How Progressive is the Congressional Progressive Caucus? (March 2009)

Since its founding in 1991, the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives has been characterized as the most doctrinaire of groups, marching in a unified lockstep. Right-wing authors refer to the Progressive Caucus as “revolutionary,” “fringe left,” “socialist,” “anti-American,” “communist”, and even:

Congress’ very own Red Army. They are card-carrying members of the so-called ‘Progressive Caucus,’ marching the nation inevitably toward its self-proclaimed socialist ideal…. people who know what they believe, know what they want and fight for it relentlessly….

Next time you wonder why our nation is tumbling down the slippery slope toward socialism, dictatorship and repression, don’t forget the active role played by this group of dedicated, professional malcontents… in this battle for the long haul. They never give up.

Writers on the left use congratulatory adjectives rather than pejoratives, but they also portray the Congressional Progressive Caucus as a group that is “in gear” and loyal to the cause.

Congressional Progressive Caucus City DoveIs this image of the Progressive Caucus as an organized, active group with unity of purpose and relentless activity based in observable reality? Is this image just wishful thinking on the part of progressives looking for advocates in Washington, DC, or on the part of right-wing pundits trying to motivate its own partisans with the story of a massively powerful collective supervillain?

In a move toward answering this question, we could just take the caucus’ own word for it: in the preamble to their articulation of principles, the caucus declares “our unwavering commitment to these legislative priorities and we will not rest until they become law.” But what kind of observable commitment has the caucus shown? Even when it comes to talk, consider that year after year after year after year during the Bush administration, the Congressional Progressive Caucus failed to engage in any observable public activity or communication; it was not until this year that the CPC began to issue regular press releases and member statements.

Moving from talk to legislative action, what have members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus done? How are the 72 full members of the CPC in the 111th Congress (not counting Senator Bernie Sanders or three nonvoting delegates) faring in their support of progressive legislation? Let’s start with two examples: the FISA Amendments Act regarding 4th Amendment civil liberties and the Military Commissions Act regarding the rights to habeas corpus and a fair trial.

Military Commissions Act
In 2007, J. Clifford noted that only 30% of the Progressive Caucus had signed on in support of a bill to repeal the Military Commissions Act. In this year’s 111th Congress, as of March 12, only 11 out of the 72 voting House members of the CPC have added their support to H.R. 591, a bill introduced by non-CPC-member David Price to repeal the MCA. That’s 15% support, less than in the 110th Congress. As of now, no member of the CPC has authored any similar bill to repeal the MCA, and one other bill to repeal the MCA, H.R. 1315, is authored by non-member Adam Schiff and cosponsored by no members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. This is not evidence for lock-step commitment to the progressive cause. Indeed, there are non-members with a higher level of activity on the Military Commissions Act than members.

FISA Amendments Act
In October of 2007, the Congressional Progressive Caucus issued a written statement in opposition to the erosion of 4th Amendment Rights represented by the Protect America Act, and on February 19 of this year the CPC featured a document by member Barbara Lee that criticizes the FISA Amendments Act and declares outright (page 36) that “In 2009, Congressmembers can repeal the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.”

As of today in the 111th Congress of 2009, the following are the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who have written or cosponsored legislation to repeal the FISA Amendments Act:

That empty space you see is not a typographical error. As of today, not once piece of legislation has been introduced before the 111th Congress to repeal or even reform the FISA Amendments Act. Of course, this means that no member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has supported these nonexistent bills.

Reality on FISA reform doesn’t match the reputation of a relentless CPC that just won’t stop in the promotion of the progressive agenda. The CPC has talked for three years about this subject, but practically speaking it is inactive.

Alignment with a Progressive Slate: No Perfection and a Lot of Variation
Let’s shift focus in our evaluation from particular legislative issues to the broad progressive agenda. Without reference to what members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are doing, we at That’s My Congress have developed an index called the Progressive Action Score. It is a 0-100 score for each Representative that is equal to the % of our slate of progressive legislative actions — both votes and cosponsorships — that a member of the House of Representatives has engaged in. The higher the score, the more closely a Representative follows the path of progressivism in the Congress. A score of 100 would indicate a perfect match.

The following is a list of Progressive Action Scores as of today for all Representatives in the Congressional Progressive Caucus:

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY, District 15). In-district phone: 212-663-3900. Progressive Action Score: 14/100
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA, District 35). In-district phone: 323-757-8900. Progressive Action Score: 21/100
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY, District 28). In-district phone: 716-282-1274. Progressive Action Score: 21/100
Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM, District 3). In-district phone: 505-984-8950. Progressive Action Score: 21/100
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL, District 8). In-district phone: 407-841-1757. Progressive Action Score: 21/100
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS, District 2). In-district phone: 800-355-9003. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY, District 16). In-district phone: 718-620-0084. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL, District 1). In-district phone: 773-224-6500. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA, District 37). In-district phone: 562-436-3828. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI, District 4). In-district phone: 414-297-1140. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA, District 2). In-district phone: 319-351-0789. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI, District 13). In-district phone: 734-246-0780. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH, District 9). In-district phone: 419-259-7500. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX, District 30). In-district phone: 214-922-8885. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL, District 2). In-district phone: 708-798-6000. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL, District 17). In-district phone: 309-793-5760. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH, District 11). In-district phone: 216-522-4900. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD, District 4). In-district phone: 301-562-7960. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO, District 5). In-district phone: 816-842-4545. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN, District 7). In-district phone: 317-283-6516. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL, District 3). In-district phone: 407-872-0656. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA, District 31). In-district phone: 213-483-1425. Progressive Action Score: 29/100
Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA, District 33). In-district phone: 323-965-1422. Progressive Action Score: 33/100
Rep. John Hall (D-NY, District 19). In-district phone: 845-225-3641. Progressive Action Score: 33/100
Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC, District 12). In-district phone: 336-275-9950. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY, District 12). In-district phone: 212-673-3997. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA, District 34). In-district phone: 213-628-9230. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ, District 4). In-district phone: 602-256-0551. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY, District 8). In-district phone: 718-373-3198. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA, District 7). In-district phone: 206-553-7170. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL, District 4). In-district phone: 773-342-0774. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA, District 1). In-district phone: 610-874-7094. Progressive Action Score: 36/100
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT, District 0). In-district phone: 888-605-7270. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA, District 30). In-district phone: 323-651-1040. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. John Tierney (D-MA, District 6). In-district phone: 781-595-7375. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA, District 13). In-district phone: 510-494-1388. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA, District 39). In-district phone: 562-860-5050. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ, District 10). In-district phone: 973-645-3213. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. George Miller (D-CA, District 7). In-district phone: 925-602-1880. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA, District 7). In-district phone: 508-875-2900. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA, District 5). In-district phone: 404-659-0116. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, District 10). In-district phone: 216-228-8850. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA, District 2). In-district phone: 215-848-9386. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT, District 3). In-district phone: 203-562-3718. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL, District 7). In-district phone: 773-533-7520. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN, District 9). In-district phone: 901-544-4131. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO, District 1). In-district phone: 314-367-1970. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY, District 11). In-district phone: 718-287-1142. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA, District 8). In-district phone: 617-621-6208. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI, District 1). In-district phone: 808-541-2570. Progressive Action Score: 43/100
Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL, District 19). In-district phone: 561-988-6302. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME, District 1). In-district phone: 207-774-5019. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA, District 4). In-district phone: 770-939-2016. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA, District 17). In-district phone: 800-340-3277. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR, District 4). In-district phone: 541-440-3523. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD, District 7). In-district phone: 410-465-8259. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, District 14). In-district phone: 313-961-5670. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI, District 2). In-district phone: 608-258-9800. Progressive Action Score: 50/100
Rep. John Olver (D-MA, District 1). In-district phone: 413-442-0946. Progressive Action Score: 57/100
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY, District 14). In-district phone: 718-932-1804. Progressive Action Score: 57/100
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX, District 18). In-district phone: 713-227-7740. Progressive Action Score: 57/100
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI, District 2). In-district phone: 808-541-1986. Progressive Action Score: 57/100
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, District 4). In-district phone: 508-999-6462. Progressive Action Score: 57/100
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA, District 6). In-district phone: 707-542-7182. Progressive Action Score: 64/100
Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA, District 15). In-district phone: 408-558-8085. Progressive Action Score: 64/100
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN, District 5). In-district phone: 612-522-1212. Progressive Action Score: 64/100
Rep. James McGovern (D-MA, District 3). In-district phone: 508-460-9292. Progressive Action Score: 71/100
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA, District 9). In-district phone: 510-763-0370. Progressive Action Score: 71/100
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ, District 7). In-district phone: 520-622-6788. Progressive Action Score: 79/100
Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL, District 9). In-district phone: 847-328-3409. Progressive Action Score: 79/100
Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA, District 51). In-district phone: 619-422-5963. Progressive Action Score: 79/100
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY, District 22). In-district phone: 607-273-1388. Progressive Action Score: 86/100

Although Rep. Maurice Hinchey comes close, no member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has a perfect record of progressivism, and there is a wide variation in the degree of support for the progressive slate.

If you find your member of Congress’ name on this list and she or he does not support a progressive slate of policies as strongly as you might hope, click on your member’s name to review his or her legislative record, review the slate of legislation we reference, then make a phone call with informed questions.

If you find yourself inclined to refer to the Progressive Caucus as a lock-step, coordinated, motivated force for progressive change (or demonic possession) in the Congress, please think again.

9 Comments

on “How Progressive is the Congressional Progressive Caucus? (March 2009)
9 Comments on “How Progressive is the Congressional Progressive Caucus? (March 2009)
  1. Pingback: Congress’ Progressive Caucus Characterized by Varying Lassitude

  2. Pingback: Political Networks in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, March 2009

  3. Pingback: Even the Congressional Progressive Caucus Isn’t That Progressive

  4. Dear TMC,

    There are many errors in your CPC numbers in the main list. Both Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel have totally different numbers on their Progressive Scale % between the big list you provide and their individual page that details their voting record. I checked several others and it appears that perhaps the first 2 dozen on the main list are wrong. These major mistakes do not promote high credibility nor professionalism for your organization. I would also like to know the master list of legislative issues and bills that you use for your criteria and why those in particular are chosen.

    As progressives, we need to get our facts exact and purposeful if we are to keep a strong focus on the critical issues of the day. There is no room for error in these serious of times. I look foward to your reply.

    Best,

    Michael

  5. Michael,

    Thank you for writing. The two sets of scores are not “wrong” — they’re different. This article, “How Progressive is the Congressional Progressive Caucus?,” was written on March 12, 2009, as the article’s byline notes. The scores in this article reference the behavior of members of Congress as of March 12, 2009. Today is January 14, 2010. Members have engaged in nine months of additional activities, activities that have contributed to changes in their current congressional scores. That’s why they’re different.

  6. Thanks for the response. A suggestion for you: it might be good to update the article now that it is nearly a year later. I am also interested in knowing if you have a base line of issues or legislation that you measure all the CPC members. This might be helpful for readers to make an easier comparison. Thanks for your good work and keeping the citizens informed.

    Best,

    Michael

  7. Pingback: Congressional Aid

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>