WATCH: A Conversation on the Most Effective Lawmakers of the 116th Congress
On March 22, 2021, the Center for Effective Lawmaking’s new research was the feature of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy’s Batten Hour. In this one-hour public event, Co-Director Craig Volden shared our newest legislative effectiveness scores and CEL Faculty Affiliate and UVA Professor Gerry Warburg shared his thoughts based on years of experience on The Hill.
The discussion was lively, interesting and provided great insight as to how the research of the Center for Effective Lawmaking makes a difference.
Transcript as follows:
Dean Rockwell (00:00):
So, again, welcome everyone to Batten Hour. Today. We are excited today to feature our own professors, Craig Volden and Gerry Warburg, as they share with us the release of the newest legislative effectiveness scores, which are released by annually by the Center for Effective Lawmaking. Most of you on this call, surely know Professor Volden and Professor Warburg. Um, but what I think will be especially fun today is that they both bring unique perspectives as an academic and a practitioner turned professor. So it’s going to be an interesting balance of sort of, um, bringing the various expertise of our two beloved professors. So I’m going to turn it over to Professors Volden and Warburg. And then at the conclusion of their presentation, they have asked you use the raise, your hand feature for Q and a, and they will be calling on you with your questions. So without further ado, let’s find out who our most effective lawmakers are. Thanks Professor Volden and Professor Warburg.
Craig Volden (01:06):
Outstanding. Thanks, Jill. Uh, delighted to have Gerry joined me today, um, to give his perspectives, I’m going to, uh, kind of tell you briefly about the Center and our new scores. Um, and then Gerry will tell us what they actually mean. Um, so that’ll be a fun conversation. Um, so the Center for Effective Lawmaking, for those of you who aren’t familiar, uh, is a partnership between the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University. The vision of the Center is a Congress comprised of effective lawmakers, strong institutional capacity, and the incentive structure needed to address America’s greatest public policy challenges. Of course we’re not there yet. Um, so the mission of the Center is to help move us in that direction, through, uh, the advancement of the generation communication and use of new knowledge about the effectiveness of individual lawmakers and U.S. Legislative institutions, uh, the way that we do a lot of our work, uh, those certainly not all, uh, is to base our work on kind of quantitative analysis, uh, good social science, developing hypothesis and testing them.
Craig Volden (02:11):
And one of our key measures is what we’re talking about today: our legislative effectiveness scores. These scores are for each member of Congress, each member of the House and each member of the Senate. Uh, and they’re based on a combination of 15 metrics, uh, in terms of the bills that member sponsor and how far they move through the lawmaking process. So for example, in the 116th Congress, the one that just ended, uh, for each legislator and we count up the number of bills that they sponsor, we look at how many of those bills received action in committee is going to be a hearing or a markup or a sub committee vote. How many of them received action beyond committee, uh, made it to the floor of the House or the floor of the Senate? How many of them passed their home chamber and how many of them became law?
Craig Volden (02:56):
So five stages of the lawmaking process, but we also know and, and have to account for the fact that not every bill is the same. And so in our scores, we upgrade the substantive and significant bills, the biggest ones of the day that, uh, $1.9 trillion, uh, COVID relief package or a major immigration reform and so on. And we downgrade the commemoratives, which typically are namings of post offices and so on. So three different levels of bill significance, five stages of the process. And we combine those into a single legislative effectiveness score. We average those to a value of one in the House and a value of one in the Senate. Um, and we’ve done this for some time. So, uh, if you go to our website, the lawmakers.org, uh, you can look up, uh, any members score, um, both the House and the Senate for any Congress from the recently completed 116th Congress all the way back to the 93rd Congress in the early 1970s. Uh, you can sort them by a variety of categories. You can look just at your, uh, state that’s of particular interest to you. Uh, and you can now look at, uh, 21 different issue areas. So if you’re wondering who’s really effective in health, uh, or education, uh, and so on, uh, you’d be able to pull that up on the website as well.
Craig Volden (04:18):
What we want to talk about today is those new findings that we just released this month from the 116th Congress, the one that ended in January. And so I’m going to show Professor Warburg, the top 10 lists of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, see what his thoughts are there. Also want to, uh, look at streaks of those who are exceeding expectations. So for every member of Congress, we set up a benchmark, um, because we would expect from freshmen from the minority party not to perform as well as a, uh, 10th term majority party committee chair. And so then we look at how they relate to those benchmarks, do they exceed those expectations significantly, at least 50% or more above their benchmarks. And we see that some members of Congress are not just good in one Congress, but have been keeping up effective lawmaking in Congress after Congress. I’ll also highlight, uh, some of the top freshmen and see what Gerry has to say about them. Before we start talking about some broad patterns, uh, maybe some implications for the current a 117th Congress, and then opening it broadly to your questions and our attempted answers.
Craig Volden (05:31):
Gerry, the big reveal here are the top 10 Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives, according to our metric, uh, Democrats, we have Lowey, DeFazio, Maloney, uh, down to a top 10 of freshman member, uh, Elaine Luria from, uh, Virginia and Republicans we have McCaul, Smith, Katko, uh, all the way down to a Stefanik, uh, on our top 10 lists. Anybody catch your eye there?
Gerry Warburg (05:58):
Yeah there are a bunch of fascinating things about these lists and I want to be candid with the group that, uh, Professor Volden has a sustained campaign over 10 years, made me a true believer in this data. As a practitioner I used to try to count votes in the house and Senate floor as a young staffer. I had my own tells on, on where a member was going to go and how to predict their outcomes. But I think that Professor Volden, Professor Wiseman and CEL, did really an extraordinary job of controlling for a whole bunch of variables, uh, that people like me and Professor Savage, I see on the call, but, uh, Dean Solomon and others have seen firsthand dealing with members, but I think CEL really does a great job. So a few things right away, Craig, uh, first of all, chairmanships are diminishing power.
Gerry Warburg (06:40):
You see, uh, particularly in the Senate, a bunch of people who are not necessarily committee chairs, playing significant roles, people like Gary Peters and, uh, Corey Gardner. Um, but yeah, being Chair of Appropriations still matters. So Nita Lowey is number one. Uh, she’s retiring, she’s veteran, but also DeFazio who has, um, a somewhat prickly personality. Some people don’t get along with them quite so. Well he’s from the people’s Republic of Portland, very progressive area, but he chairs Transportation and Infrastructure and they control a lot of money and will again this year. So chairmanships still do matter there, but look at some of the other names. And let me name names and be specific. There are some members in Congress who have a reputation for being so-called show horses, don’t get between John Kerry and the camera, and you’ll get trampled is the old joke about Senator Kerry.
Gerry Warburg (07:28):
Um, well he turned out to be a workhorse in the end. There are a couple of names that jump out here. Um, Eleanor Holmes Norton doesn’t even have a floor vote she represents DC. Sheila Lee Jackson, very outspoken often on cable TV a lot, but here they are legislating one. And I think that ought to humble us about caricature about some of the members. And I’d say that for Chris Smith and Andy Barr as well, uh, on the Republican side. Second thing, is there’s still a practice of leadership trying to help members in tough races. So you see Stefanik and see Luria as freshmen popping up on a top 10, most effective, surely helpful to their reelect, but they were getting stuff done. And I would suspect there were cases where they featured Congresswoman Luria in debate, gave her the amendment to offer as a way of highlighting their role. Um, finally, I was struck by the fact and we’ll get to this more in some of the future slides, Craig, that being in the minority doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, particularly the Republican moderates, uh, in the minority in the Pelosi House and the Democratic moderates in the McConnell Senate in 2019 20, I think did quite well.
Craig Volden (08:38):
I’m going to pop those senators up here now as well. I think you mentioned Gary Peters at the top of that.
Gerry Warburg (08:44):
So it’s just, just the, the few dozen of us here in the Batten family. I’m going to name names again. Marco Rubio has a reputation for getting on TV a lot. Um, maybe not so much. Gary Peters was considered one of the least effective democratic senators by inside the beltway wisdom who was imperiled in his Michigan reelect and famously was behind for three or four days between November 3rd and November 7th during the slow count, uh, Merkley nondescript, um, guy, you could walk by in the subway and not know he was a Senator, Masto a freshmen, um, Moran John Kennedy we see a lot on TV, Corey Gardner. These are people who did a lot of legislating as well. Um, Democrats that tend to be moderates, uh, Tester, uh, Duckworth, uh, some of the more moderate democratic members, Klobuchar, Casey pro-life, Democrat Shaheen. Uh, but these are people who are able to work across the aisle in a divided Congress and get stuff done. Uh, and I think that ought to cause us to reassess, um, the skillsets that some of these members bring to the table.
Craig Volden (09:52):
One thing that I noticed here, uh, I’m not listing all of the scores out just to make the, the names big enough that people might be able to read them. Um, but, uh, we had the very rare instance where the top performer overall in the Senate, Gary Peters, uh, was not in the majority party. Uh, what do you make of that? How, how does, how does that sort of thing happen?
Gerry Warburg (10:14):
And folks, this is something I really want to underscore, particularly for the students of Volden and Warburg here. Um, I was looking for confirmation bias. This is the opposite. This runs completely against my assumptions from inside the beltway chatter that, you know, Gary Peters is too quiet, doesn’t look like a Senator has a tough reelect, not on TV enough. Uh, but here he was legislating, uh, repeatedly, um, tracked a number of ways through the CEL data. Um, and the skeptic in me, Professor Volden, says that’s because leadership pushed him forward and the committee chairs pushed him forward and they gave him floor time. And if they had an amendment that cooked up in caucus, they said, well, let’s, let’s let Peter’s offer it. That may be unfair to Senator Peters. It could be that once a label gets attached to somebody in Washington, um, like the false label that John Kerry was just interested in getting on TV, not in, in doing legislation.
Gerry Warburg (11:10):
Um, it may take some time for reality and facts to catch up with that. And I think that’s one of the great services that CEL provides because we’re totally a-partisan nonpartisan. We’re not about, you know, making friends look good and making the enemies look bad, et cetera. And we’re letting the data dictate our analysis. And I think that leadership probably worked pretty carefully with some of these members. Testers also in a, in a red state, as a blue Democrat, to make sure these folks were featured. Um, and in other cases like Marco Rubio, it just shows that they were doing the hard work. Now, Marco has a new chief of staff. The last four years might need him who came from her to Jackson, a friend of Batten, and maybe that he also had good staff work here to support them.
Craig Volden (11:56):
Um, the other thing on beaters was certainly coming into a big election year there as a Senator and doesn’t happen, uh, except every third cycle. Uh, and, uh, the fact that, you know, Republicans led his bills move forward, uh, was something that was a surprise to me. Uh, we have the good fortune of having an interview scheduled with him in April. Uh, so people who want to check that out on the CEL website, uh, later on, uh, afterwards after we conduct that we’ll, uh, learn, learn a lot more there, um, want to move on to our longest streaks here. So, uh, I mentioned we have the benchmarks and we have those people who exceed expectations on those benchmarks. Uh, and here are, uh, coming through the 116th, but going back in time, uh, those who are on a winning streak, uh, in consistently performing above, uh, you know, he’ll appear at the top of the list of Don young, I, every Congress, since he arrived in 1973, uh, whether he’s in the minority or majority, a committee chair or not, uh, he’s been exceeding expectations. Uh, and likewise, uh, Eleanor Norton, Holmes Norton, um, every Congress has been in, uh, has been exceeding expectations category.
Gerry Warburg (13:12):
That’s remarkable again. Um, and I, and I really want to hammer the point. Don’t look for confirmation bias, look for information and follow it, follow where the data leads and challenge all the assumptions. Don Young doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s a wonderful character. Uh, his entire office is filled with statuary from his days as a big game hunter in Alaska. That’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s very much Don Young’s personality, but he’ll work with anybody on anything. And I reference the front page of today’s Washington Post Congress, revives earmarks. Uh, Don Young is, is a horse trader, uh, he’ll say, Hey, if I put this provision in here to expand the national park in Astoria, Oregon, will you, Peter DeFazio vote for my bill. Um, and that’s how he would, uh, make sure everybody had a stake in his bills. They tend to go through public lands and interior, which has a lot of legislation, um, but he doesn’t bring ideology as his first point.
Gerry Warburg (14:09):
He was a freedom caucus, conservative, Republican, but he’s interested in getting stuff done. And, um, the couple other names I’d call listeners attention to number one is number 10. Uh, Hakeem Jeffries is someone that a lot of inside the beltway types were not initially familiar with the Congressman. I think there’s a very strong chance it’s going to be the next Speaker of the House and, uh, the first person of color in congressional leadership, uh, since Bill Gray of Pennsylvania served a generation to go, um, and he certainly had a featured role in the second impeachment, uh, in other things. Um, and the fact that he’s also been doing not just the party work of building support for himself within the party. Um, but, um, but the work of legislating as well.
Craig Volden (14:57):
Gotcha. Jeffries has been there 4 congresses and is exceeding expectations each, each, and every one of those.
Gerry Warburg (15:03):
And again, folks, I’m being honest here. I wouldn’t have expected that. Um, but the data doesn’t lie here. And I think that’s a really important way of challenging assumptions. Two other names I want to pull out real quick. One is Rob Portman. Um, uh, as many of you know, I, I, I worked with the other party, uh, but I have enormous respect for Senator Portman and he’s going to be an enormous loss in the United States Congress, in my opinion, his willingness to defend the institution on things like tariffs and trade is willingness to work across the aisle is nonideological approach to getting stuff done for the American people. But that doesn’t surprise me he’s on there, but I’m sure that some of the stuff that put them on this list of stuff McConnell did not want them doing so certain profiles in courage, ditto with Chris Smith, who famously lost his gavel at beds for crossing Newt Gingrich, uh, on funding for belts, um, and Senator Smith, uh, who’s quite conservative actually grew more moderate after crossing swords with his leadership, the other name, and I have to do this affectionately full disclosure, and he’s my best friend in the United States Congress.
Gerry Warburg (16:08):
Um, but Congressman Connolly’s on this list and Gerry Connolly has been somewhat skeptical of data collection. He thinks it’s all like, uh, poker, old school baseball, and he’s skeptical of new analytics creeping into modern baseball as well. Um, but here he is, and I will have to tease Congressman Connolly about this, uh, because your economy does do the hard work of coalition building and, uh, offering amendments with co-sponsors. Um, and he insists the data. Doesn’t show this, that the chairman gets too much credit or the chair woman, uh, not true. There are controls for that. So I’ll have to use this data with the congressmen affectionately, cause he’s, he’s also a great friend of the school and very generous with his time. So I don’t want to twit him too hard, but yeah, th the data doesn’t lie, a couple other people who got picked for the impeachment team, the Congressman from Rhode Island whose name I always mispronounced to Cicilline. Um, he’s on.
Craig Volden (17:01):
And even my spellchecker was highlighting that one. Yeah.
Gerry Warburg (17:05):
Good deal. Uh, what do you see in that list, Craig? Is there something particularly surprising to you?
Craig Volden (17:10):
Well, I, I, you know, the, the thing that, uh, that we might have some skepticism about is, you know, within any one Congress, somebody can have a bunch of hits or, you know, be pushed forward as they’re in a tough election battle or whatever. And so, you know, what I’m drawn to are these folks who just a year in year out Congress after Congress are, are exceeding expectations. We had the pleasure of talking to Representative Young, uh, last year, or we’re hoping we’ll get to interview, uh, Delegate Holmes Norton here in the, in the future, uh, and really want to hear, you know, what do you do? How do you keep it going? Uh, so effectively over time for, for Young, that was a focus on his home state, uh, and, and his constituency and bringing constituents issues forward. Uh, but for others, it’s a variety of things. And so hearing those lessons, a number of the freshmen, um, here, I’m listening, uh, and we had kind of a bumper crop of, of freshmen who were in our exceeds expectation category this time around, uh, now it’s certainly the case, uh, that, um, you know, being in the majority party is helping you get to the top of our list is Democrats, um, further down the list though, I’m picking up some of the top Republicans here and, uh, drawn to noting a lot of Virginians on this list of, of effective freshmen. Uh, Gerry…
Gerry Warburg (18:35):
Um, I will recall an incident for you guys for my dark days as a lobbyist, we would look for public works initiatives in a freshmen’s district, and then go pitch them that we can help them get across the finish line. This was very Machiavellian, a little bit Francis Underwood, but the fact was we knew that leadership would go out of their way to try to help let’s bring it home. And Abigail Spanberger a new, fresh woman in a purple district, uh, who everybody knew from day one was going to have a tough reelection by, I think those facts obtain certainly for Luria. Um, they didn’t appear to obtain for Wexton because that was old Frank Wolf’s district and Barbara Comstock. The assumption is it’s now a blue district for a generation, but freshmen and freshmen women, when they go to leadership saying, I’d like to have a major role in the fight for a balanced budget or in the fight for, uh, you know, the dreamers legislation, uh, smart leaders elevate, uh, first year, uh, members and give them a visible role look what Mitch McConnell did with Senator Martha McSally.
Gerry Warburg (19:48):
– trying to give her a featured role and, uh, some of the sexual assault issues involving the military, uh, Ben Klein, Michael Guest Crenshaw, again, got support from their leadership to have a featured role, the old days of Sam Rayburn and LBJ telling members to sit down and shut up for the first 10 years in the Congress and just if they want to get along, go along, um, those are over, um. Leadership now looks to their imperiled freshmen members. I think you’ll see this, uh, with Mark Kelly in Arizona, you already see it with the other Arizona Senator, uh, you see with Joe Manchin often, uh, getting a lot of slack from leadership to vote with the other party sometimes, but also be featured when there is a compromise.
Craig Volden (20:34):
Uh, let me ask you a little bit about McSally there. So, you know, she was filling out John McCain’s term, uh, was up for a special election against Mark Kelly. Um, she had a bunch of things, you know, how she got a 1.5 here. A lot of, she had a bunch of things that she put forward that passed the Senate. Uh, and then, uh, the, the record as I’m seeing them is held at desk in the House. Uh, so when they went over, they weren’t sent to the committee. What do you make of that sort of thing? Um, you know, was that political?
Gerry Warburg (21:06):
Yes, that was political. That was Pelosi helping Schumer try to become a majority leader. Um, and I bet you, some of those Luria bills that came over to the McConnell Senate were dead on arrival. Um, unfortunate, um, not something that used to be done as much back in the day. Um, I remember a bill I worked on for three months called the support Eastern European democracy Act very quaint. This is when, uh, the brilliant, the Warsaw pact was falling apart but the Berlin wall had not yet fallen. I worked on it for months and my boss gave the entire bill to a Senator named Paul Simon from Illinois, who was oppressed and up for reelection for the strong group of ethnic Americans from Eastern Europe and his district. And Paul Simon ran with my bill and got reelected. Um, I like to think that that’s something to do with it, but yeah, leadership does help members and opposite party leadership does try to try to thwart efforts, uh, to feature the good work of an imperiled member. I, I dare say Spanberger’s bills probably didn’t do real well in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.
Craig Volden (22:11):
Yup. Yup. Um, we’re gonna open this up for Q and a and a little bit, uh, but I do want to ask you a couple of broad trends beyond those, those lists. Geri, uh, in particular, um, if we think about some of the trends, I think we already mentioned, uh, this idea that, uh, near the top of our list were a variety of committee chairs and sub committee chairs. But one thing I noticed was just how kind of poorly they performed, uh, as committee chairs in this Congress, uh, the 116th compared to in the past. And actually that’s part of a larger trend. Um, so for example, uh, it used to be, um, you know, when we look at our data back in the 1970s, eighties, and nineties, uh, we have this normalization to an average of one, but committee chairs were getting threes and fours and fives consistently, you know, the average, uh, and here are the average committee chair is getting like a 1.4 in the Senate. Um, so only slightly above, uh, the normal, uh, member and committee chairs in the House. On average in this 116th Congress, I have a little over one of their bills become law. Whereas in the seventies, eighties and nineties, it was three or four or five of their bills becoming law. A lot of that I think might be traced back to the reforms of the nineties, said party, seizing control away from committee chairs. Um, but, but what do you draw for that?
Gerry Warburg (23:37):
Um, I think it’s part of the tragedy of the modern, modern Congress, um, losing its ability to, to do, uh, big ambitious things. Um, we all know this, but the lay person’s on this phone call, we don’t pay a lot of attention in Congress, know that they wait until the last minute and the bills get written in the leadership, uh, conference room. Um, they’re not written in committee, they don’t go through subcommittee and full committee markups of full hearings. And when they do the minority party still votes against the bill, after all their amendments have been accepted. So more and more and more, we’re seeing the bills written, um, in the anteroom of Mr. McConnell, um, Mr. Schumer, Ms. Pelosi, Mr. McCarthy, um, let’s be fair. And let’s be honest. And people who are writing the bills in the ante room are the committee chairs and the ranking member.
Gerry Warburg (24:24):
Uh, but often the bill will end up with the name of, you know, Mr. Jeffries as the Rep, uh, or Senator McSally as the Senator, who’s up for reelection who needs the facetime, uh, Congressman Luria. So the committee chairs driving the bus, controlling the flow and managing the bill on the floor has really gone by the wayside. And I think that was a loss for the nation and a loss for the institution. Um, but again, the people who are skeptical about data and think it’s all just a poker game and you got to read, people’s tells the data doesn’t lie. Uh, Professor Volden’s numbers showing that five and six and seven scores have gone down to 1.8 for committee chairs. Um, that’s real data, and it reflects a reality that we need to be sober and realistic and addressing in any lobbyist or any NGO would have to take that into account in setting their strategy.
Craig Volden (25:19):
The other broad pattern that I was seeing there, Gerry, that we had mentioned, Gary Peters being the top performer, despite being in the minority party, uh, that felt like it was part of something bigger. Um, so for example, uh, in the Senate Democrats, um, in the 115th Congress, the one before the one we’re talking about, we’re introducing about 40 bills each and 116, they were introducing about 60 bills each. And Then surprising to me, uh, they were getting those bills through the Republican Senate. Actually, you know, our data go back to the early 1970s. And we were finding that the minority party in the Senate had passed more laws in the 116th Congress than in any Congress dating back to the early 1970s. It surprised us for a variety of reasons. One is that, you know, there are fewer, fewer laws being produced now than there were back in the seventies, bills have become bigger and more omnibus. Um, but you know, in addition to that, um, you know, this, this idea that we’re in such a hyper-partisan mode, how does the minority party get anything done at all? And here they are producing more laws, than we’ve seen previously in the past 50 years. Um, I’ll tweak you a little bit on this one that tells me that Democrats, when they were in the minority could, could pass things. Now they’re in the majority and they say we can’t pass things without filibuster reform. Um, so, uh, what’s going on there?
Gerry Warburg (26:48):
Um, it’s fascinating to me that, that it shows up that way. My experience is there’s no place lonelier than being a, uh, uh, a frosh in the minority. Uh, just ask Mark Warner how much he liked his first term in the Senate after being governor and chief executive and he’s very articulate about it. Um, we were joking in our large undergraduate class last week that, uh, there was a political cartoon saying the three branches of government, uh, the executive, the legislative and Joe Manchin. Um, yeah, uh, a handful of senators are extremely powerful right now. Uh, you know, their names, uh, Collins, Murkowski, and, uh, Manchin, et cetera. Um, there are worst things, uh, there are worst things, uh, to have been empowered in my day. There were 20 Democrats. We had to count really carefully because they weren’t giving me votes and there were 20 Republican votes we could get.
Gerry Warburg (27:43):
And then I worked for the majority whip in the Senate, uh, from 1979 to 1990, um, and that’s changed dramatically. Um, but I think it does show the power of a John McCain turning his thumb down in the well that saved –, um, or, uh, Joe Manchin saying, no, it’s a bridge too far, um, to reward, uh, the new OMB nominee. Um, I may disagree with some of the decisions these legislators have made, but I don’t underestimate the courage that it takes to buck the party leadership. And I think it’s actually an encouraging sign and it does beg the question, you know, why can’t the Democrats pick up two or three Republican votes to get stuff done without going nuclear and eliminating the filibuster?
Craig Volden (28:29):
Yeah. Um, we’ve had a patient set of guests here. So feel free, uh, for any of you on, uh, on the zoom call to, uh, raise your hands and start asking questions. But before we turn to those Gerry uh, any thing that this tells you about the current 117th Congress and what we might expect moving forward?
Gerry Warburg (28:50):
Um, it’s going to be tight. It’s going to be tough. And I think most of us who observe closely know we’re coming up to, um, a critical point. Uh, it’s a question, uh, on some of our midterm exams for the Congress class, but everybody in the country now knows about reconciliation. It’s a poorly kept secret. Um, but you can’t do voting rights by reconciliation. You can’t do infrastructure bills by reconciliation. And according to the Senate parliamentarian, you can’t do the, uh, $15 an hour minimum wage by reconciliation. And at some point in the next 90 to 180 days, uh, Schumer and Biden are going to have to decide whether they’re going to work with the Republicans to try to come to some common ground on these issues or whether they’re going to try to change the modern Senate dramatically and eliminate filibuster initially, perhaps for just one set of bills having to do with voting rights, uh, you could make the moral high ground argument.
Gerry Warburg (29:51):
Um, both John Lewis’s memory, et cetera. And, and I could make that argument and write that floor statement myself. Um, but whether you want to basically render the 50 Republican senators in the United States Senate irrelevant, I exaggerate for effect by saying, we’re going to have 50 Democrats on the vice-president jammed through our entire agenda and katie bar the door Puerto Rico’s, a state, Washington, DC is a state and they got two senators, haha, Wyoming. We got our revenge. I mean, you can imagine that the agenda going right up to including some of Senator Bernie Sanders agenda items that they could muscle through. And that’s where the Arizona Senator the West Virginia Senator some of the New Hampshire senators, um, might not support Schumer, but that’s going to happen. People it’s going to happen in the next 90 or 180 days. And it will probably be the most fateful decision that Biden and Schumer make in terms of executive legislative relations in the entire four years of president Biden’s, uh, term. What do you think is gonna happen to the filibuster Professor Volden? Uh, what do you think is going to happen with the filibuster? Do you have any prognoses?
Craig Volden (31:05):
Yeah. So you’re saying that the coming weeks are going to be really intriguing. Um, I think the best case forward for filibuster reform is try to try to get 60 votes for awhile, uh, and show that you’re making a strong case on things that, uh, uh, you know, Manchins and my, and others would be interested in, in passing. And if you can’t get it done with 60 votes, that makes it easier for them to bring about filibuster reform. And so always having that in their, in their back pocket is, is really an intriguing option. Uh, Jim Savage, I see, we have a question.
Speaker 5 (31:41):
Yes. Um, Gerry, you and I both worked in federal relations you and one perspective, I think for Cassidy and I was working for the University of California, earmarking was a big deal. And now it seems to be on the rise you mentioned in your presentation. What do you think this is going to do to the rank ordering of these members that you’ve been talking about for the last hour, half hour?
Gerry Warburg (32:05):
Um, thanks for the question and thanks for your service to my family’s alma mater university, California, Jim. Um, I think it’s not going to have a very profound effect. I think that it’ll, it will begin to empower committee chairs because of bills are written in committee and everybody in the committee has a stake in it. The committee used to defend the bill as a team on the house and Senate floor, the Republicans and Democrats would defend the bill against non committee members. And God forbid, other committees that were poaching on our jurisdiction. It was usually John Dingell because he was very aggressive about jurisdiction. Um, but I think what you’ll see is you’ll see, most of the members of the Appropriations Committee will vote for the Appropriations committee bill because they’ve got stuff in it and chairs have a way of taking members stuff out of the bill.
Gerry Warburg (32:53):
If they don’t vote for it, they offer a manager’s amendment on the House or Senate floor is the first amendment and they strike out those people’s goodies. Um, the problem with that analysis that we have to be honest about Jim, is that, um, I don’t wish this to sound harsh and I believe it’s factually accurate. The experience that Democrats had on Obamacare really burned them. And it changed Schumer’s thinking the last four years, because what happened on Obamacare is they waited a year and they went through months of markups in different committees and they accepted dozens scores. I believe the number went into triple figures, hundreds of Republicans amendments to improve the Romneycare market-based approach, moderate, uh, affordable care act approach, but then every single Republican voted against the bill, I was much more hopeful about this Congress until I saw every single Republican in the Congress vote against the $1.9 trillion stimulus, um, because it was too big, too much spending, too much pork.
Gerry Warburg (33:56):
And then a week later, the Republican national committee ran national ads saying the Democrats failed to provide enough money for Coronavirus relief, um, which I thought was a striking contradiction and arguments. So the fact that the Republicans are lined up on block against the bill, uh, early in the Congress will make it harder for them to vote for appropriations measures and infrastructure measures. Even though they have projects in the bill, even though they have home state money coming directly back to their communities, some of, in some cases they were elected saying, Hey, I’ll get that, you know, route 28 bypass over 66, I’ll get that done. If you elect me, then there’s money in the bill and they vote against their own provision. It’s going to be tricky, but I don’t think it’s going to change the rankings much other than to make the, the committee chairs power. The committee chair scores go up a little bit,
Craig Volden (34:49):
Right, so anything that’s going to help more bills moves through the process, uh, could raise all votes. But what about you’re saying particularly the votes of those that are incorporating earmarks, uh, in their calculations and so more party leadership, uh, folks, presumably, uh, and more tariffs,
Gerry Warburg (35:06):
And you’ll see more ranking members buck their party leadership to support the bill, Professor Savage. Uh, you won’t have the ranking member of appropriations work to get 150 Republican projects in the bill and then vote against it on the floor. I don’t think that will happen. I think if that happens, we’ll see a motion to strike all their projects is the next motion
Craig Volden (35:28):
A question from Nora.
Speaker 6 (35:31):
Thank you. This discussion has been really interesting. I was just wondering whether you see a gender difference, the legislative effectiveness scores, or if you don’t even take that into consideration.
Craig Volden (35:42):
Um, so yeah, uh, we see a few things there. Um, so we don’t bake in anything, right? So we don’t bake in ‘you’re a committee chair though, this, therefore we’ll give you a higher score. Uh, we just see that emerging, uh, members of the majority party are more effective as well. Uh, and one thing that we’ve found for a long time is that women are more effective than men, uh, particularly when in the minority party. Um, and so if we think kind of behaviorally, um, you’re in the minority party, it’s a sad place to be, as Sherry is pointing out, uh, what do you do there? Um, and from what we’ve seen on average, not all, uh, but on average, minority party men tend to be a little more obstructionist and minority party women relative to that, uh, tend to keep working on their bills, uh, caring deeply about, uh, about their issues and reaching across party lines, um, how that plays out.
Craig Volden (36:39):
Um, I guess we saw that a bit in our top 10 list for, uh, Democrats in the Senate, a number of women on that list. And so just kind of thinking about is that pattern holding up seems to be somewhat. But any thing that we’re talking about minority party versus majority party, differences has to also take into consideration that, women in Congress are small in number is especially in the Republican party. Um, and, and so seeing those differences, uh, play out across parties has been fascinating as well. Um, not always linked to what we would think is as sort of classic. Why would you get a bill through being more moderate, the vote share and are you really focused on re-election of variety of those considerations? Just this broad pattern that we’ve seen, uh, in minority party women, um, keeping their, their bills alive, uh, and moving them forward. Thanks for the question.
Gerry Warburg (37:41):
I gotta just add one thing as a, as a, as a, as a comfort to those of us who want to see change happen more swiftly Nora. When I worked in the Senate in the eighties, um, th th the women’s Senate caucus was very, very small. There wasn’t even a restroom for women senators to use off the center floor. They famously had to walk quite a ways. Uh, there was just no accommodation there because it was an old boys club. I, when Feinstein and Boxer got elected in 1970 to 1992 in the same election, when my boss retired, uh, they made the cover of Time magazine. Uh, you’re the women, I think there were like six out of a hundred. Um, and I just have to point to the arc of history that time begins to heal some of our ways as a nation and a legacy that we need to be very aware of on these grounds of excluding women, including people of color.
Gerry Warburg (38:30):
Congress is making a heck of a lot of progress. If you look at the arc of the membership from 92 to present day, and Professor Volden has some great slides on this steady solid increase. And when the Democrats to get too self-congratulatory about this look how well Republican women did in the Biden win of 2020, it was very substantial gains by women in the Republican party, a memo to Republican leadership, you know, stop having pictures of 36 men sitting around the White House, talking about women’s healthcare. That was a devastating photograph in 2017. And the freedom caucus met with, uh, President Trump. And there were 36 white men sitting around and talking about women’s healthcare. Um, so the arc of history does bend towards greater inclusiveness. Uh, but it’s slow. The only thing I say real quick is that women were better at compromise. They don’t get their macho defense, can’t give him, uh, stuff up as easily. I know it’s a gender generalization, but my boss insisted on always having Republican co-sponsor. We introduce a bill and I know several women in Congress who take the same attitude. They will not drop a bill in without a member of the opposite party. And it’s often a woman they’ve worked with in a bipartisan women’s caucus and got to know, well,
Craig Volden (39:43):
So let me follow up on that bipartisan question. Uh, and others should feel free to join in with their questions, uh, as well. You know, one thing we saw for, for, uh, Gary Peters, but we’ve seen this for others as well. I was just looking at, uh, Kirsten Sinema, you know, how much is she working across party lines, uh, that there are a number of members who won’t put forward a bill without a co-sponsor of the other party. Um, what do you think of that as a strategy, especially if we’re saying, you know, it’s tough, tough to overcome, uh, you know, partisan differences today. Um, if you limit yourself to only bills that have a bipartisan, uh, co-sponsor, it’s going to be fewer bills, but maybe ones that have a greater chance of moving forward.
Gerry Warburg (40:25):
Yeah. It’s there between the show horse and work horse. It’s different between a message bill and legislation and folks, most bills just get swallowed up in an omnibus in the women’s mark or the appropriations conference reports. Suddenly it pops up cl is good at tracking that, that language, they know where it came from. Um, but I do think you see that phenomenon for a lot.
Craig Volden (40:50):
Um, I was hearing that, uh, as we’re following up on, on January 6th to that a number of, uh, of Democrats aren’t willing to have as co-sponsors, uh, those who voted against a certification of the election. So the 147 Republicans there are perhaps on the outs for this process. And, and we’re seeing a lot of cases where, uh, Democrats and Republicans aren’t even willing to appear in the same room together, uh, under those circumstances. So tell me how you’re thinking that’s going to play out and is it going to take years and years to heal those, those divides?
Gerry Warburg (41:28):
I don’t think it will take years and years, but, uh, it happened to us at that. And we’d invited two, one said he wouldn’t sit on the panel or the other one because of that vote. Um, I think time will heal those wounds. Um, I think there’s some members who can justify those votes though. I personally disagree with them very strongly to saying, wait, are we just wanting to give him a hearing? We just want him to have further debate and wanted more information to reassure everybody that the election was legitimate. Um, but in the face of 50 state certifications from the majority of them, Republican secretaries of state, I don’t buy that argument, but I understand how that can be logically advanced, wanting to show solidarity on a procedural motion. Um, but yeah, those wounds where I’m dating even saw last week, this weekend, a United States, Senator lecturing, and you’re other United States Senator saying, don’t retell the story of January 6th.
Gerry Warburg (42:19):
You and I were both in danger. Our lives were in danger and your false narrative, everybody knows, I’m talking about Senator Johnson of Wisconsin. There’s no reason to hide it, but another Senator was attacking him saying, don’t try to rewrite history, Senator Johnson, your life was endangered just as well as mine, just as well as our vice president, Mike Pence’s. So I, I think there’ll be a struggle over retelling the history of January 6th. I don’t think it will last too long. I think frankly, it’s one of the values and having a blue ribbon commission that kind of locks down after all our history of the Kennedy assassination comes from the Warren commission. Uh, our history of nine 11 comes with the nine 11 commission. So I think it might be helpful to have a common narrative there, but I, Craig I short answer is over time. People will work with those legislators. Uh, there’ve been some delegation lunches that have been canceled because the delegation doesn’t want to meet together. Um, don’t come back to doing the people’s business. They need to work together. And I think they’ll do some,
Craig Volden (43:16):
Uh, we have a question from Kelly Wolf.
Speaker 7 (43:19):
I was wondering, and I’m not sure if you already mentioned this, but what type of responses have you all been getting from any of the representatives or senators have there been any, Have there been some more positive responses from them?
Craig Volden (43:34):
Yeah, thanks for the question. Um, so partly it’s a question of how do we see politics playing out and partly it’s a question of, uh, you know, what is the response? So at the Center we tend to be very positive. So we’ve shared these, uh, top lists, uh, out there quite broadly. And, um, you know, a lot of members, uh, have picked them up and had press releases or tweeted about them, uh, and so on. Uh, and then the nature of politics takes off, uh, and those near the bottoms of our lists, none of which, uh, we’ve put up here, uh, today, um, you know, their opponents start to talk about how they’re ineffective at lawmaking. Um, and those come up particularly during, uh, during campaigns for elections. Um, how we think about that though, and, you know, if, if somebody is not on our top list, what do they do and what could they do to kind of defend their record, uh, is really an interesting element.
Craig Volden (44:29):
Um, and there, we just emphasize that we’re the Center for Effective Lawmaking, but we’re focused on of course, lawmaking, uh, and that members of Congress who are focused on other things, uh, we think lawmaking is really central, but it could be focused on oversights, could be focused on constituency services, could be focused on, you know, trying to stop horrible ideas from others. Uh, we’re, we’re more about the moving forward of ideas, uh, that those tend to be their responses, uh, particularly those, um, who, uh, who have to, uh, you know, take a different, take a different approach.
Gerry Warburg (45:05):
Okay, can I press you on just for a second? Um, John Bohener famously said, judge us by the laws we don’t pass. And Mitch McConnell, uh, famously said on January 20th, 2009, our job is to make sure, uh, that Obama is a one-term president and we block most everything he tries to do. Um, for years we’ve respected and, and, and lauded in some cases, legislators who stopped bad things from happening who fought for limited government. Um, if you’re a Reagan conservative, uh, who fought to get the federal government out of your private lives, if you’re a libertarian who cares about marijuana decriminalization, or even rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, um, how you at CEL quantify the value of Jesse Helms to objected to everything that ever happened on the Senate floor, uh, but designated objector role that people play. Um, is there a special category you can create for them numerically, you know, a bill’s filibustered to death. Uh, but, but how do you more broadly address that argument when you’re challenged in the Academy on it?
Craig Volden (46:13):
Yeah. Uh, it’s a great question. And I would say kind of twofold, the first thing we just looked into is we would expect, if the Democrats are more interested in putting bills forward and Republicans more interested in stopping them, uh, that we should see big, big differences between Democrats and Republicans. Uh, and the only difference we found there, uh, is when Democrats are in the majority party, they’re moving more bills than Republicans, but when Republicans are in the majority party, they’re moving more bills than Democrats. Um, and, uh, and that’s exactly what we would expect if it’s, um, you know, not a, you know, we’re opposed to all the legislation, but we have a different view of government and we’re going to advance that view of government through different policies that might be tax cuts instead of spending increases. It might be an attempt to overturn the affordable care act as opposed to extend the affordable care act.
Craig Volden (47:03):
Um, but they’re still seeing to seeing the opportunity to, to do that through legislation, uh, as opposed to, uh, through just stopping anything and everything. Uh, we’ve even seen this in sort of the, uh, more extreme, uh, on the edges of the ideological spectrum. Uh, the number of bills that are put forward by a tea party caucus members, uh, the num the number that have, are seen put forward by very Republicans or very liberal Democrats, um, you know, that they’re really all engaged about equally in law making or attempts at lawmaking. Um, and, uh, and so we see, uh, not big swaths that are saying, um, just ideologically we’re, uh, we’re opposed to lawmaking. The second thing I’d say there is, um, we have a couple of projects underway where we’re looking at, you know, those who are interested more in stopping legislation than moving it forward.
Craig Volden (47:58):
Uh, one is, um, we’ve gone through a number of the, uh, written records of some of the party leaders, uh, in the Senate. Uh, and we now have a pretty long list of, uh, of senators and how many times they have holds on legislation, um, that they put forward. And we want to see how related it is, uh, if you’re interested in holding or stopping legislation, uh, versus moving legislation forward, are those kind of two sides of the same coin, just very interested in legislation. And so the, the people with a lot of holds are also going to be the people who are at the top of our list, uh, or are those the opposite. Uh, and likewise, we can look at committee chairs and sub committee chairs that are able to stop bills moving through their committees or subcommittees, uh, kind of an obstructionist rule there, um, who are the ones who do that, uh, who only let things out of their committees and subcommittees of, of the same party, uh, or have an ideologically aligned group. Uh, and are they the most effective lawmakers or least effective lawmakers because they’re more interested in stopping legislation. Both of those are work in progress. Um, people who want to always see our work in progress, go to the lawmakers.org and look at our working paper series. Um, I see you, you’ve just had something up there, Jerry. Um, and so it’s a good to have these contributions kind of across the board from all of our faculty affiliates.
Gerry Warburg (49:21):
Assuming you read through that list, Craig, um, reminders as an old Senate person, guys, we didn’t use to pick the majority leader and the minority leader, uh, based on, you know, who can give the pithy soundbite or who can be a Newt Gingrich or Nancy Pelosi on national TV. Think about some of the people that these very telegenic Sunday morning talk show, press hounds picked as their leaders, Harry Reed, and Mitch McConnell, probably the two least effective on Sunday morning talk shows we, we ever had, and you very rarely ever saw them on those shows. They’re not the Lindsey Graham’s, uh, who had the pithy quote on almost any topic. Uh, they’re not the usual suspects that get put on national TV. Chris van Hollen is also very glib and quick with the one-liner, but they pick the parliamentarians. I knew Mitch McConnell when he was a freshman, he was the designated objective for the Republicans.
Gerry Warburg (50:17):
He’d sit on the floor all day long in case the Democrats tried to pull a fast one, he’d ay I object, and that was his job. And he’d sit there all day, learning parliamentary procedure, not working in committee, not a lot. Um, so the leadership was actually picked defensively in the Senate, really for the last generation. Um, and one of the challenges for CEL when there’s less legislation is figuring out who gets credit. And my last point in that regard will be, will sound partisan. It’s not intended to, but the fact is that President Biden’s predecessor really did not have a robust legislative agenda of major things. He wanted the national legislature to accomplish and passing the public law. Trump famously pushed tax cuts and conservative judges, well conservative judges, aren’t public laws, the right that the president’s party gets to pick judges that line up with your ideology, but Biden didn’t.
Gerry Warburg (51:12):
I mean, Trump didn’t have 10 things he wanted to legislate on George W. Bush did starting with no child left behind and tax cuts. Obama did starting with Dodd-Frank and stimulus and green energy and affordable care act. Um, and now Joe Biden has a whole bunch of things, but Biden hasn’t passed a lot of bills either. Um, he put it all in one bill, he put it in an omnibus. So you had a $1.9 trillion coronavirus response bill that dealt with historical racism to black farmers dealt with child daycare, tax credits and everything in between. Um, and the Republicans are correct and criticizing, it wasn’t just a coronavirus relief package. It was a democratic wishlist. They put everything in there except the $15 minimum wage, which they even had in the House. And it’ll be interesting to see whether Biden continues to do that two or three big bills, and we fight over all year long or a broad swath of legislation. And I suspect it will be the former.
Craig Volden (52:10):
Uh, if anybody wants the last question, I think our queue is open there. Um, but, uh, if we don’t have any, I want us to send out a few thank yous. First, of course, to Professor Warburg, uh, always a pleasure to pick your brain on a, the meaning behind the number a lot of the findings and the numbers that we put up. And then, uh, to the CEL uh, research assistance team, uh, Kelly, you asked a question, but there are a bunch of others, uh, who are unable to make it today. But we’re very thankful for all the work they’re doing behind the scenes, uh, to help bring these numbers forward.
Gerry Warburg (52:45):
Um, if I could echo those, thank you, Craig. I wanted to single out two groups of people. Uh, one is the Center for Effective Lawmaking, uh, folks, check it out, get involved. Um, some students have come in, they’re just looking for some after hours cash or whatever, but have learned an extraordinary amount. And, uh, one case, um, uh, my research assistant Hannah Gavin actually was instrumental over the course of 12 months and in, um, taking the support I got from the Center for Effective Lawmaking and turning it into, um, a journal article, a period here, an article at the Wilson quarterly, a bunch of op-eds on the Hill, et cetera. So CEL is just a wonderful set of resources and they’re backed up by the people on this call, like Erin Tor and Jill Rockwell and Millie Hicks who really help us when we try to go live on something like this.
Gerry Warburg (53:31):
Um, finally I just wanted to abuse the goodwill of the chair, um, by thanking, uh, one of our guests and listeners, uh, I’ve seen on here that we’ve had the good fortune to be joined by Mary Beuford and Fred Hits. And we’re great friends in the school. Great supporters of, of all we do. And I was just delighted to see them taking the time to join in the Batten Hour. Um, and finally, thank you, Professor Volden for letting a clumsy practitioner, uh, get involved in some early fascinating scholarship that is informed, um, and helped grow my own thinking through the Center for Effective Lawmaking at the Batten school. So thank you very much, Professor Volden for, including me today.
Craig Volden (54:11):
One last comment in the, in the chat from, from Dean Solomon who asks, uh, can we measure effectiveness by the hiring of Batten graduates? And I think we will, we might be able to do that as soon as so many, uh, Batten folks up on, up on Capitol Hill at this point, uh, just really exciting, uh, great to have those connections. Uh, they’re helping our, our work at the Center immensely. Uh, but by having those connections
Gerry Warburg (54:33):
And Dean Solomon, I w I would say yes, because when people look for jobs on the Hill, another person on the call has been really helpful. Steve has thank you in career services, but they go see Steve Hiss. They go see former Congressman Brad Carson. They go see Warburg or Volden, and they say, do I want to work in this office? Is this a great office? This is a show horse, or they talk on staff. Um, and our Batten graduates have gotten some really extraordinary postings. Uh, just this week, our Molly Cole left Congressman Connolly, she’s working for Senator Senator Chris van Hollen on the Senate foreign relations committee, a wonderful set of offices to work in. Uh, but yes, Ian, uh, members have avoided a few offices that don’t have the greatest reputations, and they’ve gone towards those, um, who tend to get much more involved in legislation, um, which is what we’re training them to do here at Batten. So, yeah, I think it’s a little bit of a job help tip, Ian, I really think it is.
Craig Volden (55:26):
And the other thing that I’d point to now that we have up on our website, uh, the 21 different issue areas. And if any students are looking to intern on the Hill, uh, and they’re interested in some particular policy issue, you know, click on the thing that sorts by health policy or whatever policy area you’re interested in, look at the top performers, go join their offices instead of, you know, feeling that, Oh, I thought this would be different than they and I have a mismatch there, find effective lawmakers to spend your time with, uh, if you’re interested in policymaking, which Batten students are, uh, and find those, uh, interested in their particular, uh, particular, uh, policy areas as well. So lots of opportunities there, uh, go to the lawmakers.org. And thanks so much for joining us again today.
Gerry Warburg (56:12):
Thank you, Professor Volden. Thank you for being with us, everybody. See some of you in class in just a little while for the Warburg/Volden show continued.
Dean Rockwell (56:22):
everyone have a great day. Thanks for coming.
Gerry Warburg (56:25):
Thanks Dean Rockwell.