.C., region in 2002. The justices said they will take up the state’s appeal in the case of Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 when he and John Allen Muhammad fatally shot 10 people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Malvo was sentenced to life-without-parole terms in Virginia and in Maryland, and Muhammad was sentenced to death and was executed in 2009. Malvo was sentenced to four life terms for crimes he committed in Virginia. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled last year that while Malvo’s life-without-parole sentences were legal when they were imposed."

U.S. Grand Jury Seeks info on How 737 MAX Is Made
5 hours ago

"Federal prosecutors and Department of Transportation officials are scrutinizing the development of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX jetliners, according to people familiar with the matter, unusual inquiries that come amid probes of regulators’ safety approvals of the new plane. A grand jury in Washington, D.C., issued a broad subpoena dated March 11 to at least one person involved in the 737 MAX’s development, seeking related documents, including correspondence, emails and other messages."

MBS Stripped of Some Powers
5 hours ago

"The heir to the Saudi throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and is alleged to have been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, the Guardian has been told. The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman."

Mass Shooting in Dutch City of Utrecht
5 hours ago
Feds Raided Broidy's Offices Last Year
5 hours ago

"Federal authorities raided the office of Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy last summer, seeking records related to his dealings with foreign officials and Trump administration associates, according to a sealed search warrant obtained by ProPublica. Agents were authorized to use the megadonor’s hands and face to unlock any phones that required fingerprint or facial scans."


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.