Voting on the Pacific Rim Trade Pact

President Obama’s effort to secure “Fast Track” authority to finish the negotiations on the Pacific Rim Trade Pact appears to be in serious jeopardy after the displaced Workers Aid portion of the bill was defeated by a vote of 126-302. The Senate passed a bill on May 22nd that coupled fast track with the displaced workers aid. We use our Weekly Constant-Space DW-NOMINATE Scores to do the vote plots. The Senate vote is shown below:

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Five Republicans voted against the bill — Collins (ME), Lee (UT), Paul (KY), Sessions (AL), and Shelby (AL). The blue “R” furthest to the right is actually Lee and Paul because they have essentially identical coordinates — (0.925, -0.159) and (0.927, -0.156), respectively. The blue “R” furthest to the left is Collins. Getting the 62 votes to pass the trade bill was a heavy lift for McConnell and President Obama. Any changes in the bill in the House would likely mean its defeat in the Senate.

The bill unraveled in the House where there were separate votes on the displaced workers aid portion and the fast track portion. The displaced workers aid went down by a lopsided 126-302 vote:

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(The two missing “Nay” votes are Speaker Boehner (who has not voted enough times for coordinates to be estimated) and Trent Kelly (R-MS) who was just elected to replace Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) who died of brain cancer in February.) The cutting line actually produces more errors — 136 — than “Yea” votes — 126. In CS DW-NOMINATE we only constrain roll call midpoints to be within the unit circle in two dimensions (technically, an ellipse because we use a weighted Euclidean metric).

Neither Political Party was happy with the bill and this is reflected in the lopsided defeat of the workers aid portion. Many Democrats believe that the Trade Deals of the past 25 years have worsened income inequality as jobs moved overseas. How much free trade has contributed to income inequality is not clear but there is no denying the steep increase in inequality since 1970:

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As Emmanuel Saez shows the rich have done well since the Clinton years. Here is his Table 1:

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After the defeat of the displace workers aid package the House then voted on the Fast track portion of the bill. This passed by a vote of 219 – 211:

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(The two missing “Yea” votes are Speaker Boehner and Trent Kelly.) Although the PRE is a respectable 0.62 ((211-81)/211) there was substantial opposition within each Party to the respective majority positions.

Speaker Boehner and President Obama are now faced with the prospect of finding the votes to get the displaced workers aid passed on Tuesday or the whole trade bill will be dead.

House and Senate Party Means 1879 – 2015

Below we use Weekly Common Space DW-NOMINATE scores to plot the means of the House and Senate Democrats and Republicans 1879 – 2015 (May 31).  The Democrats in the House for the first time since 1921 are homogeneous across the North and South (the 11 States of the Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma).  The Republicans in the 114th House have almost exactly the same mean as they had in the 113th House so we may, at last, see a leveling off of polarization.  Indeed, the slight increase in polarization in the House from the 113th to the 114th (see below) is due to a slight shift to the left of the Democratic Party mean due to the Southern Democrats shifting left.
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In the Senate the Southern Democrats are more moderate than the Northern Democrats but both groups have shifted to the left.  The Republicans have shifted to the right.  This is why the uptick in polarization in the Senate is larger than the House (see below).

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The results indicate that polarization (i.e., the distance between the two parties on the first dimension [Liberal vs. Conservative]) has increased slightly in both the House and Senate.  In an earlier post we thought that the polarization in the Senate had dropped a little.  That was an error.  We used the wrong dataset.  The figure below is correct and uses all the roll calls through 31 May 2015.

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I bears repeating that the trend to polarization has been largely due to the Republican Party moving to the right since the 1976 elections. In contrast, the Northern Democrats in both Chambers have barely budged in the past 40 years. What has happened is the the Democratic party has become much more homogeneous.

Senate: Vote on Trade Bill

Below we use Weekly Common Space DW-NOMINATE scores to plot the Senate’s 62-37 vote to pass fast track trade authority for the president.

Senate Republicans split 48-5 in favor of the bill while Senate Democrats voted 14-32 against passage. The Senate Republicans who voted Nay are very ideologically dispersed (the most moderate and conservative Republicans—Senators Susan Collins [R-ME] and Mike Lee [R-UT]—both voted against passage), while the vote more clearly divides Senate Democrats on ideological lines, with Yea votes more likely to come from moderate Democrats such as Senators Heidi Heitkamp [D-ND] and Bill Nelson [D-FL]).

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Ideological Dispersion of the Parties in Congress

A recent New York Times Magazine article examined ideological differences between the progressive and centrist wings of the Democratic Party, using the potential Democratic Senatorial primary race in Maryland between Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen as an example of “the great Democratic crack-up.”

Below we use DW-NOMINATE scores to illustrate the ideological positions of Democrats and Republicans in the current House and Senate (Note: these scores are from a new stand-alone Common Space DW-NOMINATE program that can be run weekly as new roll calls are cast; data available here.)

In the present (114th) Congress, it is clear that Republicans occupy a wider swath of ideological territory than Democrats. It is easy to identify distinct ideological clusters of Republicans, but not for Democrats (a point we make here). The distance between, for instance, Republicans Senators Lisa Murkowski and Ted Cruz dwarfs that between Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Senator Hillary Clinton. In fact, the distance between Democratic Representatives Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen is more comparable with the distances between Senators Lisa Murkowski and John McCain or between Senator McCain and Representative Paul Ryan.

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The images below show trends in the ideological dispersion of the parties in Congress since 1879 by plotting the variance in DW-NOMINATE scores among House and Senate Democrats and Republicans in each Congress. Higher values indicate greater ideological dispersion within the parties in both chambers.

From a peak in the mid-twentieth century (when the Democratic Party was split between its Southern and non-Southern wings), the ideological variance among House and Senate Democrats has steadily declined. Congressional Democrats are now more ideologically unified than at any point since the early 1900s. The ideological variance of Congressional Republicans has been flatter over the last century, but there is some suggestion of a jump in dispersion among Senate Republicans in the 112th Congress (following the 2010 midterm elections).

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Ideology and the Republican Split on the Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ Bill

Below we use Common Space DW-NOMINATE scores to examine the ideological positions of the 33 House Republicans who opposed the Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ bill. These scores represent House members’ positions along the liberal-conservative spectrum, with higher scores indicating greater conservatism.

The 33 House Republicans who voted Nay are among the most conservative members of the House Republican Caucus. Their mean score is 0.640, compared to a mean score of 0.497 for House Republicans as a whole. The group of Republicans who have been an enduring headache for Speaker John Boehner do appear to be very conservative (both in contemporary and historical terms), suggesting that the split between “establishment” and “outsider” congressional Republicans is not just a difference in personal styles, but also rooted in ideological differences.

This image is from a new (nearly) stand-alone Common Space DW-NOMINATE program that can be run weekly as new roll calls are cast.

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New Estimates of Polarization in the 114th Congress

Below we use Common Space DW-NOMINATE scores to compare polarization in the current (114th) and previous Congresses. Common Space scores permit comparability across time and between the House and Senate.

The distribution of the ideological (first dimension) scores of the House and Senate Democrats and Republicans in both Congresses are shown below, with the mean scores of members in both parties and chambers marked in the plot.

The results indicate that polarization (i.e., the ideological distance between the two parties) has increased slightly in the House, but has decreased slightly in the Senate. The entry of freshman Republicans such as Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) [with a score of 0.189], Ben Sasse (R-NE) [0.277], and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) [0.285] has moved the Republican Senate mean slightly to the left in the 114th Congress. In the House, both the Democratic mean and the Republican mean have moved away from the center, but only slightly. The long-term polarization trends in both chambers are shown in the second plot.

These images are from a new (nearly) stand-alone Common Space DW-NOMINATE program that can be run weekly as new roll calls are cast.

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Congressional Policy Shifts, 1879-2014

Below we use first dimension DW-NOMINATE scores, which represent legislators’ positions along the familiar ideological (liberal-conservative) spectrum, with lower (negative) scores indicating greater liberalism, and higher (positive) scores denoting conservatism, to plot the chamber means for legislators and winning outcomes on roll calls for Congresses 46 to 113 (2014). These are updates to Figure 4.1 (page 60) in Poole and Rosenthal’s Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting and Figure 4.1 (page 80) of Ideology and Congress.

We see that the overall chamber means (plotted with red squares) remain mostly stable over time, a reflection of a competitive two-party system. Of the two chambers, the House mean has shifted more to the right in the period following the 104th Congress (the 1994 “Republican Revolution”). However, the position of the mean winning coordinate in each chamber has proved much more volatile, particularly in recent Congresses. This reflects the frequency of party-line votes between rival partisan coalitions that have moved steadily apart in recent decades.

Consequently, the mean winning coordinate–-which is an approximation of the ideological location of policies enacted in the chamber–-has diverged from the overall mean chamber score in both chambers: to the left under Democratic control, to the right under Republican control. Indeed, the mean winning coordinate in the 111th Senate (a session in which the number of Senate Democrats fluctuated between 57 and a supermajority of 60) was the furthest to the left since the 75th Senate during the Great Depression and the New Deal. Further, the mean winning coordinate in the 113th House was the most conservative since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, following the realigning election of 1896, after which Republicans controlled the House for 32 of the next 38 years. Conversely, the mean winning coordinate in the 113th Senate was the most liberal since the late nineteenth century.

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House: Vote on Clean DHS Funding Bill

Below we use updated DW-NOMINATE scores to plot the House’s 257-167 vote to pass a clean funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The cutting line (separating predicted Yea votes from predicted Nay votes) divides the 75 Yea Republicans from the 167 Nay Republicans along both the first dimension (representing liberal-conservative position) and the second dimension. The meaning of the second dimension has largely shifted from representing regional differences within the parties (e.g., between northern and southern Democrats) to intra-party divisions that are more subtle and less clear. One of these divisions appears to be an “insider vs. outsider” cleavage that pops up on votes such as raising the debt ceiling, domestic surveillance, and government funding bills.

This image is from a new stand-alone DW-NOMINATE that can be run daily as new roll calls are cast. We will have more to say about this software at a later date.

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Note: The plot shows only 256 Yea votes because Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) voted Yea but has not cast enough votes (25) to be included in the scaling.

Senate: Vote to Override Keystone XL Pipeline Veto

Below we use updated DW-NOMINATE scores to plot the Senate’s 62-37 vote to override President Obama’s veto of a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Senate fell five votes short of a successful veto override.

Eight Senate Democrats joined all 54 Senate Republicans in supporting the override. These eight Democrats are among the most moderate members of their party’s caucus, and DW-NOMINATE accounts for this in projecting the cutting line as running through the right edge of the Senate Democrats.

It is also worth noting the degree of ideological dispersion among Republicans in the 114th Senate, which runs the gamut between moderates like Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and strong conservatives like Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), with a first dimension (ideological) distance of approximately 0.8 between these two clusters.

This image is from a new stand-alone DW-NOMINATE that can be run daily as new roll calls are cast. We will have more to say about this software at a later date.

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Note: The plot does not include Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who voted Nay but has not yet cast enough votes to be included in the scaling.

House: Vote on Three-Week DHS Funding Bill

Below we use updated DW-NOMINATE scores to plot the House’s 203-224 vote to reject a three-week funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Ideology appears to do a good job of dividing the 191 Yea Republicans from the 52 Nay Republicans, with (predictably) those Republicans opposing the measure being more conservative than those supporting it. There is somewhat of a “two-ends-against-the-middle” pattern on this vote, with the 12 Democrats who voted Yea being more moderate than the remainder of their caucus.

This image is from a new stand-alone DW-NOMINATE that can be run daily as new roll calls are cast. We will have more to say about this software at a later date.

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Note: The plot shows only 202 Yea votes because Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) voted Yea but has not cast enough votes to be included in the scaling.