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Republicans Run From Partisan Voting

Fresh off winning election to the Senate in the fall of 2002, Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) entered the chamber as a staunch conservative, voting with a majority of his GOP colleagues nearly 94 percent of the time in the 108th Congress.

In 2005 and 2006, Coleman sided with a majority of Republicans on less than 85 percent of the votes he cast in the 109th Congress. Now, facing re-election in 2008 in a state that's grown increasingly hostile to Republicans, Coleman is voting with his GOP colleagues just 79 percent of the time so far this year.

Coleman's not alone. Across the board, Republicans have shed their partisan natures while Democrats have grown more sure ideologically in the first five months of the 110th Congress. The average GOP senator voted with a majority of Republicans on nearly 92 percent of roll calls in the 108th -- while Democrats stood at less than 85 percent. And so far this year the average Senate Republican has voted with his or her majority just 83 percent of the time. (Democrats are now voting together 90 percent of the time.)

These are the findings in a new database feature created by washingtonpost.com's Derek Willis and Adrian Holovaty, who have built an online analysis of how often members of Congress vote with a majority of their colleagues. This is about as fair a guidepost as there is for measuring the partisan nature of a member of Congress. [It will not surprise many Republicans to learn that the most partisan senator so far this year is Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), voting almost 99 percent of the time with the Democratic majority.]

No one has seen their partisan leanings fall more in the past five years than Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who first won election in 1996 and has so far dodged any tough challengers for the fall of 2008. Smith was with a majority of Republicans on more than 94 percent of his votes in the 108th Congress, but is now down to just 73 percent of his votes siding with most Republicans.

"Different congresses present different votes," said R.C. Hammond, Smith's spokesman, explaining the drop.

Other Republicans argued that in 2003 there were a huge number of votes on judicial nominations, tax cuts and the Iraq war. They noted the overall trend of Republicans becoming more independent, adding that with Democrats in charge there are more votes on things that they always supported but never had a chance to vote on, such as the minimum wage. "The senator's had these positions for a long time," Hammond said.

With Democrats firmly in charge, there have been few votes on President Bush's judicial nominees and no big tax votes. Smith, for example, has dropped his support for the war and is voting with Democrats on almost every vote related to Iraq.

And, a similar shift in the opposite direction is noticeable among Democrats, even centrist Democrats. Take Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Finance Committee chairman long distrusted by the left. Baucus, voting with a majority of his Democratic colleagues barely 82 percent of the time the previous four years, is currently siding with them almost 92 percent of the time.

Here's a breakdown of selected senators and their "with party" voting percentages in the 108th, 109th and 110th Congresses. The list includes senators who are up for re-election for the first tim in 2008, along with a few veteran incumbents considered to be in potentially tough races. They're ranked from those have seen the sharpest drop in partisan voting to those at the bottom who've grown the most partisan.

SENATOR 108th 109th 110th
Gordon Smith (R-Ore) 94.2 87.1 73.2
Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) 93.9 84.8 79.2
Susan Collins (R-Maine) 83.9 74.7 74
Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) 96.5 92.7 88.2
Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) 94 87.9 N/A
John Sununu (R-N.H.) 91.2 84.1 86
Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) 95.5 92.9 91.7
John Cornyn (R-Texas) 96.5 92.5 93.4
Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) 97.3 93.2 94.4
Mary Landrieu (D-La.) 85.3 82.5 87.6
Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) 88.6 85.7 92.3
Max Baucus (D-Mont.) 82.1 82.5 91.7

By Paul Kane  |  May 31, 2007; 4:48 PM ET
 
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Comments

Good luck, GOP (not). It is too late. You have lost the independent
voters, and the evangelicals won't be enough to save you.
Many of your cheating ways have been discovered, so election
fraud won't save you either. You will suffer heavy losses in the
House and Senate, and will lose the White House as well. Even
then your pain will not be over. Far from it. Without the executive
branch, you will lose the power to obstruct justice. Indictments
by the score will come down. I suggest that you start getting used
to the idea of permanent minority status.

Posted by: Andrew | May 31, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

They will all be unemployed after november... its too late to be a good guy after you've been following, harboring, and protecting illegal political scum for the last 6 years.

Posted by: JBE | May 31, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Does it really matter?
Neither party is for America.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 31, 2007 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Funny how their attitudes changed when they realized that they were going to get their keisters handed to them by angry voters.

You Republican vermin came to grips with reality far to long after the fact. You'll see a lot of familiar faces in the unemployment lines in January 2009--and I'm sure that your hero, Mr. Decider, can't wait to help you in return for your many years of blind support.

Posted by: mikeasr | May 31, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Can't some of this explained by the polarization of the Party's? The Republican's, at least in recent years, have been right wing fruitcakes. Now, it appears that the "traditional" Democrats are turning into left wing lunatics. This isn't meant to be name calling. It is meant to describe their stands on "wedge" issues like abortion/choice, gun control/bill of rights, etc. At the same time, I don'tt notice much difference when it comes to core issues. I see Kennedy ponying up to the same corporate trough as Bush when it comes to more H1-B visas when 30% of our own engineers are unemployed; they all apparently want to please businessmen who use illegals to wring wage and benefit concessions from Amercian workers; and they all seem to want to spend OUR money on private junkets and line their pockets. Kennedy, Bush, Clinton, Gulliani, Obama, McCain? What's the difference? Once you get beyond the blather, none.

Posted by: MikeB | May 31, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but "running" from partisan voting is not exemplified by these numbers. Get back to us when these Repuke "moderates" are only voting with their fellow travelers 50% of the time.

Posted by: Marcy R. | May 31, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Just because their president has trouble reading and knows no History...do they think that the rest of us are unaware or that we can't lookup the info?

Posted by: Kase | May 31, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

No offense to the writer, but I don't think he has any undestanding of statistics because what he has cited are non remarkable in any process over this period of time and the number of measurements. If anything, it says that Republicans are issues voters and not dogmatic like the Dems.

Posted by: George Albert | May 31, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Tune into Larry King tonight and see all the GOP jerking off to a Reagan. They will see Nancy on the TV screen put we all know the present GOP will have a picture of Ronnie in the palms of their hands and screaming out RONNIE, as they sexual assult themselves.

Posted by: 1-20-09 | May 31, 2007 7:18 PM | Report abuse

1-20-09 - Now, I'll admit to being a Democrat, a very sick and tired Democrat when I see how utterly clueless and self serving Kennedy and Clinton and Obama and Dodd are, but Reagan was a pretty good President and a saint compared to the crowd of candidates running for his office today..either party. The only possible exception to this Edwards and he likely has no chance with the other grubby little swine flush with all of their corporate money. Pray tell, oh wise one, what was so bad about Ronald Reagan? He loved his wife and was devoted to his family? Maybe becasue Jane whats-her-name divorced him? Or, because, as his diaries pretty well establish, he had nothing whatsoever to do with Iran-Contra? Of, becasue he successfully opposed an illegal strike by a bunch of public employees bent on blackmailing him for a 20% pay raise (air traffic controllers strike). He was honest and although I never voted for him out of misplaced partisan loyalty, I regret it. The Democratic Party has deserted ordinary working men and women. They caved on Iraq after a bunch of blather. They passed legislation forbidding American's *reimporting* prescription drugs from Canada and Europe, protecting the profits of pharaceutical corporations. Kennedy, Clinton, and Obama all want to either increase the number of H1-B visas for Bill Gates, mor Indian workers to replace even more U.S. workers, and even in the face of the fact that 30% of our own engineers are unemployed. It's a shame, but you're being misled and lied to. The Democrats don't care about you any more than the Republican's do. Get used to it. Kennedy and Clinton and Obama are as much your enemy as is Bush and Cheney. They are waging a terrorist campaign against the Amercian Middle Class and poor. If they get what's comng to them, they will be run out of office and we'll elect someone froma third party as THEIR replacement worker...or we'll all vote "None Of The Above".

Posted by: MikeB | May 31, 2007 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are taking on issues that really matter to the American people. This is the outcome of an outpouring of demands from voters. From health care to education and poverty, these issues take precedence over an ever-inflating military budget that seems to bring no resolve for any country involved.

The Borgen Project states that just $19 billion annually can end starvation and $23 billon annually can reverse the spread of Malaria and AIDS. In contrast, we have spent over $340 billion in Iraq. With poverty being so easily addressed, it is no wonder that a war-touting Republican side isn't doing well in the polls or with the American people.

Posted by: ellec | May 31, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

They can run, but they can't hide . . .

Posted by: Gardenia | May 31, 2007 8:24 PM | Report abuse

You don't suppose the change of heart for Senator Coleman has to do with the fact that he will be running against Al Franken, do you?

Posted by: Brent | May 31, 2007 9:35 PM | Report abuse

What will be even more interesting than this survey now will be one in the fall or early next year when if Iraq is not showing any signs of relief, how many republicans will be ready to jump their "stay the course everything is fine" and finally listen to the American people for a change before they find themselves being voted out of office next year. The closer the election, the bigger the swing, I predict.

Posted by: visitor | May 31, 2007 9:44 PM | Report abuse

This is an interesting intellectual exercise, but how many actual voters analyze a candidate's complete voting record?

On the other hand, my sense is that most, if not all, Conservatives find that they're no longer represented in Washington.

Posted by: tim | May 31, 2007 9:55 PM | Report abuse

MikeB
What the heck are you smoking and where can I get some?
Steve

Posted by: stevel | May 31, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Well, Mr. Kane, it appears it no longer matters what the subject of your articles are, from now on your blog will be immigration, immigration, immigration. There seems to be a group of folks who, having been whipped into a frenzy by dubious pundits, intend to hijack any blog available, to wax psychotic about immigration reform.
We get it, you uncouth bigot-bots, you don't want the immigration bill to pass. OK. There are a lot of other people who oppose the bill, that somehow still manage to do so while observing social norms, manners, and generally agreed upon, if tacit, rules of decorum.
The article above is about Congressional voting habits. Comment on it, rant about, make some profound observation about it, but, for the love of God, would you please stick to the topic of the article.

Posted by: Patrick Huss | June 1, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Be wary of what you wish for. It has been shown that divided government works best. Just look at what has transpired under one party control. Independent voters outnumber both political parties. Until they can unite under a single banner we are stuck with a two party system that has been bought by the corporate world. Both parties use wedge issues to divide and conquer the electorate while they colude to rape the country.

Posted by: rlbowolick | June 1, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Too little, too late. I am now an Independent. You fooled me twice, shame on me. I advise all of the Scum Rep. and Dem. to learn Spanish, hold hands, it's gonna be a BUMPY RIDE for you TRAITORS!!

Posted by: hdrider | June 1, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Nothing will save the republicans. false patriots and demogogues. It will take years to fix the mess they created. Kids who grew up with Raygun as president and seen what happens if you vote for the image, believe the lies, and just let it happen, are waking up. They will never vote republican. The radical christian right is the laughing stock of the country and will retreat to their false-idol mega-churches or lose their worldly, tax-exempt, status. 40 years in the wilderness is the penalty for idol worship.

Posted by: thebob.bob | June 1, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

As usual more ad hominem attacks and infantile vitriol from a bunch of bitter, little liberals. I notice no real arguments, however. I guess when your history has proven your Marxist/Socialist ideas to be completely wrong that's all you've got left.

Posted by: JC | June 1, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Its not entirely about one side becoming more ideological and the other side becoming less so when power switches, its largely about controlling the agenda. With Harry Reid having the primary say in what comes to the floor instead of Bill Frist, there are less awkward wedge issues for Democrats, like flag burning, and more for Republicans, like the minimum wage hike.

Posted by: anon reader | June 1, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

JD, as if I should have to say this, "liberalism" does not equate to "Marxism." The first is one side of an argument over how government should be funded and how those funds are spent. The second is a Utopian philosophy which has never been attempted. (The "Soviet bloc" were totalitarian dictatorships in which the economy was state-run but manipulated by those in power.)
Instead, liberals only seek to ensure that the largely privately-owned and operated components of today's market are asked to contribute to the welfare of all (i.e. their customers.) A market economy only works when it has both those who produce and those who consume, and those who consume must have the disposable income to do so.
And in re your comment: "when your history has proven your Marxist/Socialist ideas to be completely wrong"
That's incorrect. It has proven that a Utopian system cannot work in the real world due to human nature. If you read Marx' description of the progress of history when capitalism is left unchecked, ol' Karl sounds like a prophet.

Posted by: Bokonon | June 1, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

These statistics don't actually say anything meaningful, there's not enough information. Showing that members of congress didn't vote as a block with as much or less consistency of previous congresses doesn't actually demonstrate a shift without an analysis of what the votes were actually on. Unless their not voting with the colleagues en masse was done on issues in a way that is inconsistent with previous voting patterns or with the parties' stated ideologies this tells us nothing of value.
Using straight-up percentages is a kind of shell game as well, it does not indicate whether a party is more dogmatically ideological or more issue oriented. Without the numbers behind the percentages, and a way to place what they were voting on in an ideological frame (besides a couple of people quoted as saying these were issues more salient to Democrats), this article is pointless. Maybe most of us don't have the attention span to slog through a real statistical analysis of voting records, but if that's the case, presenting this half-assed attempt amounts to a waste of everyone's time, and a sad attempt to make a story out of nothing. Or perhaps I zoned out during the part that tied everything together in a way that makes sense and made this have a point?

Posted by: shuston | June 3, 2007 1:46 AM | Report abuse

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