Lugar Center Index Ranks Lawmakers on Bipartisanship

Lugar Center Index Ranks Lawmakers on Bipartisanship
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A think tank founded by a former Republican senator has released its inaugural Bipartisan Index, which ranks members of Congress based on how frequently they work across the aisle.

The Lugar Center, established by former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, unveiled the index Tuesday in an effort to promote bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. The rankings are based on lawmakers’ sponsorship and co-sponsorship of bills, and measure the degree to which they succeeded in attracting co-sponsors from the opposing party and crossed the aisle to co-sponsor others’ bills during the 112th and 113th Congresses.

“The Bipartisan Index offers the public an objective way to measure how frequently their members of Congress are cooperating with the other party on matters of policy,” Lugar said in a press release. “We hope this ranking will incentivize members of Congress to be more bipartisan when writing legislation and making co-sponsorship decisions, as well as keeping an open mind about legislation introduced by the other party.” 

In the House of Representatives, the six highest scorers on the index were all Republicans. They were Chris Gibson (pictured, R-N.Y.), Peter King (R-N.Y.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). (Grimm resigned from Congress in January after pleading guilty to tax fraud charges.)

“While I am a proud Republican, I’ve worked in Washington under the belief that good ideas aren’t restricted to one party,” Fitzpatrick, a member of the bipartisan No Labels group, said in a statement. “The key to getting things done in Congress is being willing to work toward common goals — things like creating good-paying jobs, strengthening our infrastructure or addressing our national debt — regardless of where they come from.”

The highest-scoring Democrat, at No. 7 on the House list, was Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.). Donna Edwards (D-Md.), who is running for the seat held by retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2016, and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) hold the bottom two spots out of 422 ranked members. (The full membership of both chambers was not assessed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were excluded from the ranking, as were lawmakers who sponsored fewer than three bills.)

A campaign spokesman for Edwards declined to comment on the congresswoman’s low ranking, while Cuellar applauded the index. An attempt to reach Huelskamp was not immediately successful.

In a statement, Cuellar said: “Today as we see more and more partisanship and dysfunction from Washington, I have prided myself on my ability to work with anyone—Democrats or Republicans, as my record shows—to get things done for Texas. ... I will continue to work across the aisle with anyone I can, and I’m hopeful that I can convince more members to do the same as this Congress progresses.”

Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), who challenged Boehner for the gavel earlier this year, received the fifth-lowest ranking. Outspoken Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who is spearheading the Benghazi investigation as chairman of a House select committee, came in at number 406.

In the upper chamber, moderates Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were given the highest bipartisanship scores, at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) came in last. Liberal Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was placed in the middle of the pack.

The scores of presidential candidates in the Senate were all in the bottom half of the index. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) came in at No. 52, while Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) ranked Nos. 92 and 97, respectively. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was No. 90.

According to the Lugar Center, a score above zero means the member of Congress performed better than the average lawmaker over the past two decades, and is therefore considered a “bipartisan legislator.” The score is calculated using a formula that equally weights bipartisan sponsorships and co-sponsorships. Based on the formula, House scores ranged from 2.3 to -1.7, while the Senate had a slightly lower disparity of 2.1 to -1.7.

An above-zero score was earned by 142 House members and 36 senators. All presidential candidates on the index received a negative score. Spokespeople for Rubio, Paul, and Sanders did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for Cruz’s presidential campaign said the index "says more about the anti-freedom extremists the Democrats send to Congress than it does about Senator Cruz’s willingness to work across the aisle,” adding that Cruz is ready to compromise with anyone who is willing to limit the size and scope of the federal government and defend the Constitution.

“But he has no interest in working with those who protect the Washington political cartel,” national spokesman Rick Tyler said.

Later this year, the group plans to release lifetime rankings of each member of Congress dating back to 1993. The 112th and 113th Congresses were, according to the Lugar Center, the most partisan since 1993.

The Lugar Center bills itself as focused on issues such as “nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global food security, foreign assistance effectiveness and global development, energy security, and enhancing bipartisan governance.”

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