Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Surprise! Bennet and Gardner are actually pretty bipartisan

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 4:06 PM

click to enlarge Study: Sen. Michael Bennet isn't that partisan.
  • Study: Sen. Michael Bennet isn't that partisan.
According to a "non-partisan ranking of how often each Member of Congress works across party lines," performed by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, you are right to think that Congress has devolved into partisan bickering.

"We hear often from commentators who claim that we are experiencing an extraordinarily partisan era," it states. "Regrettably, our analysis bears this out to a large extent. You can see by the charts that the last three Congresses have yielded very low scores on the Bipartisan Index. The 112th and 113th Congresses had the two lowest scores among the eleven Congresses that we have analyzed so far."

But there is some good news for those who would like to see politicians be a little less political. According to the study, Sen. Michael Bennet, who is facing more than a dozen Republican challengers in the 2016 election, isn't the unyielding liberal that Republicans make him out to be. Nor is Colorado's other senator, Cory Gardner, unwilling to compromise.

The study found Bennet to be the 23rd most bipartisan Senator.  Gardner was rated slightly below Bennett, as the 27th most bipartisan. Remember, since there are 100 members of the Senate, that means that both Colorado's senators rate as pretty cooperative — at least compared to their peers.

The ratings for the U.S. House of Representatives are perhaps more disappointing for those who believe in cooperation. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican, takes the crown for Colorado in this rating, coming in as the 25th most bipartisan representative (out of 435 members). Other Colorado Republicans rate much lower: Rep. Scott Tipton is 140th, Rep. Doug Lamborn is 348th, and Rep. Ken Buck is 397th. Of the Democrats: Rep. Ed Perlmutter is 62nd, Rep. Diana DeGette is 108th, and Rep. Jared Polis is 142nd.

The study used a unique method to rate legislators:

"We sought to develop an objective measure of how well members of opposite parties work with one another using bill sponsorship and co-sponsorship data. We gravitated toward bill sponsorships and co-sponsorships for two reasons. First, they allowed us to construct a highly objective measure of partisan and bipartisan behavior. Second, sponsorship and co-sponsorship behavior is especially revealing of partisan tendencies. Members’ voting decisions are often contextual and can be influenced by parliamentary circumstances. Sponsorships and co-sponsorships, in contrast, exist as very carefully considered declarations of where a legislator stands on an issue.

The Bipartisan Index measures 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.

It is essential to understand that one cannot get a clear and fair picture simply by tallying up bipartisan sponsorships and co-sponsorships in a single Congress. The main problem is that behavior related to sponsoring and co-sponsoring bills differs greatly depending on whether a member is in the majority or minority. To overcome this problem and give our index greater historical value, we constructed a 20-year baseline of data to which majority and minority members could be compared. One also must make decisions about how to compare members who co-sponsor a lot of bills with those who co-sponsor only a few; whether and how to give credit for an increasing number of bipartisan co-sponsors on a bill; whether to include commemorative legislation and resolutions; and how to handle members who introduce a very small number of bills or none at all. We tested solutions to each of these questions and others before settling on what we believe is an effective formula for measuring bipartisanship."

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