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.

ccp image from 07/07/11

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.

CCP image of Liberal Lions

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.