Meet the Congressman Who Cosponsored 435 Bills

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., right, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., left, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, confer during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, to discuss jobs.
National Journal
Billy House
Aug. 7, 2013, 3 p.m.

When it comes to sign­ing onto le­gis­la­tion as co­spon­sors in Con­gress, lib­er­als are more lib­er­al with their pens.

Lib­rary of Con­gress re­cords show wide dis­par­it­ies in how much le­gis­la­tion law­makers choose to co­spon­sor. Some law­makers have ad­ded their sig­na­tures to hun­dreds of their col­leagues’ bills and amend­ments through the first sev­en months of this ses­sion, a Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily re­view has found. Oth­ers have been far more stingy.

Lead­ing the way in the House is Rep. Raul Gri­jalva of Ari­zona, a 10-term Demo­crat who has at­tached his sig­na­ture as a co­spon­sor to a whop­ping 435 bills or amend­ments — an av­er­age of al­most two a day. In the Sen­ate, Sen. Richard Blu­menth­al, D-Conn., leads the list with 248 co­spon­sor­ships.

“It’s got a little bit of act­iv­ism to it,” said Gri­jalva, who co­chairs the Con­gres­sion­al Pro­gress­ive Caucus, adding that he sees co­spon­sor­ing as an av­en­ue for law­makers in the minor­ity party to show their sup­port and con­nect with oth­er Demo­crats on is­sues they agree on, but which likely “won’t see the light of day” in terms of a vote.

The top 10 co­sign­ers in the House have each topped the 300-bill mark. Just one of them — Rep. Wal­ter Jones of North Car­o­lina (310) — is a Re­pub­lic­an.

In the Sen­ate, the 10 most-pro­lif­ic co­spon­sors have each signed onto at least 164 bills or amend­ments. All are Demo­crats, ex­cept GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine (187) and Roy Blunt of Mis­souri (185).

At the op­pos­ite end of the spec­trum — not count­ing top House lead­ers, who do not typ­ic­ally co­spon­sor many bills — are two South­ern Re­pub­lic­ans. In the House, Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., in his second term, is the stingi­est in co­spon­sor­ing, with just 32 meas­ures. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., rep­res­ents the low in the Sen­ate, at 23.

For their parts, House Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., have not co­sponsored any bills or amend­ments yet this ses­sion, not a big de­par­ture from past prac­tice (Boehner co­sponsored three meas­ures last ses­sion). Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­if., has co­sponsored 19 meas­ures so far, and Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er, D-Md., has co­sponsored 27.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., has co­sponsored 38 bills and amend­ments, while Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., has co­sponsored 70.

Shelby’s of­fice ex­plained in a state­ment that he does not co­spon­sor much le­gis­la­tion for “pro­ced­ur­al” reas­ons. “He rarely co­spon­sors bills upon in­tro­duc­tion be­cause they can change markedly in com­mit­tee from what he signed onto. And if he’s not a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee to which the bill is re­ferred, he doesn’t have the abil­ity to in­flu­ence wheth­er changes hap­pen there,” the state­ment ex­plained.

Woodall, in a state­ment, ex­plained, “Since day one, pur­pose­ful co­spon­sor­ship has been my goal. Rather than sign­ing every bill that comes across my desk, I fo­cus on those se­lect bills that I can be help­ful push­ing for­ward.”

Over­all, re­cords show that House Demo­crats av­er­aged 146 co­spon­sor­ships in the first sev­en months of the ses­sion, com­pared with 97 for Re­pub­lic­ans. Sen­ate Demo­crats av­er­age 119 co­spon­sor­ships, com­pared with 94 for Re­pub­lic­ans.

For a law­maker pro­pos­ing a bill, a high num­ber of co­spon­sors — es­pe­cially if those in­clude mem­bers of both parties — is something con­crete they can point to as evid­ence of sup­port.

Yet the prac­tice hasn’t al­ways been com­mon in both cham­bers, or even al­lowed. In fact, the House in 1909 ac­tu­ally banned the prac­tice as a re­form. But that was re­con­sidered in 1967 to al­low up to 25 co­spon­sors per bill, and in 1978 that lim­it was re­moved.

What do co­spon­sor­ships say about a law­maker?

There have been aca­dem­ic stabs at ana­lyz­ing the mo­tiv­a­tions — so­cial as well as polit­ic­al — be­hind the act of co­spon­sor­ing, res­ult­ing in a wide range of con­clu­sions and in­ter­pret­a­tions as to why le­gis­lat­ors pub­licly ex­press sup­port for a piece of le­gis­la­tion.

Some sug­gest law­makers who are most act­ive in co­spon­sor­ing tend to be less power­ful le­gis­lat­ors, of­ten new to Con­gress and eager to jump on le­gis­la­tion offered by oth­er law­makers.

Oth­er stud­ies sug­gest more soph­ist­ic­ated un­der­pin­nings, pos­it­ing that co­spon­sor­ship is one way for law­makers to sig­nal to those out­side of Con­gress their de­gree of sup­port on spe­cif­ic mat­ters.

Some stud­ies also go as far as to sug­gest there is a pos­it­ive link between lib­er­al­ism and fre­quent co­spon­sor­ship, or that pro­lif­ic co­spon­sor­ship is a func­tion of a pref­er­ence for big gov­ern­ment. Oth­ers sug­gest that it is, more than any­thing, a sig­nal of which law­makers are best con­nec­ted with­in a le­gis­lat­ive body.

“There tends to be a lot of re­cipro­city in co­spon­sorhip — you sign my bill and I’ll sign yours,” said James Fowl­er, a pro­fess­or of med­ic­al ge­net­ics and polit­ic­al sci­ence at Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia (San Diego) and the au­thor of a 2006 study on the sub­ject. “Thus, many of these in­di­vidu­als are also very likely to be ‘re­ceiv­ing’ co­spon­sor­ships as well. And both send­ing and re­ceiv­ing co­spon­sor­ships are signs that a le­gis­lat­or is so­cially well-con­nec­ted with­in the cham­ber.”

Fowl­er said in an e-mail that his work showed that be­ing well-con­nec­ted in this way is im­port­ant. It means a law­maker is more likely to per­suade col­leagues; to take lead­er­ship roles in the party; or to seek and ob­tain high­er of­fice, he said.

“I think good le­gis­lat­ors know this in­stinct­ively, that these small signs of sup­port are baby steps to­wards form­ing the kinds of re­la­tion­ship one needs in or­der to be suc­cess­ful,” Fowl­er said. “But it is also pos­sible that some people just mim­ic the strategy without hav­ing any of the oth­er skills it would take to turn these small acts in­to le­gis­lat­ive suc­cess. So it’s not al­ways true that co­spon­sor­ing a lot is a sign of a good le­gis­lat­or, but most of the time it is.”

Gri­jalva con­curs that co­spon­sor­ing of­ten has a lot to do with per­son­al re­la­tion­ships. He said he co­spon­sors a bill for two reas­ons: Either the le­gis­la­tion is something he sup­ports, a state­ment of po­s­i­tion to be seen both by con­stitu­ents and fel­low law­makers, or it is a way to show sup­port for and ap­pre­ci­ation to col­leagues, in­clud­ing new­er law­makers.

Gri­jalva, a Mex­ic­an-Amer­ic­an, notes cor­rectly that a num­ber of the top co­spon­sors in the House are “people of col­or.” He adds, “This is a way to take some ac­tion, push back as a mem­ber of the minor­ity party,” and help to cre­ate “place­hold­ers” in terms of fu­ture agenda-set­ting.

Blu­menth­al, in a state­ment from his of­fice, de­scribed his pro­lif­ic co­spon­sor­ing as a sign of his eager­ness to work with many of his col­leagues on im­port­ant is­sues, re­gard­less of party.

“Dat­ing back to my 20 years as Con­necti­c­ut’s at­tor­ney gen­er­al, my philo­sophy has been that I will seek to open any door to find pos­it­ive solu­tions for the people of Con­necti­c­ut,” the fresh­man sen­at­or said. “As a mem­ber of five over­sight com­mit­tees with broad jur­is­dic­tion, I have an op­por­tun­ity to help vet­er­ans, con­sumers, seni­ors and stu­dents, and to lead le­gis­lat­ive ef­forts on ma­jor de­fense and gun safety ini­ti­at­ives. I am proud to have worked with so many of my col­leagues on both sides of the aisle on crit­ic­al is­sues.”

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
14 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
15 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
16 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
19 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
20 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×