Senate Democrats, once happy to rail against what they called obstructionist Republicans in the chamber, flipped positions with their friends across the aisle when it came to partisanship in the 114th Congress.
A new report from the Lugar Center and Georgetown University shows that most senators — almost two-thirds of the chamber — acted more bipartisan when it came to cosponsorships on bills during the most recent Congress, compared to the Congress before.
But it was Republicans who made bigger gains. While both parties in the 113th Congress — which spanned 2013 and 2014 — were below the average for all senators during the last 20 years, GOP senators in the 114th Congress had a score slightly higher than the average (after controlling for which party was in the majority). Democrats remained lower than the average for all minority senators during the 20-year benchmark period.
The Lugar Center, led by former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, and the McCourt School of ublic Policy at Georgetown University today jointly released their new Bipartisan Index rankings of all members of Congress, completing the picture of the 114th Congress (2015-2016). The non-partisan tool indicates the degree to which Senators and Representatives work across party lines.
The rankings of the 114th Congress are based on bill sponsorship and co-sponsorship.
They are directly comparable to the data for the 113th Congress (2013-14), which was one of the most partisan of the past 20 years, and provide historical context for the increased partisanship in Congress over the past two decades. According to the new figures, 61 senators improved their Index scores, while 23 fared worse. In the House, 212 members had higher scores for the 114th Congress than the 113th, while 139 had lower ones.
The new data allows voters to see over time how willing their senators and representatives have been to work across party lines. Based on the scores, Senator Susan Collins (R, Me.) was the most bipartisan senator and Rep. Pete King (R, NY) was the most bipartisan representative. This is the second Congress in a row in which Senator Collins finished with the top Senate score. Rep. King was second among all House members in the previous Congress.
For the Senate in the 114th, 45 senators were above zero, and therefore judged to be “bipartisan,” meaning they scored better than the average senator in their circumstances during the 20-year baseline period (1993-2013). Fifty-three senators scored below zero. This is an improvement from the 113th when 36 senators scored above 0.00 and 62 scored below it.
The House also improved, though not by as much. In the House in the 114th, 152 members were above 0.00, and 275 were below 0.00. This compares to 142 above 0.00 and 280 below 0.00 in the 113th
The Bipartisan Index measures how often a member of Congress introduced bills that succeed in attracting co-sponsors from members of the other party, and how often they in turn co-sponsor a bill introduced from across the aisle. The Index is based on a formula applied uniformly to all members. No subjective judgments are made about individual members or bills. The Index serves as a critical resource for voters and the media and, its sponsors hope, encourages lawmakers to be more bipartisan when writing or co-sponsoring legislation.
The scores released today update interim scores released last year for the calendar year 2015, the first session of the 114th Congress. Bipartisan Index scores tend to rise modestly during the second year of a Congress due to Index components that benefit from the accumulation of bipartisan bills and co-sponsorships. Therefore, the scores for the entire 114th Congress will tend to beat those of the first session.
To see current and previous Bipartisan Index rankings, click here.