The PJ Tatler

Who are the Most Liberal and Most Conservative Lawmakers for 2013?

Who won the 2013 vote rankings pinpointing the most liberal and conservative members of Congress?

In the National Journal annual rankings, which scored 117 partisan votes in the Senate, it was a three-way tie in the Senate for most liberal: Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The most moderate award went to Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) was deemed most conservative senator last year, followed closely by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

The most liberal member of the House is Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), edging out Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). The most moderate is Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and the most conservative is Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), with Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) as runner-up. The tabulation methodology, which National Journal has used since 1981, scored 111 House votes. Non-controversial votes such as post office namings get left out of the rankings.

National Journal even presented a special piece explaining why Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) didn’t top the most liberal list:

Warren’s composite liberal score of 73.2 places her as the 31st-most-liberal senator. How could that be?

For starters, she broke with President Obama on a very significant piece of legislation, voting to repeal Obamacare’s medical-device tax—a core element to the funding of the Affordable Care Act. Many manufacturers are based in Massachusetts, so this is an instance of her voting her constituency over her party. She didn’t stop there, joining with many Republicans to “repeal or reduce the estate tax” if done in a fiscally responsible way. Warren even irked consumer advocates by opposing a measure that would have allowed states to mandate labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. Those differences gave her a liberal percentile score of 75 on economic policy.

Another reason that Warren didn’t stand out is that many of her lesser-known colleagues are also very liberal—part of the very polarization that we write about in this week’s National Journal cover story. By taking one small vote against her leadership, her ranking drops considerably because so many Senate Democrats have held a liberal line.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who defeated Richard Mourdock in 2012 to take Sen. Richard Lugar’s (R-Ind.), took a victory lap about his “52nd most liberal” ranking.

“I’m the hired help—I work for the people of Indiana and the United States and no one else,” Donnelly said Thursday. “I came here to hit it down the middle and cast votes on behalf of Hoosier families.”