In my last post I examined the leaders of the Senate. Today I’ll start discussing the leaders of the house, beginning with the mysterious, bipartisan dot that is John Boehner, the Speaker of the House.
In the above image, Boehner is shown compared against all the members of the House. I’ve used a new feature I added last week, “dots mode,” to more clearly present where he is placed along the two axes. How could Boehner, the leader of a Republican, conservative House, end up in the most bipartisan position of any Republican?
The most important point to remember is that Clear Congress Project derives its attributes solely from their legislative sponsorship and co-sponsorship record. So while Boehner may have a more partisan voting record, this is not taken into account. A quick look at Boehner’s OpenCongress page reveals that Boehner has only sponsored three pieces of legislation (two of which garnered no cosponsors) and has co-sponsored only one piece of legislation. This lack of legislative activity is likely due to his schedule as Speaker. His organizational duties, negotiations, and golf outings fill up a lot of his schedule and leave little room for writing and co-sponsoring legislation. Even members slightly to the right of him have co-sponsored a much higher amount of legislation. For Example, Peter King has cosponsored over 100 pieces of legislation this session.
However, this doesn’t explain everything. What Boehner’s position also reveals is just how partisan the Republican majority actually is. As Republican members of the House put forth legislation that draws significantly more Republican support than Democratic support, they all drift further and further to the right on the partisanship axis. This is understandable, given that they have a significant majority. However, I would also argue that this reveals how ideology has gripped the Republican party, forcing them to put forth a flood partisan legislation that has little chance of passing the Democratically-controlled Senate. If Republicans were interested in passing legislation that could become law, they would have a much more bipartisan record as a whole, but it appears their main legislative goals are strictly political in nature.
Boehner’s legislative bipartisanship is mostly a result of his lack of legislative activity but is also a reflection of the partisan nature of his party, which is currently more interested in satisfying its political desires rather than passing legislation which has a realistic chance of becoming policy.