Congress Sets Record for Voting Along Party Lines

And you wonder why things are so slow on Capitol Hill?

A view of the US Capitol on January 27, 2014 in Washington.
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Elahe Izad
Feb. 3, 2014, 10:11 a.m.

The year of the gov­ern­ment shut­down was also the year that Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats voted among them­selves like nev­er be­fore. 

House Re­pub­lic­ans in 2013 voted with their caucus an av­er­age of 92 per­cent of the time, break­ing the pre­vi­ous re­cord of 91 per­cent in 2011, ac­cord­ing to a new study from CQ Roll Call. The House GOP voted un­an­im­ously on party-unity votes — those that di­vided parties — 35 per­cent of the time, also inch­ing past the pre­vi­ous re­cord of 34 per­cent in 2010.

A look at the Sen­ate of­fers a sim­il­ar pic­ture, but in re­verse; Sen­ate Demo­crats broke their pre­vi­ous re­cord on party unity in 2013 when law­makers voted an av­er­age of 94 per­cent with their caucus. Un­an­im­ous vot­ing also reached a new high: the Demo­crat­ic caucus voted un­an­im­ously 52 per­cent on party-unity votes, which shat­ters the re­cord for either party in either cham­ber (the last high was 46 per­cent in 2011).

The rank­ings, which come from CQ Roll Call‘s Vote Stud­ies which tracks votes since 1956, un­der­score why the 113th Con­gress was one of the least pro­duct­ive in his­tory, with less than 60 bills ac­tu­ally be­com­ing law. Get­ting le­gis­la­tion through both cham­bers and past the pres­id­ent’s desk is a feat when nearly every­one in Con­gress al­most al­ways votes with their own party and not the oth­er. Wel­come to Con­gress, where the middle ground is full of tumble­weeds, rather than people cast­ing votes.