numbers-games

Unnoticed, Grassley Sets Record for Most Time Without a Missed Senate Vote

Grassley, center, has set a Senate record.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When you talk in political circles about an Iowa endurance test, a reference to the presidential caucuses looming in a dozen days is unmistakable. Use the phrase at the Capitol, though, and the meaning may point elsewhere.  

The House's Ideology, in Seven Circles

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has joined 3 of the GOP's key groups. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In any organization filled with nothing but ambitious and opinionated people, groups with common interests are sure to come together — and Congress is no different.  

Every member’s Hill career begins by winning election to either the House or Senate, of course, and during the 114th Congress all of them are caucusing with either the Republicans or the Democrats. But right below those surfaces, the alliances get much more complex, nuanced — and oftentimes contradictory, as lawmakers subdivide into all manner of smaller clusters. Hawkings-Venn-Diagram-RC-FInal(WEB).jpg Since the nature of the Senate guarantees all members are power centers on their own, the caucuses and other groups to which they belong aren’t all that important. But the ethos is fundamentally different in the House. Since it’s more than four times bigger, and passage of many proposals requires assembling support from many camps, how you’re known and how much leverage you assert has much more to do with which colleagues you hang out with.  

Hill's Spending on Itself Set on Cautious Course

The Capitol Dome's restoration is funded in the legislative branch appropriations bill dealing with congressional spending. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The end of the fiscal year is still a dozen weeks in the future, but already a shutdown showdown looks inevitable. For circumstantial evidence, look no further than the floor schedules for this month. None of the 12 annual spending bills will get a shot at passing the Senate, while the House will give up on the appropriations calendar with four measures in limbo.  

But those who work on Capitol Hill can breathe much more easily than many. They, at least, already have a strong measure of certainty about the coming year. Bills setting the budgets for running Congress and its satellite agencies in the coming year have already been endorsed, in remarkably similar form, by the entire House and the Senate Appropriations Committee.  

Vote Studies Track Presidential Hopefuls in Real Time

Paul has the best congressional attendance record for the GOP presidential candidates, according to new real-time CQ vote studies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Eight years ago, the last time sitting senators launched competing quests for a presidential nomination, each touted their congressional records as evidence they were more the true agent of change than the other one.  

In the end, of course, Democratic voters decided Barack Obama was the preferred choice for disrupting the capital’s status quo. But the empirical evidence available during their campaign revealed only the slightest difference between Obama's and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s voting habits. During their previous three years together in the Senate, both toed the party line more than 96 percent of the time while opposing President George W. Bush’s wishes on about 3 out of every 5 votes.  

Republican Budget Is Governance Test

The release of the GOP budget blueprint gives both parties a chance to showcase their priorities — will Republicans be on the same page? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The annual budget resolution has several purposes. In theory, it’s a mission statement on the proper role of government and a mirror on priorities for the coming decade. At a more practical level, it decides the limit on lawmaker-driven spending for the coming year and smoothes the path toward ambitious changes in federal policy.  

And at times when one side controls all of Congress, the fiscal blueprint provides something particularly important: It’s the year’s clearest test of the governing competence of the party in power.  

Election Trivia for Political Wonks, Part 2

Two of these senators make our election trivia for being re-elected in 2014 by smaller-than-expected margins, despite being in safe seats. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maybe the lovers of congressional curiosities still haven’t mined the 2014 election results for all the political and institutional trivia pushed toward the surface.  

An initial potpourri was offered Tuesday in this space — fun and sometimes consequential facts that go beyond the historic statistics that put context behind Republicans’ midterm sweep. That, of course, is the GOP’s current net gain of 11 House seats assures them their largest majority since the Truman administration, and their potential pickup of nine Senate seats would be the biggest boost for either party since 1980.  

Latest Partisan Divide: Religion and Politics Should Mix

Catholicism is the plurality religion of the 113th Congress. A new Pew poll shows that 3 out of 5 people surveyed want lawmakers to have strong religious beliefs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Never discuss politics or religion in polite company” is one of those rules to live by that family elders have been passing on for generations.  

Now comes word that half the country has reached a different conclusion: Politics should play a bigger role in our religious discourse.  

A Polarized Society as GOP Selects House Leaders

During the government shutdown debate last fall, Scott Osberg of the District protested. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If midterm elections are all about mobilizing the base, then both parties can take heart in new research showing their bands of hard-core supporters have grown bigger and more hard-core than ever before.  

And if members are looking for a new answer for all the criticism that Congress is more polarized and partisan than ever, the same study’s findings support a response that sounds something like this: We’re simply reflecting the intensifying attitudes of our own constituents, which is what we’re supposed to do in a representative democracy.  

A Landmark Election Ruling, Made by Justices With Minimal Campaign Involvement

The scene at the Supreme Court as justices heard oral arguments in McCutcheon vs. FEC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One way of looking at the latest Supreme Court decision speeding the flow of big money into elections — a ruling destined to have a bigger impact on the culture of Congress than anything that happens at the Capitol this year — is that one side’s definition of political reality narrowly prevailed over the other.  

Scenarios about the corrupting potential of so many more millions going to candidates, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asserted in the controlling opinion, “are either illegal under current campaign finance laws or divorced from reality.”  

Ryan Budget Is High-Risk, Modest-Reward Strategy in an Election Year

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

An ocean of figures fill the final fiscal blueprint Paul D. Ryan will unveil as chairman of the House Budget Committee. But the number that matters most never appears: 16.  

That’s the maximum number of Republicans who can turn their back on the budget resolution when it comes before the full House next week without dooming the caucus and its most nationally prominent figure to an embarrassing election year failure.