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Dancing with who brung ’em

US capitol

The annual Congressional Quarterly ratings of members of Congress are out, meaning we have some detailed analysis of pieces of the voting record of the delegation.

The three key numbers in the analysis (delivered via the link in the form of a handy spreadsheet) are “participation” (the percentage of key votes actually cast), percentage support for their own party’s position, and support for the position of the White House.

The participation score is easily disposed of, since the delegation uniformily did well there. The low number was for Oregon Democratic Representative Darlene Hooley, but that likely reflects a stretch during the year when she was under the weather, and it was a still-respectable 89%. The next lowest was Washington Democrat Norm Dicks at 93%, also pretty solid. Among House members the highest percentage (99%) belongs to two incumbents who were hard-challenged, Idaho Republican Bill Sali (who lost anyway) and Washington Republican Dave Reichert (who won). All six senators scored at least 96% participation.

Who was most loyal to their own party’s positions? Of the 20 delegation members, 18 scored 93% or better in support of their own party’s position. The two exceptions should be no surprise: Reichert again, at 75%, and Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith, at 54%. Republicans running hard against the tide, the calculus worked, barely, for Reichert, but not for Smith.

And presidential support? A big gap, obviously, between the Republican and Democratic members.

The high mark of support for President Bush among the Northwest 20 was the 77% scored by Bill Sali – did that, in some subtle way, contribute to the edge that knocked him off? By contrast, Reichert, also in serious electoral trouble but a survivor, voted with Bush just 53% of the time, and Smith was even lower, at 49%.

Among Democrats, the high percentage (28%) was shared by the three Democratic senators – maybe reflecting the number of the votes the Senate cast, as opposed to the votes in the House. Among the Democratic House members, the numbers ranged from Hooley’s 12% to Washington Representative Adam Smith’s 20% – a fairly narrow band.

In all, a generally partisan group (bearing in mind the political pressures on Smith, Reichert and Sali), operating in relatively narrow bounds. Will the pattern reflect next time around, or will the demands on the new Congress change the dynamic a bit?

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