Which party is more partisan when in power? I think that question can be answered.

And the answer, of course, is the Democratic Party.

The Washington Post tracks the votes of all representatives and senators, and also tracks how often a particular member votes with or against his party leadership. We can examine these numbers pretty well through these links:



Now, the most partisan member of the House was Republican Charlie Norwood, who voted with the leadership 100% of the time. However, this tally was for nine votes only, after which Norwood died. The second most partisan Republican is Jo-Ann Davis, who also suffers from a vote-skewing problem. She has missed most votes this year because of illness.

Even with this, though, she is only about 174 on the list. Between her and the late Charlie Norwood are a whole slew of Democrats who essentially vote the party line nearly all of the time.

The same thing can be seen on the Senate side. The most partisan Republican is John Barrasso of Wyoming, who only took office June 25th to replace the late Sen. Thomas. Above him are 21 Democrats. And at the bottom of the list, where the least partisan senators are listed, Republicans dominate.

It is clear that however much Democrats say they value bipartisanship, they don’t run their party in a way that encourages it. Debates here prove that - any Democrat that votes for a Republican proposal is savaged. And these numbers bear that out as well.

That’s interesting, I guess, but what’s the debate here?

I’m sure that if the Republicans came up with reasonable legislation, the Democrats would vote for it.

Information that is actually relevant to the question you asked is now required.

Maybe I’m missing something, but don’t you need to also look at data from when the Republicans were in power? It looks to me like your data is only for the most recent Congress.

All this proves is that Republicans who have an eye on getting re-elected need to distance themselves from the Republican agenda.


Well, just replace the “110” with a “109” in Mr. Moto’s URL, like so, and–

Well, well, well. The top portion of that list has more "R"s than a pirate convention…

Mr. Moto, old chap, I do believe that the technical term for your situation is “BUS-ted”.

There’s also a question of what it means for a party to be “in power”. In the US system, a lot of the power rests with the President, not with the Congress, so you might want to compare how much members of Congress support stuff proposed by a president of their party, as compared to supporting a president not of their party. Given how the Dems are bending over to support Bush at present, compared with how much the Repubs supported Clinton around 8 years ago, I think you might find a different picture there.

Doesn’t this belong in IMHO or, maybe, MPSIMS?

The whole OP is based on a set of votes for just over six months of a single Congress with a lot of express pressure on the congresscritters based on the recent power shift. It is silly.

Come back with the ratios of each Congress from 1990 through today and we can talk. (1990 gives us the last bipartisan Congress, followed by multiple years of excessive partisanship, beginning with the Democrats regaining complete control, followed by the “Contract on America” and the Democrats tosing away their control, and continuing through today.)

I dispute that these numbers have all that much to do with partisanship in the first place. In general, I don’t see why it should be surprising that the party in control of Congress has its members vote with the leadership more often. The leadership controls what bills are brought to the floor, so clearly under a Democratic Congress, bills which Democrats favor will be brought forward.

Furthermore, if the bills the Democratic Congress puts forward gain support from Republicans, that will make the Rs look less partisan by Mr Moto’s standard, when what really happened is the Democratic leadership promoted a bill that could gain bipartisan support.

Democrats are voting the party line? Hooray!

Since I think that Republican policies are generally crap I couldn’t be happier.

You’re missing the fact that, as Benjamin Disraeli reminds us, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. You just have to cherry-pick your data set to get the answers you want. This particular example is egregious only in how transparently, idiotically falisifable the premise is.


Let’s just choose 95% as a convenient number to use. I realize this is extremely arbitrary, but even the most maverick of congresscritters will vote with their party an overwhelming majority of the time.

95% seems to mark an especially strong partisan, and the people who hover above that mark on any list tend to bear this out.

In the 109th Congress, the people who hovered above the 95% mark were 34 Democrats, 64 Republicans and one independent. (How an independent can have a partisan record would confuse many outside observers, but it isn’t a mystery to those of us who know now-Sen. Sanders.)

In the current Congress, leaving aside corpses with fewer than ten votes, they are all Democrats. Every single last one.

Does the legislation proposed matter at all in deciding this? Certainly it does, and I’ll not deny that. And it would be fair to state that Democrats ought to hold their ground on principles they care about. I’d say the same about Republicans.

But if you do so, especially if you do so to a particularly great degree, as the Democrats seem to be doing, it would be dishonest to make noises about the need for bipartisanship, or comity, or play up a leader on the other side whose sole virtue is that he is a “maverick”.

I’m not cherry picking anything. The list of people voting with their party is right there, and if the Democrats cluster to the top of it, it is for that party to defend or explain. Maybe there were good reasons for placing such an emphasis for party unity over bipartisanship, but I’d be suspicious then if they came about later lamenting how Republicans won’t play nice.

I read the thread title and thought “There’s a fifty-fifty chance here. But somehow I already know what Moto’s answer will be before I even open the thread.”

And I was right.

The issue of the Republicans “not play[ing] nice” right now is not one of voting on legislation-- it’s refusing to vote for cloture in the Senate. Would you like to compare statistics on Senate cloture votes between the various sessions of that body?

And let me guess. When Republicans vote against a Democratic bill, they’re holding firm to the principles. When Democrats vote against a Republican bill, they’re just being partisan. When Republicans vote in favor of a Republican bill, they’re showing unity. When Demcorats vote in favor of a Democratic bill, they’re being partisan. When Republicans vote in favor of a Democratic bill, they’re showing bipartisan statesmenship. When Democrats vote in favor of a Republican bill, they’re acknowledging the Republicans are right. When Republican vote against a Republican bill, they’re showing independance. When Democrats vote against a Democratic bill, they’re showing the party is lost in confusion.

Oh no. I don’t want to play those kinds of games. There are reasons for every vote.

I just think we need to understand that party discipline is itself a reason, and right now the Democrats are practicing it to a tremendous degree. Now, that might be well justified - that depends on your viewpoint.

But should the Democrats decry rhetorically the partisan nature of Washington, as they regularly do, they ought to be called on it. They contribute to that problem as well. And if other things are more important than bipartisan comity, they ought to be straightforward about that and clam up about the partisan nastiness.

I don’t understand the OP. Is it supposed to be some kind of virtue to vote on principle against your party leadership? Isn’t the good or bad of a vote depending on the actual legislation that’s being voted on?

You’re comparing the Republicans just before they lost power to the Dems just after they gained power. I imagine that political parties tend to be more fractitious just before they go down in flames, and more unified just after they meet with electoral success.

Can you link to someone who is using the partisan breakdown of votes to “make these noises”? I think when people say that they like it when a member of the opposing party breaks with his/her leadership, its not because they regard the break in and of itself as a good thing, but rather that they naturally think their party is in the right and so the person is choosing the right side of whatever particular vote is going on.

“The partisan nature of Washington”? Can we have a definition, please? And an explanation of how the statistics in the OP apply to the definition? Because this is really not making any sense to me.

Under this rubric, it seems that we should all vote for legislators who vote randomly on bills, so long as they average 50-50 in voting for bills supported by their party leaders?