Thanks to Iowa blogger John Deeth, I learned that Iowa's own Senator Tom Harkin
voted against George Bush's declared position more than any other senator in 2008, according to Congressional Quarterly vote scores. Harkin opposed Bush's position 75 percent of the time.
More important, Congressional Quarterly has released its annual rankings of members' votes. Richard Rubin's write-up is here, and there's a link on that page to the pdf file you can use to find how often each member of Congress voted with Bush and voted with his or her own party.
Rubin gives the main conclusions:
Bush's side prevailed on just 47.8 percent of roll call votes in 2008 where he took a clear position. That is the eighth-lowest score in the 56-year history of the survey, although it was higher than Bush's 38.3 percent success rate in 2007. Congress forced him to accept a farm bill and Medicare doctor-payment changes he didn't want, and lawmakers challenged him repeatedly on issues from tobacco regulation to infrastructure spending.
Moderate Republicans fled from the president as the election neared, and the average House Republican supported Bush just 64 percent of the time. That's down 8 percentage points from a year ago and the lowest for a president's party since 1990, midway through Bush's father's term in the White House. His average support score of 70 percent among GOP senators was also the lowest for a president's party since 1990.
As in 2007, Democrats voted with Bush far less often than they had when the Republicans were in charge and could set the agenda. House Democrats voted with Bush just 16 percent of the time on average -- above their 2007 support score of 7 percent but still the second lowest for any president. Democratic senators joined Bush on 34 percent of roll call votes, down from their average support score of 37 percent a year ago. [...]
At the same time, despite his political weakness, Democratic control of Congress and frequent defeats, Bush got his way on some of the biggest issues of the year.
Playing offense, the administration secured more money for his effort to fight AIDS globally and cemented a nuclear-cooperation deal with India. But Bush scored most often with blocking tactics, using threatened vetoes and the Senate filibuster to avoid significant changes to his Iraq policies, major restrictions on intelligence- gathering tactics, and removal of tax breaks for oil and gas companies. He was a resilient pinata, losing plenty of votes along the way but remaining the biggest obstacle to the Democrats' ability to turn their campaign agenda into law.
I see two lessons for Democrats here. First, Barack Obama should understand that driving a very hard bargain with Congress often pays off. You don't have to back down at the first sign of serious opposition. If even an extremely unpopular president was able to do reasonably well with a Congress controlled by the other party, a new president who is quite popular like Obama should be able to get most of what he wants from a Congress controlled by his own party.
If any of Obama's proposals fail the first year, he should consider trying again later without watering them down. Bush wasn't able to get everything he wanted out of the Republican-controlled Congress during his first year or two, but he kept at it and was able to get much of his agenda through eventually. Many tax cuts not included in the 2001 package got through in later years. He didn't get the energy bill he wanted until 2005.
The second lesson is for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It's long past time to start making the Republicans pay a price for using the filibuster. Otherwise they will continue to use it routinely to block Obama's agenda.
Nate Silver recently looked at how Republicans have used the filibuster since Democrats gained the majority in Congress. He concluded that Reid "has been exceptionally ineffective":
There are basically two mechanisms that a majority leader can employ to limit filibusters: firstly, he can threaten to block votes on certain of the opposition party's legislation (or alternatively, present carrots to them for allowing a vote to proceed), and secondly, he can publicly shame them. Reid managed to do neither, and the Senate Republicans did fairly well for themselves considering that they were in a minority and were burdened by a President with negative political capital.
Time to play hardball in the Senate, not only with Republicans but also with Evan Bayh and his merry band of Democratic "Blue Dogs" if they collude with Republicans to obstruct Obama's agenda.