Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More seniority woes on Ways and Means

I previously blogged about how the elevation of Sandy Levin (D-MI) over Pete Stark (D-CA) as the interim chair of the House Ways and Means Committee illustrated the decline of the traditional seniority system in Congress. Today, there is a report in Roll Call($) about how Levin is now facing a challenge from Richard Neal (D-MA) for the permanent gavel. As with worries about Stark, it seems that Democrats are worried that Levin may not be aggressive and organized enough to lead the charge on Democratic initiatives. This is clearly one to watch. There's also new about this from Politico.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Summary of Health Care Reform poliitcs for the ages

The passage of the health care reform bill will no doubt serve as a popular case study --- if atypical --- about how big bills become law. Here is a great story, from the Washington Post, that recaps the drama as succinctly as this complicated story will allow. A good place to start.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Great site for following the House health plan vote

This graphically based page is great for following the accumulation of votes for and against the health bill in the House.

My major complaint with this page is that the information it provides about members concerns contributions from the health industry and % uncovered by health insurance plans in the district, as if these factors are the major influences on the vote. Party (which is reported) and ideology (which is not) are the two factors to watch.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Levin's ascent evidence of the weakness of the traditional seniority system

The machinations surrounding Charlie Rangel's (D-NY) "leave of absence" as chair of Ways and Means say a lot about how committees have changed since the days of the "Textbook Congress." In the olden days, the gavel would have just passed to Pete Stark (D-CA), the second-in-seniority. However, committee members (and Democrats in general) have been alarmed at the prospect of Stark leading this important committee, considering him a loose canon. Hence, the elevation this morning of the much more predictable Sander Levin (D-MI).

Here's the Roll Call link and the Washington Post link.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Great interview about the filibuster

I've been pretty neglectful of this blog, but I've decided to give it one more shot at being persistent.

I will start the new year's postings by noting a great interview with Greg Koger, a political scientist at the University of Miami, about the filibuster. Very good historical overview and discussion about possible "reforms." Here it is.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bicameralism at work

Having attended a great conference on bicameralism last weekend, I'm still very sensitive to congressional dynamics that involve actors in the two chambers explicitly taking into account each other's actions as they make their own decisions.

A great example appeared in today's Roll Call, in an article about House leadership efforts to bring a health care bill to the floor. The title of the article is "Liberals Wave the White Flag". The gist of the comment is that since Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid has come out in favor of a public option, the House doesn't need to come up with quite so liberal an option itself. Here's the key paragraph, buried midway in the story:

But Democratic leaders, and some notable liberals, have made the case that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) decision this week to try to forge ahead with a package that includes a public option relieves pressure on the House to produce a more liberal provision for negotiating leverage. Pelosi set the stage for that argument at a Friday press conference, noting that “the atmosphere has changed.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kennedy’s popularity in Massachusetts

I talked with a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor while I was on my Wrigley Field trip on Thursday about Ted Kennedy’s popularity in Massachusetts. I told her that based on my experience, it's more likely for a senator to be wildly popular in a small state than in a large state; what mades Kennedy unusual is that he was an incredibly popular large-state senator. Data from the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) bear out this claim.

The CCES asked respondents to rate the approval of their senators on a 1-4 scale (1 = strongly approve, 4 = strongly disapprove). This analysis is based on average the responses within each state for both senators.

The accompanying graph shows the average approval numbers (low numbers are good, high numbers are bad) plotted against (the log of) estimated state population in 2008. I have fit a lowess curve through the data, which picks up the non-linearity of the relationship nicely. (All other methods of curve fitting work here, too, and show roughly the same relationship.)

A couple of things about this graph. First, while there is considerable variation in the graph, on average small-state senators were rated better than large-state senators. Second, note the senators below the line. These are senators who had better approval ratings than you would expect, given the size of the state they represent. There are some notable outliers, including Kennedy, Obama, and Clinton. (Outliers on the other side include Craig, Lieberman, Reid, Coleman, and Dole.)

We can use the vertical distance between the senator and the lowess fit to create a "poplation-corrected approval rating." When we do that, the five most-approved-of senators (correcting for population) were
  1. Kenndy
  2. Johnson
  3. Shelby
  4. Sessions
  5. Clinton
At the other end, the five least-approved-of senators (correcting for population) were
  1. Craig
  2. Lieberman
  3. Reid
  4. Dole
  5. Coleman