The Republicans on the deficit commission are more conservative than the Democrats are liberal
Here are the legislators serving on the president's deficit commission: For the Democrats, Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, and Dick Durbin are representing the Senate, and Xavier Becerra, Jan Schakowsky, and John Spratt are representing the House. For the Republicans, Mitch McConnell sent over Judd Gregg, Tom Coburn, and Mike Crapo, while John Boehner deputized Paul Ryan, Jeb Hensarling, and Dave Camp. (Head here for their bios, and everyone else on the commission.) Something you may notice: The Republicans are much more conservative than the Democrats are liberal.
This becomes very clear if you run the numbers. I used the DW-NOMINATE rankings to figure out where the various members stood in relation to their colleagues. Max Baucus, for instance, is the 51st most liberal member of the Senate, while Tom Coburn is the least liberal -- which is to say, most conservative -- member of the Senate. Then I averaged out the rankings of each group. The results were telling.
The Senate Democrats on the commission equal out to position 35 -- that is to say, there are more than 30 Democrats who are more liberal than the deficit commission team, which means the deficit commission team is a bit more conservative than the average Senate Democrat. Not so for the Republicans. They average out to position 94. That is to say, there are only a handful of Republicans more conservative than this group. So on the Senate side, the Democrats are a bit less liberal than the average Democrat and the Republicans are a lot more conservative than the average Republican.
The story on the House side is a bit more muted: The Democrats end up in position 84. The Republicans end up in position 384. That means there are more than 80 Democrats who are more liberal than the Democrats' deficit commission group, and about 50 Republicans more conservative than the Republican contingent. As Democrats control more seats than Republicans do, this means the House Republicans are only slightly more conservative than the House Democrats are liberal.
The point here isn't to allege bad faith on either side: Democrats picked the Democrats and Republicans chose the Republicans. But the result is more ideological moderates on the Democrats' side than on the Republican side. That may not be a surprise: Republicans filibustered the creation of this commission because they didn't want to compromise on taxes, and so when Obama outmaneuvered them and created the commission anyway, they sent people not likely to compromise on taxes. On the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi sent people who weren't likely to compromise on benefit cuts, and Harry Reid sent people who were interested in cutting a grand bargain on the budget.
What will this all mean? Who knows? The commission hasn't issued their report yet, and they may surprise us, or find themselves unable to come to any agreement at all. But it's worth being aware of these dynamics beforehand.
August 30, 2010; 2:27 PM ET
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