In this day and age of political extremes, I’ve heard far left progressives complain that there are too many “conservative” Democrats in Congress, while many hardcore conservatives often condemn RINOs (Republican In Name Only) every election. It’s hard for me to believe there are many moderates at all these days. The primary electoral process is doing a good job of purging any centrists either party might have left anymore. Nonetheless, I decided to check out the voting records myself. I could care less about the political rhetoric; for me, actions still speak louder than words.
Using the Washington Post’s congressional database of the previous 10 Congresses, I examined the past voting record of every senator in the current 113th Congress. You’d actually be hard-pressed to find many lawmakers who don’t vote lockstep along party lines at least 90% of the time. The clear majority of politicians on both sides of the aisle have. After extensive research, I could identify only six Democrats and four Republicans in the 55-45 Democratic majority Senate who even come close to anything resembling a bipartisan voting record.
Here are the top 10 bipartisan senators of the 113th Congress.
1. Sen. Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
In the Senate since 2003, he’s hardly a fiscal conservative. In fact, even most “moderate” Democrats spend just as recklessly as their far left colleagues. Every single Democrat in the Senate also voted for Obamacare. (They had to in order to get it passed with lightning speed.)
But he did vote for the Keystone XL pipeline, against the DREAM Act, and was the only Democratic Senator to vote against the Buffet Rule. He’s also an Evangelical Christian, and was mocked in Bill Maher’s Religulous for believing the Bible’s account that the earth was created 5,200 years ago and for saying, “You don’t need to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.” I’ll say…
2. Sen. Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Elected in 1996, she supports eliminating the estate tax permanently and voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. She was originally opposed to Obamacare until the bill was rewritten to send a $300 million payment to Medicaid for her home state, a move that was nicknamed “the Louisiana Purchase.” She’s also pro-Second Amendment, voted for the Keystone XL pipeline and has pretty much supported every major domestic energy development initiative.
3. Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
The former governor of West Virginia was elected senator in a special election in 2010 to replace 51-year-incumbent Robert Byrd after he died in office. Manchin’s probably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. He’s supported balanced budget amendments, actively campaigned against the Cap & Trade Bill, and was the sole Democrat to vote against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In his first year in office, Manchin met one-on-one with all of his 99 Senate colleagues in an effort to get to know them better — that, I can actually respect.
4. Sen. Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
In the Senate since 2006, she’s voted against the DREAM Act, for the Keystone XL pipeline, and during the debt ceiling talks of 2011 was the sole Democratic senator to vote against spending $915 billion to keep various government agencies running until next fall. What really did her in, though, in her home state was voting for the widely unpopular Obamacare bill. Polls showed she was finished in 2012 but she managed to hang on for a second term after Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin managed to blow a sure win for any other GOP candidate.
5. Sen. Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
Although only recently elected to the Senate in 2012, his Congressional voting record in the House shows him to be a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment lawmaker who has voted against defense spending cuts. Then again, he’s pretty much voted against any spending cuts and supported most major Democratic initiatives from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank. He comes from a state where its last Democratic senator, Evan Bayh, had a very bipartisan voting record, but he didn’t really have to try too hard after Republican candidate Richard Mourdock managed to shoot himself in the foot with his own asinine Akin-esque comments on abortion.
6. Sen. Jon Tester (Montana)
In the Senate since 2007, calling his voting record bipartisan is a bit of a stretch. He’s supported every major initiative from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank and is pro-choice and pro-tax hikes. But it’s worth mentioning he’s pro-Second Amendment, anti-gay marriage, voted for the Keystone XL pipeline, against the DREAM Act, and was one of only two Democratic senators to vote against Obama’s American Jobs Act. He probably would’ve lost his re-election bid in 2012 if Libertarian candidate Dan Cox hadn’t shaved off enough votes from Republican nominee Denny Rehberg.
7. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)
Elected in 1996, she’s easily the most liberal Republican in the Senate. She supported every bill that came out of Obama’s White House from the stimulus to the omnibus to Dodd-Frank (with the exception of Obamacare). She was one of only three Republican Senators to oppose the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, is an ardent supporter of LGBT rights and co-sponsored cap and trade legislation. Collins was one of five Republican senators (along with Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, and Rand Paul) to vote against a House-passed budget bill devised by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that included a sweeping plan to revamp Medicare and Medicaid.
8. Sen. John McCain (Arizona)
The “maverick” senator from Arizona has a long history of voting against his party throughout his 30 year congressional career. In 2002, he was one of only two Republicans to twice vote against the permanent repeal of the estate tax and was one of only two Republicans who voted against the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. He’s publicly spoken out against harsh interrogation tactics and supports the closing of Guantanamo Bay. He’s also pro-gun control, supports stem cell research and the DREAM Act.
9. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Taking over her father’s Senate seat in 2002, she was only the second person in U.S. history to win an election as a write-in candidate (the first being Strom Thurmond) when she ran for re-election in 2010 and beat Tea Party-favorite Joe Miller. She’s a pro-choice Republican who was the only Republican to side with Democrats in approving many controversial Obama judicial appointments from Caitlin Halligan to Goodwin Liu. In May 2011, Murkowski was one of five Republican senators (along with Collins, Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, and Rand Paul) to vote against the Ryan budget.
10. Sen. Mark Kirk (Illinois)
Elected to Barack Obama’s old senate seat in my home state of Illinois, Kirk had a 10 year history in the House with a very bipartisan voting record. He was one of only eight Republicans to vote for the Cap & Trade bill. He was one of only two Republicans to oppose legislation to detain American citizens indefinitely, opposed the Iraq troop surge, and opposed drilling in ANWR. Kirk worked alongside side fellow Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D) to bring $186 million in stimulus funds to support improved rail service from Chicago to St. Louis. The money was originally rejected by the state of Florida but reallocated to Illinois. The poor guy suffered a stroke last year at only 52 years old, and has spent the last year recovering.