Why Elizabeth Warren Isn’t the Most Liberal Senator

She broke with her party over a key element of Obamacare, and opposed the estate tax. Plus, she has many very liberal colleagues.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a briefing on a Securities and Exchange Commission proposed rule October 30, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Peter Bell
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Peter Bell
Feb. 6, 2014, 7:13 a.m.

Ten years ago, Na­tion­al Journ­als vote rat­ings showed John Kerry to be the Sen­ate’s most lib­er­al mem­ber. Some called the rat­ing un­fair, but con­ser­vat­ives were glee­ful that someone else had so labeled the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee for pres­id­ent. Pres­id­ent Bush even men­tioned Kerry’s rat­ing dur­ing their second 2004 pres­id­en­tial de­bate, de­scrib­ing it as “the award he won from the Na­tion­al Journ­al.”

This year, the vote rat­ings of an­oth­er Mas­sachu­setts Demo­crat are eye-catch­ing, but for the op­pos­ite reas­on. Eliza­beth War­ren, the new­est lib­er­al icon, is not the most lib­er­al mem­ber of the Sen­ate, ac­cord­ing to this year’s Na­tion­al Journ­al vote rat­ings. War­ren’s com­pos­ite lib­er­al score of 73.2 places her as the 31st-most-lib­er­al sen­at­or. How could that be?

For starters, she broke with Pres­id­ent Obama on a very sig­ni­fic­ant piece of le­gis­la­tion, vot­ing to re­peal Obama­care’s med­ic­al-device tax — a core ele­ment to the fund­ing of the Af­ford­able Care Act. Many man­u­fac­tur­ers are based in Mas­sachu­setts, so this is an in­stance of her vot­ing her con­stitu­ency over her party. She didn’t stop there, join­ing with many Re­pub­lic­ans to “re­peal or re­duce the es­tate tax” if done in a fisc­ally re­spons­ible way. War­ren even irked con­sumer ad­voc­ates by op­pos­ing a meas­ure that would have al­lowed states to man­date la­beling of foods that con­tain ge­net­ic­ally mod­i­fied in­gredi­ents. Those dif­fer­ences gave her a lib­er­al per­cent­ile score of 75 on eco­nom­ic policy.

An­oth­er reas­on that War­ren didn’t stand out is that many of her less­er-known col­leagues are also very lib­er­al — part of the very po­lar­iz­a­tion that we write about in this week’s Na­tion­al Journ­al cov­er story. By tak­ing one small vote against her lead­er­ship, her rank­ing drops con­sid­er­ably be­cause so many Sen­ate Demo­crats have held a lib­er­al line.

On for­eign policy, War­ren re­ceived a lib­er­al per­cent­ile score of 54. In that area, War­ren took the con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tion on just one vote, vot­ing with al­most every Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an against an amend­ment to lim­it the leg­al rights of Guantanamo de­tain­ees brought to the United States (vote num­ber 238). How could War­ren get such a mod­er­ate score when she voted with Re­pub­lic­ans just once? An­swer: When Sen­at­ors vote in lock­step, small dif­fer­ences in vot­ing re­cords can have a large im­pact on per­cent­ile scores. And with nearly 30 sen­at­ors rack­ing up per­fect lib­er­al vot­ing re­cords on for­eign policy, the highest lib­er­al per­cent­ile score any of them re­ceived was a 71.

On so­cial is­sues, War­ren lived up to her repu­ta­tion, ty­ing with 26 oth­er Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors as the most lib­er­al. War­ren and well-known lib­er­als such as Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Tammy Bald­win, D-Wis., all re­ceived a score of 73 — the most lib­er­al score any sen­at­or got in that cat­egory.

Josh Kraush­aar con­trib­uted

What We're Following See More »
PLANS TO CURB ITS POWER
Pruitt Confirmed As EPA Head
2 days ago
BREAKING
WOULD HAVE REPLACED FLYNN
Harward Turns Down NSC Job
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward turned down President Donald Trump's offer to be national security adviser Thursday, depriving the administration of a top candidate for a critical foreign policy post days after Trump fired Michael Flynn." Among the potential reasons: his family, his lack of assurances that he could build his own team, and that "the White House seems so chaotic."

Source:
REVERSES OBAMA RULE
House Votes to Let States Block Planned Parenthood Funds
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"The House passed a resolution Thursday re-opening the door for states to block Planned Parenthood from receiving some federal funds. The measure, which passed 230-188, would reverse a last-minute rule from the Obama administration that said conservative states can't block the women's health and abortion provider from receiving family planning dollars under the Title X program."

Source:
FORMER PROSECUTOR
Alexander Acosta to Get Nod for Labor
3 days ago
THE LATEST
12:30 PRESS CONFERENCE
New Labor Secretary Announcement Coming
3 days ago
BREAKING
×
×

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