One of the semi-official annual analysis/rankings of the voting records of members of Congress came out Monday. It’s done every March by National Journal and gives each member an overall score on the liberal/conservative spectrum. It also breaks each member’s voting down across economic, social and foreign-policy issues. For those who want to do their own study and analysis, the methodology of the rankings is explained here. The entire ranking of the House is here and the Senate here.
The summaries of the Minnesota members is below. A few quick impressions:
Not too surprisingly, Rep. Michele Bachmann is the most conservative member of the delegation. Her overall conservatism percentage is 89.8, and she is ranked the 28th most conservative member of the House overall. Perhaps slightly more surprising, she barely edges out John Kline for the Minnesota conservatism award. He came in 32nd among conservatives, with an overall 89.0. Close watchers know that Kline is very solidly conservative, just not in as flamboyant or media-centric a way as Bachmann. Bachmann and Kline both scored a perfect zero for liberalism on foreign-policy issues. It would be fun to know what issues caused Bachmann to be rated 10 percent liberal on social issues.
Minnesota’s most junior Republican, freshman Rep. Erik Paulsen, looks substantially more moderate. His 2009 voting record is rated 69.2 percent conservative, making him the 144th most conservative member of the House. This is a tad more conservative than his predecessor, the famously (or notoriously) moderate Repub Jim Ramstad, but considering there were 178 Republicans in the House, it puts Paulsen left of center among House Republicans.
Most liberal Dems
Betty McCollum was ranked Minnesota’s most liberal member of Congress. With an overall “liberalism” score of 90.5 percent, McCollum was rated the 18th most liberal member of the House. If you expected to see Keith Ellison in that spot, he scored 86.3 and came in 44th. McCollum was rated more liberal than Ellison last year as well (and she came in 12th most liberal in the entire House last year). It wouldn’t be wise to attach much meaning to small year-to-year swings like that, since the ratings are certainly affected by which issues happened to come up for votes.
McCollum rated least liberal (only 81 percent) on economic issues. Ellison rated least liberal on foreign-policy issues (69.) Be interesting to know what those votes were as well.
Jim Oberstar, the dean of the delegation, voted with the liberals on 73 percent of the roll-call votes scored by National Journal, which makes him the 130th most liberal member. Since there were 257 Democrats in the House, that puts him almost dead center among his caucus. Oberstar, who is pro-life, rated as slightly more conservative than liberal on social issues.
Two moderate Dems
Tim Walz, the sophomore Democrat from southern Minnesota’s 1st District, received an overall score of 63.8 percent liberal/36.2 percent conservative. This made him the 166th most liberal member of the House in 2009, by National Journal’s methodology. That means he is left of the center of the House, but well right of the center of the Democratic spectrum. Walz is most liberal on foreign-policy issues and least liberal on social issues.
(Walz’s re-election campaign put out a press release based on the National Journal rankings, boasting that the ranking proves Walz is a “centrist.” Unlike McCollum, Ellison and Oberstar, all of whom represent districts that have been sending Democrats to Congress for 50 years or more, Walz represents a swing district and has to worry about such things.)
Collin Peterson of Western Minnesota is a Democrat, but one of the bluest of Blue Dogs. He scores as the 243rd most liberal member and the 188th most liberal. So he is well to the right of the midpoint of the House and, by National Journal’s methodology, he is the 10th most conservative Democrat in the House. But it’s worth noting that even as the 10th most conservative Democrat, not a single Republican in the House scores to the left of Peterson. This is a reminder of one of the big developments of the past 30 years in Congress. There used to dozens of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress, but they are basically all gone. The parties are much more ideologically “pure” than has been the case historically, which has enormous consequences for the way business is done in Congress, and is one of the reasons that Democrats have been unable to create any serious bipartisan story around the health-care bill or many other matters.
The overall Senate rankings are here.
Al Franken did not get scored. I assume that’s because he joined the Senate so late in 2009 that the National Journal didn’t have enough votes to rank him.
Amy Klobuchar, believe it or not, came in in the dead-center of the Senate. She was the 50th most liberal and the 49th most conservative. She was rated 54.8 percent to the liberal side (and 45.2 to the conservative side). And Klobuchar’s relatively middle-of-the-road scores held true across economic, social and foreign-policy issues.
One last note. Despite (or perhaps because of) having a delegation that includes liberals, conservatives and moderates, when you blend together the votes of all Minnesota’s House members, the state gets an overall ranking of 51.4 percent liberal, which makes it (contrary, I suppose, to its stereotype in the national mind) the 21st most liberal state. The blended state rankings are here. There are several surprises on the map. For example, Mississippi and Arkansas are in the middle group with us, while New Mexico is in the liberal group.
For those who want to pore over the delegation’s scores in more detail …