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.
John Boehner's dot
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.
The biggest political news of today is that Obama has signaled a willingness to make reductions to social security, medicare and medicaid in order to facilitate a “Grand Bargain” that will reduce the deficit by perhaps $4 trillion over the next decade. Liberals responded by sending a strong letter to Obama, signed by leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. What I’d like to show is how these Progressive leaders actually stack up legislatively and who in the Progressive caucus is really getting work done.
Some who signed the letter to Obama
In the image above, I highlighted some of the legislators who signed the letter to Obama mentioned in the Politico article. They all fall squarely withing the left half of the diagram, as expected. Liberals are more likely to co-sponsor or sponsor Democratic legislation, after all. However, none of these legislators have strong legislative leadership records. In fact, the leader of the Progressive Caucus, Grijalva has the lowest leadership score of any legislator. Perhaps not surprisingly he also has the most Democratic partisanship score. This may demonstrate the difficulty of being an extreme partisan in the minority party. This may also be a reflection that, as the leader of a caucus, much of his work might not be legislative but more organizational or “behind-the-scenes”. But, surprisingly, the biggest Democratic heavyweight in the House are also members of the Progressive Caucus, the big three being Barbara Lee, Rosa DeLauro, and Lynn Woolsey, as shown in the image below.
House Democratic leaders are members of the Progressive Caucus
As shown above, though some members of the Progressive Caucus may appear as relatively weak legislative leaders, Progressives also make up all of the Democratic leaders in Congress, where as those with more bipartisan tendencies tend to have little legislative power. I included the network lines to demonstrate that their legislative power derives almost entirely from their side of the aisle. What this demonstrates is that Progressives are the true power within the Democratic minority and Obama should probably be on friendly terms and take their letters to heart. This especially true if Dems manage to take back the house, which will likely catapult the Progressive Caucus to an even more powerful position as leaders of the majority. This also this sheds some light on the partisan atmosphere within Congress, and how legislative power in this environment can come almost entirely from within your own party.
This phenomenon is also reflected on the Republican side, which I will explore tomorrow.