A Pair of Conservative Scorecards

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

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Earlier this week, I detailed the ridiculous faults inherent in the National Journal legislative scorecard.  Today, the Club for Growth published their annual congressional ratings for 2011.  You can view the House scores here and the Senate scores here.

People have emailed me wanting to know why the Club for Growth’s scorecard is slightly different from Heritage Action’s rolling scorecard.  Here is the divergence between the scorecards for the top ten scorers in both the House and Senate:

Take a look at Heritage Action’s top scores here.

Now view the Club for Growth’s top scores.

Club House Scores

 MI 3 R Amash, Justin 1 100% 100%
 UT 3 R Chaffetz, Jason 1 100% 99%
 AZ 6 R Flake, Jeff 1 100% 100%
 AZ 2 R Franks, Trent 1 100% 98%
 GA 9 R Graves, Tom 1 100% 98%
 KS 1 R Huelskamp, Tim 1 100% 100%
 OH 4 R Jordan, Jim 1 100% 99%
 ID 1 R Labrador, Raul 1 100% 100%
 CO 5 R Lamborn, Doug 1 100% 100%
 SC 5 R Mulvaney, Mick 10 99% 99%
 NJ 5 R Garrett, Scott 10 99% 96%
 IL 8 R Walsh, Joe 10 99% 99%
 IN 3 R Stutzman, Marlin 13 99% 99%
 IN 5 R Burton, Dan 14 98% 86%
 FL 14 R Mack, IV, Connie 14 98% 90%
 AZ 3 R Quayle, Ben 16 98% 98%
 SC 2 R Wilson, Joe 17 97% 86%
 SC 4 R Gowdy, Trey 17 97% 97%
 LA 4 R Fleming, John 17 97% 96%
 SC 3 R Duncan, Jeff 17 97% 97%

Club Senate

 OK R Coburn, Tom 1 100% 97%
 SC R DeMint, Jim 1 100% 100%
 WI R Johnson, Ron 1 100% 100%
 UT R Lee, Mike 1 100% 100%
 KY R Paul, Rand 1 100% 100%
 OK R Inhofe, James 6 99% 94%
 UT R Hatch, Orrin 7 99% 78%
 NH R Ayotte, Kelly 8 98% 98%
 PA R Toomey, Patrick 9 97% 97%
 FL R Rubio, Marco 10 97% 97%

Both scorecards provide a comprehensive view of a members’ conservative record (or lack there of).  They are both superior to some of the traditional scorecards, such as the one put out every year by the American Conservative Union.  From what I can see, here are the primary differences between the scorecards:

  • Let’s remember that The Club only focuses on fiscal issues, but not national security or social issues.  Heritage Action, which represents the Heritage Foundation, scores the full array of conservative issues.  So while most votes pertain to fiscal issues, there were a few votes that related to defunding abortion and missile defense.  Those votes were scored by Heritage Action, but not by the Club for Growth.  Hence, someone like Justin Amash, whose views on foreign policy closely align with those of Ron Paul, scored 100% from the Club, but 94% from Heritage Action.
  • Many of the differences between the two scores reflect different spending amendments.  The Club chose to score some amendments, while Heritage scored some others.  But there were two major votes that Heritage scored, which downgraded the overall score of many conservative members; the Patent Reform Bill (House and Senate) and the initial debt ceiling vote (House).  Although many Republicans supported the Patent Reform bill because it would create more efficiency in awarding patents, Heritage felt that it violated the Constitution by giving priority to first-to-file over first-to-invent.  Regarding the debt ceiling vote, Heritage scored the vote on Boehner’s plan to raise the debt ceiling in two tranches, requiring passage of a balanced budget amendment as a precondition to the second tranche.  Because this plan included a BBA, only 22 conservatives were willing to oppose it.  On the other hand, this vote jettisoned the unity behind Cut, Cap, Balance and paved the road to cave city.
  • On the Senate side, the Club scored just 26 votes, while Heritage Scored 40.  As such, it was somewhat easier to score higher under the Club’s system.  Hence, there were 19 senators who scored 90 or above on the Club’s scorecard, but only 8 on Heritage Action’s scorecard.
  • While the Club scores a few co-signings of letters for bonus points (such as the Cut, Cap, Balance pledge), Heritage Action scores co-sposnorship of several additional bills that can work against a member’s score if he/she fails to support the bill.

Overall, both scorecards are good measures of congressional voting records, but Heritage Action’s is more comprehensive (especially in the Senate) and slightly tougher.