Yet the new Bipartisan Index from The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown shows there are significant differences among them in the degree of partisanship they demonstrated in the last Congress--which could be an indication of how successful they might be in ending the partisan gridlock in the chamber.
The Bipartisan Index, unveiled this spring by former Sen. Richard G. Lugar, President of the Lugar Center, and Dr. Edward Montgomery, Dean of the McCourt School, ranks each member of the last Congress on a partisanship scale, based on the bills they introduced or co-sponsored. The unique methodology calculates the frequency with which a member co-sponsors a bill introduced by the opposite party and the frequency with which a member’s own bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party. Members are compared to a 20-year historical baseline of members in similar circumstances.
The index measures the efforts of legislators to broaden the appeal of their sponsored legislation, to entertain a wider range of ideas, and to prioritize governance over posturing.
Each member of the House is assigned a score and ranked from 1, the most bipartisan, to 422, the most partisan. (Several House members were eliminated because they served only briefly, didn’t introduce enough legislation, or for other technical reasons.) In the House, 142 members had positive scores on the index and were considered “Bipartisan Legislators” with a demonstrated willingness to reach across the aisle. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, more than half of them were Republicans. Anyone ranked lower than 142, with a negative score, is considered partisan. (For more details, click here)
Kevin McCarthy of California, Boehner’s No. 2 and the leading candidate to replace him as speaker, ranks 174 on the list, a partisan ranking but less so than many others, which may explain why some Tea Partiers are unhappy with him. Dan Webster of Florida, at the other end of the bipartisan spectrum at 397, is also running but not considered likely to win.
The more competitive race appears to be for McCarthy’s current job as majority leader. The announced candidates so far are Steve Scalise of Louisiana, ranked 389, and Tom Price of Georgia, ranked 346. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chair of the Benghazi committee with one of the most partisan scores in the House, ranked 406, had been urged to run by Tea Party types, but announced Sept. 29 he would not seek a leadership post.
As we have talked to members about the Bipartisan Index, one thing we have heard from some, on both sides of the aisle, is frustration over the perceived attempts by leaders of the opposing party to discourage, or even prevent, their members from joining a bill with the other party, notwithstanding the merits of the legislation. That’s putting partisanship above problem-solving. If these new Republican leaders adopt a hostile policy toward bipartisan bill sponsorship by their members, then prospects for legislative progress will dim further.
Finally, a number of potential candidates have emerged for the No. 3 job, majority whip, including Dennis Ross of Florida, ranked 277, Texas’ Pete Sessions, ranked 288, and possibly Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, ranked 357. But the favorite appears to be Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, ranked 321 on the index.
October 5 update: Over the weekend, Utah’s Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, announced that he had been “recruited” by his conservative colleagues to challenge McCarthy in the race for House Speaker. Chaffetz said he offers a “fresh face” compared to McCarthy, who has been in House leadership for a while. But his ranking on the Bipartisan Index is 194, only a bit more partisan than McCarthy’s 174.
Jay Branegan serves as a Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center.