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Jeff Merkley Among Most Partisan Senators of The Last 20+ Years

Friday, December 18, 2015


Jeff Merkley

A new study of the voting records of the United States Senate for the past 11 Congresses found that Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are the most partisan Senators from the Beaver State in more than two decades.

Of the 227 who served in the U.S. Senate over the 22-year span, Wyden ranked #62 and Merkley #205 for bipartisanship. Combined the two Senators put Oregon as one of the most partisan states in the Senate. 

SEE SLIDES BELOW: See How OR’s Lawmakers Rank for Bipartisanship

In comparison, Wyden and Merkley’s predecessors were far more willing to reach across the aisle. Republican Gordon Smith was ranked #8 overall, and was joined in the top 10 by Republican Mark Hatfield, who finished at #10. The last remaining Oregon Senator, Republican Bob Packwood, also showed bipartisanship during his term, finishing 26th.

In the House, things weren't much better. In a study of current representatives, only one Oregon lawmaker cracked the top 100. Kurt Schrader (D) was ranked at #10 out of the 422 ranked congressmen. 

Earl Blumenauer (D) was ranked 114, while Suzanne Bonamici (D) and Greg Walden (R) finished nearly neck-and-neck at #176 and #177, respectively, while Peter DeFazio (D) was ranked #206.

Ron Wyden

Merkley More Partisan than Rubio, Santorum

The index found that Merkley was more partisan than even the staunchest Republicans. Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL), ranked #170, former Pennsylvania Senator and Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, ranked #145, and South Carolina Senator and Presidential Candidate Lindsey Graham, ranked #122, all finished with a better ranking than Merkley.
The most partisan according to the Index is former U.S. Jim DeMint of South Carolina who came in at #227.

Jim Moore, Director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, told GoLocal he was not surprised by the ranking, nor Merkley’s partisan record.

“Merkley was elected into a Senate that quickly became so partisan that the Republican majority leader boasted that no Democratic/Obama legislation would pass,” Moore said. “His partisanship may have occurred without this context, but given the times, he is acting in a very reasonable way. He opposes Republican proposals and supports Democratic proposals. Neither sets of legislation have had much chance of becoming law since 2011.”

The study was developed by the Lugar Center at Georgetown University — founded by former Indiana Senator Dick Lugar. He formerly served in the Senate a Republican who was known for his work in building consensus on tough foreign policy and economic issues.

The Bipartisan Index is intended to fill a hole in the information available to the public about the performance of members of Congress. There are innumerable studies, rankings, and indexes that grade members according to a partisan, parochial, or special-interest standards.

Dems More Partisan?

Bill Currier, Chair of the Oregon Republican Party, told GoLocal he thinks that Merkley's ranking is not a reflection of an inability to play well with members of the opposition party, rather showed the increasingly partisan electorate.

"Polarization is occurring because people are becoming more frantic," Currier said. "People feel like the government and the country are going off-track. When that happens they become more unaccepting of other plans to fix things, because they think the other side is what's causing the issue. Both sides need to listen each other more. It sounds simple-minded, but it's really what is needed."

Moore agreed. He said that the increasingly partisan congress is the result of an increasingly polarized voter base and should be watched closely.

“Oregon’s lawmakers act as they feel they must to be effective in Washington, D.C., and they are overwhelmingly reelected every time. In their minds, and looking at electoral results, they are simply fulfilling the will of the voters,” Moore said. “Until congress starts being a place for legislative solutions, there is no incentive to be bipartisan. Those who are more bipartisan in the past few years hope for a future in which the centrists in the two parties can work together to create laws.”


Related Slideshow: See How OR’s Lawmakers Rank for Bipartisanship

Prev Next

Kurt Schrader

Democratic Representative

Score: 1.27908

Ranking: 10th in the House

Prev Next

Earl Blumenauer

Democratic Representative

Score: 0.11349

Ranking: 114th in the House

Prev Next

Suzanne Bonamici 

Democratic Representative

Score: -0.20544

Ranking: 176th in the House

Prev Next

Greg Walden

Republican Representative

Score: -0.2124

Ranking: 177th in the House

Prev Next

Peter DiFazio

Democratic Representative

Score: -0.44015

Ranking: 238th in the House

Prev Next

Ron Wyden

Democratic Senator

Score: 0.028435

Ranking: 36th in the House

Prev Next

Jeff Merkley

Democratic Senator

Score: -1.17734

Ranking: 93rd in the House


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