Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 23, 2014

Tea Party Class More Confrontational Than Ever

The atmospherics offered plenty of clues, but the numbers don’t lie: The House was an even more polarized and partisan place last year than it was when the tea party class of Republicans took over the place two years before. And that’s in part because those lawmakers have grown even more antagonistic to President Barack Obama’s agenda — and even more willing to toe the party line.

That is among the central takeaways from CQ Roll Call’s analysis of 2013 congressional voting patterns, the latest installment in an annual study that began six decades ago.

While Obama got his way on 57 percent of the congressional votes on which he staked a position, a fifth-year success rate exceeded only by George W. Bush among the past four re-elected presidents, that was almost entirely because of a record amount of support from his Democratic colleagues running the Senate.

In the House, Obama had his way on just 21 percent of the votes he clearly cared about, and that was because the average member of the Republican majority voted his way only 12 percent of the time, the smallest measure of presidential support any caucus has ever recorded for a Democratic president.

Twelve percent was also the exact amount of support Obama received from the 65 members who remain from the Class of 2010. (Eighty GOP members who had never before served in Congress were elected that year.) But it’s notable that the median went down a whopping 9 points since 2011, the first year those lawmakers were in Washington.

In other words, the group who voted against Obama 4 out of 5 times as brand-new freshmen disagreed with him 7 out of 8 times as first-year sophomores. The substance of the votes taken over the two years was different, so I can’t make a precise apples-to-apples comparison. But the trend would seem to contradict a conventional wisdom about the modern Congress: Even those who arrive with the most revolutionary fervor tend to buff away some of their roughest ideological edges after a couple of years.

In fact, 30 of those elected in the tea party wave saw their presidential support scores decline by more than 10 points from 2011 to 2013, suggesting that many have concluded they are safe in shifting their voting patterns further to the right now that they have secured their first re-election.

The steepest plunges belonged to a pair of the bigger upset winners of 2010: Ohio’s Bill Johnson backed Obama just 9 percent of the time last year, down 17 points from his first year in office; the drop by North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers was 16 points.

By contrast, only two members of that class backed Obama more often in 2013 than in 2011. The scores edged up only a few points for both the iconoclastic Justin Amash of Michigan and the electorally imperiled Chris Gibson of New York. (Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates his race, in territory Obama carried in 2012, as Tilts Republican.)

The significant drop-off in support for Obama among the Class of 2010 is echoed, if far less dramatically, in CQ Roll Call’s studies of party unity — how often members stick with the bulk of their caucus on roll calls in which a majority of Republicans are on one side and a majority of Democrats are on the other. (Thanks for number-crunching help are due at this point to vote studies major domo John Cranford and researchers Ryan Kelly and Jay Hunter.)

People with an eye on the Capitol every day won’t be surprised to learn that 69 percent of all the 2013 votes in Congress fell mostly along party lines, a number exceeded less than a handful of times since the start of the Eisenhower administration. But, at a time when it often appeared that Speaker John A. Boehner was struggling to hold his troops together, the average House Republican stayed in the fold on 92 percent of those votes — a record level of party unity for that caucus. The number of times the group was unanimous also was in record territory, another reflection of how GOP leaders put a priority on proposals that would unify the troops.

And sophomores were among the most likely to back their party. Their median party unity score was 96 percent, an increase from their 94.5 percent average during the group’s first year in office.

Five of them supported Obama often enough and strayed from the party line often enough to make those Top 10 lists: Amash, Gibson, New Yorkers Richard Hanna and Michael G. Grimm, and the retiring-after-just-two-terms Jon Runyan of New Jersey.

Still, the takeaway about the Class of 2010 is tough to dispute: They have become a bit more partisan and markedly more confrontational since the first year they had voting cards. Given that the numbers are pushing close to the statistical extremes, these are trends that will be tough to continue, but are sure to bedevil Boehner and Obama in the meantime.

  • jonathangrabe

    IT IS GOOD TO SEE THAT SOME ELECTED OFFICIALS WILL BE TRUE TO THEIR WORD AND THEIR PRINCIPALS DISPITE WITHERING CRITICISM FROM THE MEDIA AND THE OPPOSITION! HOLD FAST!

  • Scots Lass

    I find it humorous that when there is any challenge to the majority or status quo, the “confrontational” card is played. When Democrats espouse “working together to solve problems” they really mean “our way or the highway”, especially these days.

    If the “loyal opposition” caves then why even have a two-party system?

    Oh, I guess you all forgot … there IS a two-party system here. And that doesn’t mean roll over and play dead.

    I’m just sayin’ …

  • Tom

    This is bad journalism. The Tea Party was going toe to party line, but wait later in the article it says Obama got his way on 57% of congressional votes because of his record amount of support from Senate Democrats, in other words Senate Democrats went toe to party line. Then it says Obama only got his way on 21% of issues he “clearly cared about,” but wait, does that mean that previous number of 57% is worthless, especially since it is a record for a fifth year of the last 4 presidents? No, he got 57% of congressional votes passed in both chambers of congress. Don’t try and downplay that number by saying oh but he only got 21% of the votes on issues he really cared about. What a hack!!

  • coolfoolagain

    So now it’s confrontational to do what your constituents elected you to do?

  • Frank W Brown

    They MUST be confrontational because…

    A Country Founded by Geniuses but Run by Idiots!

    If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but 
not for
    entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might 
live in a
    nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or 
to
    take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might 
live
    in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a 
check,
    buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not 
to
    vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that 
was
    founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from 
owning gun magazinesthat hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty 
F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a 
nation that was
    founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If, in the nation’s largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but 
not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make 
you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is 
run by idiots.

    If an 80-year-old woman or a three-year-old girl who
    is confined to a 
wheelchair can be strip-searched by the TSA at the
    airport, but a woman 
in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having
    her neck and head 
searched — you might live in a nation that was
    founded by geniuses but 
is run by idiots.

    If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions 
of dollars
    of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a 
nation that
    was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his 
teacher
    is “cute,” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class 
in grade
    school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation 
that was
    founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more 
government regulation and intrusion, while not working is rewarded with 
Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free 
cell phones — you mightlive in a nation that was founded by geniuses 
but is run by idiots.

    If the government’s plan for getting people back to work is to 
provide
    incentives for not working, by granting 99 weeks of unemployment
    
checks, without any requirement to prove that gainful employment was
    
diligently sought, but couldn’t be found — you might live in a nation
    
that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If you pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest 
big-screen TV,
    while your neighbor buys iPhones, time shares, a 
wall-sized do-it-all
    plasma screen TV and new cars, and the government 
forgives his debt
    when he defaults on his mortgage — you might live in a
nation that was
    founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If being stripped of your Constitutional right to defend yourself 
makes you more “safe” according to the government — you might live in a 
nation that was
    founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If the media panders to your openly socialist leader while the IRS targets groups with dissenting views— you might live in a nation that was founded by
    geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If your government ‘cracks down’ on legal gun sales to law abiding citizens while secretly supplying illegal guns to Mexican drug cartels— you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If your local government (Chicago) outlawed gun ownership for ‘the safety
    of its citizens’ and now boasts the worst murder rate in the country —
    you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by
    idiots.

    What a country!

    How about we give God a reason to continue blessing America?

    This was borrowed from another blog, please spread it far and wide! Add your own and have fun!

  • left wing

    supporting the dems boehner and obama should not be a priority for anyone that cares about the nation.

  • Phil

    Stay Free Vote TEA!

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