The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Scorecard voting in the Senate?

The cloture vote on S 256 was the equivalent of the baby's head seeing daylight in a human vaginal birth: the rest just slips out, accompanied by a whole lot of gunk.

Thus, the vote on passage, RC 44, is a dead rubber, only of interest on collateral matters.

Such as, can the number (18) of Dem senators voting for passage [1] be explained by a desire to skew their pressure group ratings to the right without actually giving anything of substance away?

Now, as I understand it, the scorecards on which such ratings are based select a handful or two of votes in a year - and, for the bankruptcy bill, the key vote (the causa sine qua non of Senate passage) was that on cloture. But groups might select RC 44 by mistake, or because they are looking to paint Dems as more conservative than they really are [1].

Alternatively, the intent might be more nebulous - senators saying to potential donors, lobbyists and (indirectly) voters
  1. We aren't Commies: we know that the business of America is business; and

  2. We have opinions, but, ultimately, we're prepared to go along to get along.

Plus, recent pronouncements by Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean on the abortion issue and the steamrollering of Robert Casey in Pennsylvania (March 5) lead one to speculate about a general and planned droitisation amongst Dems in Congress and the party leadership - and this may be part of the same - gradual, subtle, even, but marked - movement edging the party toward the centre [3].

I've been looking - but have yet to find - a senator-by-senator analysis of why the Foreclosure Fourteen voted for cloture, and I'm reluctant to get into extended speculation (or research!) on the subject.

But, from the RC 44 crowd - why Reid? Is that to say, I was never trying to stop the bill, so it's not a defeat to be credited to my column? Or perhaps it's merely, If there's a big enough flow, I'll go with it?

  1. Who were:

    Baucus (D-MT)
    Bayh (D-IN)
    Biden (D-DE)
    Bingaman (D-NM)
    Byrd (D-WV)
    Carper (D-DE)
    Conrad (D-ND)
    Inouye (D-HI)
    Johnson (D-SD)
    Kohl (D-WI)
    Landrieu (D-LA)
    Lincoln (D-AR)
    Nelson (D-FL)
    Nelson (D-NE)
    Pryor (D-AR)
    Reid (D-NV)
    Salazar (D-CO)
    Stabenow (D-MI)

  2. DW-NOMINATE scores senators on all roll calls, eliminating selection bias among the groups (though not, obviously, the Senate's bias in the choice of motions and measures on which to have a roll call vote).

    But it has its own problems: so far as I know, there is no weighting in the system for salience: a dumb procedural vote, or a vote on a hopeless amendment, has the weight of the critical vote on a major bill.

  3. Of course, as a matter of substance, it was damned well in the centre under Kerry. But somehow the Northern liberal and the flip-flopper tags managed to coexist in the screwy minds of the American voters. Or enough of them.

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