This afternoon, Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, announced the names of the last members of Congress to be picked to work on the Super Committee that will create a plan to drastically cut programs. That plan will then either be approved to Congress, or draconian cuts without any increase in contributions from the wealthy will go into effect.
Already, the ethical integrity of the Super Committee has come into question. The nonprofit organization Public Campaign has called for all members of the Super Committee to stop taking money during the time that they spend working on the committee, specifically criticizing the placement of Senator Patty Murray on the committee, given her role as chief of the fundraising Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which accepts large donations from lobbyists and corporate-associated sources. Public Campaign said today, “We are not critical of Senator Murrayâ€™s qualifications as a lawmaker or a deficit committee member. But we do believe that any member appointed to the committee should stop fundraising while serving the American people on this powerful and historic committee. It sends the wrong message to place a Senator who is primarily responsible for fundraising for her caucus on this body. At a time when Americans are losing their jobs, to appoint a senator whose responsibility is to help her colleagues keep theirs through big dollar fundraising is tone-deaf at best.”
A broader issue in the selection of the Super Committee members is their contribution to the political bias of the group. There are 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans on the group, but as anyone who pays attention to congressional politics understands, there’s ideological diversity within elected officials from each party.
As luck would have it, we at That’s My Congress have a tool that can help us understand the political identities of members of the Super Committee. For both the House and Senate, we have been assembling legislative scorecards based on concrete congressional activities on ideologically significant bills in the 112th Congress.
The following is a list of the members of Congress who have been chosen to work on the Super Committee, along with each member’s net legislative score. The potential net legislative score ranges from +100 (perfectly liberal) to -100 (perfectly conservative).
Max Baucus – Weakly Liberal – Net Legislative Score 22
John Kerry – Somewhat Liberal – Net Legislative Score 44
Patty Murray – Strongly Liberal – Net Legislative Score 89
Chris Van Hollen – Somewhat Liberal – Net Legislative Score 50
Xavier Becerra Somewhat Liberal – Net Legislative Score 67
James Clyburn – Weakly Liberal – Net Legislative Score 38
Average Democrat Net Legislative Score: 51.7
Jon Kyl – Somewhat Conservative – Net Legislative Score -56
Rob Portman – Somewhat Conservative – Net Legislative Score -44
Pat Toomey – Weakly Conservative – Net Legislative Score -33
Jeb Hensarling – Strongly Conservative – Net Legislative Score -72
David Camp – Somewhat Conservative – Net Legislative Score -46
Fred Upton – Somewhat Conservative – Net Legislative Score -40
Average Republican Net Legislative Score: -48.5
The Democrats on the Super Committee are slightly more liberal than the Republicans are conservative, but the difference is only 3 percentage points – not a very significant amount. The Republican and Democratic teams alike included only one of their strongest ideologues, tending toward politicians in the middle range of their parties’ principles.