Are Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown Really Marching in Lockstep?

That’s what you would think if you’d read the letter sent out by Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine this week:

Ohio is not Vermont. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at Sherrod Brown’s pals. Sherrod Brown was recently rated as one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate. In fact, Brown received the same liberal rating — two years in a row — as the self-described socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

Notice a pattern?

Liberal Howard Dean and socialist Bernie Sanders may share some pretty extreme viewpoints with Sherrod Brown, but they do not share our Ohio values.

Ouch. Kevin DeWine’s gift isn’t in timing; the message belittling Vermont came in the wake of a Hurricane that destroyed villages and killed people. But apart from the issue of strategy, is Kevin DeWine right? Are senators Sherrod Brown and Bernard Sanders interchangeable? Here at That’s My Congress, we have a way of finding out. We’ve tracked significant actions on 34 pieces of legislation in the 111th Congress of 2009-2010 and 15 pieces of legislation in the eight months of the 112th Congress that have been completed so far.

Across those 15 key legislative acts this year, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown have only differed on one: S. 1428, a bill to end the use of private mercenaries for U.S. military jobs traditionally carried out by soldiers. Bernie Sanders introduced the legislation; Sherrod Brown has failed to cosponsor it.

In the 111th Congress, there were more differences. Bernie Sanders has progressively by voting against H.R. 4853, the extension of tax cuts for billionaires. Sherrod Brown voted for the billionaire tax cut. Senator Sanders cosponsored S. 1686, a bill to introduce civil liberties protections to Patriot Act processes. Sherrod Brown didn’t move to support that bill. S. 1738 would have preserved roadless areas within the National Forest system; Sherrod Brown supported that bill and Bernie Sanders didn’t. But for a similar bill, S. 22, Bernie Sanders voted to expand national wilderness while Sherrod Brown didn’t. Sherrod Brown supported Russell Feingold’s bill to have Senators disclose more by filing electronic campaign reports; Bernie Sanders didn’t. Bernie Sanders voted against funding for unwanted military C-17 planes; Sherrod Brown voted to keep funding the unwanted military pork.

For the most part in the 111th Congress, and almost all the time in the 112th, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have acted in similar fashion in consequential policy decisions. But they have differed on more than a handful of occasions. The two may walk in tandem, but not in lockstep.

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