Today I start examining the party leaders through the lens of Clear Congress Project and what their legislative record can tell us about how Congress functions and that the leaders by name are not necessarily the legislative leader.
First, we’ll start off in the Senate where Harry Reid has served as the Democratic majority leader since 2005. As you can see from the image above, Reid is the undisputed legislative leader. At one point or another, every Senator has co-sponsored a piece of legislation brought forward by Reid. This demonstrates that even within a divided Congress, the majority leader of the Senate serves as the main driver of legislation. The Senate majority leader is likely to sponsor “must-pass” legislation and, as such, will collect a large number of co-sponsors who don’t want to be left out. Another factor is that Reid, as a deal-maker, will likely also attract co-sponsors as part of the deal-making process. It’s also interesting to note that the high number of cross-party co-sponsors gives Reid a stronger record of bipartisanship than many of his colleagues.
Now, if we turn our attention to the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, we get a much different picture. Looking at the above image, you can see that McConnell is not the legislative leader within his own party, with Senators Orrin Hatch, Kay Hutchinson, Jim DeMint, and John McCain garnering more co-sponsors. All of them, despite attracting more cosponsors, are also further to the right than McConnell on the partisanship axis. In other words, the minority leader has demonstrated less legislative leadership than other, more partisan members within his own party. This may be function of McConnell’s organizational duties as the minority leader, but is also likely a result of the pressure he feels from the more conservative members within his own party, who are quietly fighting for his leadership position (such as Jim DeMint) or loudly fighting for their legislative lives (Orrin Hatch).
Tomorrow I will examine the leaders within the House and the mysterious, tiny, bipartisan dot that is John Beohner.