Press-Republican

Columns

September 30, 2012

A political and fiscal cliff

We are fast approaching a point in which, without an act of Congress or an act of God, our nation will be plunged into a course of action that will help nobody and imperil our economic recovery. If Congress cannot figure out a way to cooperate on behalf of us all, we should expect another recession, as if it does not feel like we are still in one, and an unemployment rate nearing or exceeding 9 percent.

In these economically perilous times, we need our representatives to place policy before politics and bipartisanship before party. I looked at the House and Senate voting records to glean some measures of partisanship and cooperation.

Not surprisingly, I discovered that the party in power in the House and Senate also contains the greatest number of extreme partisans. I guess the power of the majority corrupts some voting records in a winner-should-take-all way. The most partisan politicians are New Yorkers, the Republican Christopher Lee in the House, and the Democrat Chuck Schumer in the Senate. Representative Lee’s record may be distorted because he participated in only a few votes in the 2011 Congress, though. He resigned early over his shirtless-on-the-Internet scandal. Senator Schumer has no such explanation. Partisanship is what he seems to do.

If the party in power dominates the list of the greatest partisans, the greatest bipartisans come predominantly from the party not in the majority. I looked at our representatives who were willing to vote with the other side at least once in every four votes. Of these 18 leaders in the House and seven in the Senate, all but two were members of the minority party. They are listed as follows with rank, party name, state and percent with party:

1, D, Dan Boren, OK, 50%; 2, D, Jim Matheson, UT, 53%; 3, D, Collin Peterson, MN, 56%; 4, D, Mike Ross, AR, 58%; 5, D, Jason Altmire, PA, 63%; 6, D, Heath Shuler, NC, 64%; 7, D, Jim Costa, CA, 66%; 8, D, John Barrow, GA, 67%; 9, D, Joe Donnelly, IN, 67%; 10, D, Mike McIntyre, NC, 68%; 11, R, Walter Jones, NC, 69%; 12, D, Larry Kissell, NC, 72%; 13, D, William Owens, NY, 72%; 14, D, Dennis Cardoza, CA, 72%; 15, R, Ron Paul, TX, 72%; 16, D, Henry Cuellar, TX, 73%; 17, D, Ben Chandler, KY, 73%; 18, R, Christopher Gibson, NY, 74%.

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