Senate: Record Unity for Dems, Record Disunity for GOP

There has been a lot of unhappiness -- much of which is well placed -- over the fact that Democrats in Congress have not achieved nearly as much as many had hoped they would have by this point. Particularly in the case of Iraq, but not limited to Iraq, many think the Democratic Congress should simply be doing more.

I've had a chance to see some numbers on the current Congress -- specifically the Senate -- as well as past Congresses to see how well the party leadership has been able to keep its members in line. Clearly on votes like the most recent Iraq supplemental bill there was a lot of agreement within the Senate Democratic caucus, though not necessarily on the right side of the issue, so these party unity scores are not a perfect metric by which to gauge the relative effectiveness of the party leadership. That said, it is a fairly good metric and one worth looking at.

Percentage of votes in which 90 to 100 percent of a caucus votes together

CongressDEMGOP
110-1 (2007)77.455.8
109-2 (2006)70.365.6
109-1 (2005)71.065.0
108-2 (2004)69.978.2
108-1 (2003)72.685.2
107-2 (2002)66.067.2
107-1 (2001)70.365.6
106-2 (2000)72.267.1
106-1 (1999)72.570.3

As you can see, by this reading the Democratic caucus has been more unified than any other Democratic caucus in roughly the last decade (the amount of time for which I have data). While this level of unity has been achieved at least in part due to the fact that there are fewer Democratic Southern conservatives and moderates in the Senate than there were in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it is nonetheless a noteworthy occurrence given the necessity of party unity in a 50-seat (and at times, with Joe Lieberman's propensity to defect, a 49-seat) majority. It's no coincidence, then, that Harry Reid was recently voted the second most powerful person in Washington by those polled by GQ.

He could choose his words more carefully--and put away the cots--but his knowledge of Senate rules and his ability to keep Democrats (Democrats!) aligned make him a far more imposing majority leader than Bill Frist ever was.

At the same time as Senate Majority Leader Reid has been able to keep the Democratic caucus aligned at among the highest levels of unity on record, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has had a terrible time keeping his troops in line. Not only is Republican disunity at its highest level in the last several years, it is at its highest point by a fairly large margin.

Unfortunately the bar for the Republicans is much lower than that for the Democrats. While the Senate GOP needs only 41 votes to block progress (and Republicans are indeed on track to demolish the record for obstructionism), Democrats need 60 votes to pass legislation. Nonetheless, it's good to see that the Democrats are maximizing their ability to get things done by generally staying as unified as possible, which while not ensuring victory for a number of the reasons mentioned above at least makes victory on key issues more achievable.

Tags: 110th congress, Harry Reid, Party Unity, Senate (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

Yes, but unity on what?

If Congressional are unable to help themselves from passing all of George Bush's most egregious demands, why should we care how often they vote together?

Unity based on renaming post offices isn't really meaningful to me.

by andgarden 2007-08-16 06:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, but unity on what?

I'm not sure of the measure Chris is using, but "unity" measures often track issues where a majority of one party is on one side and a majority of the other party is on the other side, so wer're not talking about the Fred Thompson legislative forte of naming post offices.

Your broader point is well taken -- yes, FISA and war funding are terrible exceptions to the trend -- but Chris is still raising something important here.

by Major Danby 2007-08-21 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, but unity on what?

Whoops, sorry, make that "Jonathan," not "Chris."  I was reading off an old script.

by Major Danby 2007-08-21 12:43PM | 0 recs
Election year disunity

Did anyone else notice that Democratic unity consistently drops in an election year and Republican unity consistently increases?

by Bothwell 2007-08-16 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate: Record Unity for Dems, Record Disunity


It is nonetheless a noteworthy occurrence given the necessity of party unity in a 50-seat (and at times, with Joe Lieberman's propensity to defect, a 49-seat) majority

Isn't it a 51/ 50 majority?

by sayhar 2007-08-16 11:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate: Record Unity for Dems, Record Disunity

He's not including Tim Johnson.

by aexia 2007-08-16 03:49PM | 0 recs

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