Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., issued an annual report this week on his accomplishments in Congress in 2013.
During a Wednesday conference call with reporters, Donnelly said the message Hoosiers had sent in electing him to the Senate in 2012 was do what’s right for our country, don’t be an extremist, try to hit the ball down the middle, work together, don’t be afraid to compromise, to focus, to get things done. And that’s what I’ve tried to do during this past year.
How does his assessment compare with the 2013 report card on members of Congress released by the government transparency website GovTrack.us?
GovTrack did place Donnelly near the middle of its ideology scores for all 100 senators, based on bills they co-sponsored. He ranked as the 48th most conservative senator – or 52nd most liberal, depending on one’s perspective.
I have not come here with a partisan agenda, Donnelly said about the rankings.
Only two Democrats – Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (45th) and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota (47th) – were considered more conservative than Donnelly. The exact center – 50th place – went to Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, making her the most liberal Republican.
GovTrack ranked lawmakers in 14 categories. The Journal Gazette inspected the ratings in half the categories for the three lawmakers representing northeast Indiana.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., was the eighth most conservative senator, and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, was the 90th most conservative member of the 435-seat House, where 439 people served last year.
Stutzman introduced four bills that attracted 74 co-sponsors. None got out of committee or was enacted into law.
Coats introduced six bills that attracted 66 co-sponsors. None got out of committee, but one was enacted: the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act, which allows for federal officials to remove from national cemeteries the remains of veterans who committed capital crimes. Coats’ bill was approved by the Senate and the House after receiving a hearing, but not a vote, from the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Coats was among 14 senators who introduced bills or resolutions that became laws. Forty-six members of the House saw bills enacted.
Donnelly introduced seven bills that attracted 36 co-sponsors. None made it out of committee or was enacted.
In what GovTrack regards as a show of bipartisanship, 31 percent of the 59 bills that Donnelly co-sponsored were introduced by someone not in his political party. Coats’ rate was 24 percent of the 86 bills he co-sponsored, while 2 percent of the 111 bills that Stutzman co-sponsored were introduced by someone outside his party.
Donnelly was among 15 senators who did not miss any of the Senate’s 291 votes last year. Coats missed nine votes, or 3.1 percent, and Stutzman missed 18 of 641 House votes, or 2.8 percent.
To put these numbers in perspective:
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced 67 bills. Two senators and seven representatives introduced no bills.
The 21 bills filed by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., attracted 1,195 co-sponsors. Miller is chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., got 15 bills out of committee. Twenty-nine senators and 261 representatives got no bills out of committee.
Each of three representatives had three bills enacted. Four House members and two senators each saw two bills enacted.
Of the bills co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, 73 percent were introduced by lawmakers not in their parties. Of the bills co-sponsored by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, 1.2 percent were introduced by Democrats.
Twenty-three House members had perfect voting attendance, including Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th, who grew up in Fort Wayne.
On the flip side, 21 members of House missed at least 10 percent of that chamber’s votes, topped by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., who missed 72.4 percent. McCarthy, who does not seek re-election, has been undergoing treatment for lung cancer.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who had heart surgery in October, missed 14.1 percent of the Senate’s votes.
GovTrack considered Inhofe as the most conservative senator and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., as the most liberal. In the House, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., was the most conservative member, and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., was the most liberal.