Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Lineup
Congress.org is out with a list of Congressional power rankings, based on 15 characteristics of power the organization finds in the following categories: position, influence, and legislative activity. They stress that their ranks are strictly about legislative effectiveness. A lot of what makes members of Congress seem effective to their constituents--local visibility, communication with voters, and constituent services--aren't measured at all. The rankings do include a touch of what Congress.org calls the "sizzle/fizzle" factor, which accounts for personal popularity (or, in the case of scandal-plagued members, unpopularity) and other subjective factors. Examples of members with "sizzle" include McCain, Hillary, and Obama, so you get the idea.

Wisconsin's two senators rank at Number 54 and Number 82. The surprise here is that Herb Kohl is 54 and Russ Feingold is 82. Kohl ranks 18th overall among Democratic senators; Feingold 32nd. Kohl gets his highest marks for his position, Feingold for his legislative activity. It appears that Feingold lost points due to his purported interest in running for president, "which usually translates into reduced resources and ability to exercise power in the legislative process." He also ranks low in influence, which is surprising to me, and probably to you too. He's been nothing less than the conscience of the Senate in the last year or so. If his colleagues had the courage to support and vote for the censure resolution, he might rank higher.

My representative, Tammy Baldwin, ranks 424th of 438 members ranked (including delegates from DC, Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands). This is because "Member has weak committee assignment or lacks significant committee influence due to member's minority party status." (They said that about Feingold, too--but not about Kohl, even though they both serve on the Judiciary Committee and the Special Committee on Aging. Kohl is on Appropriations, Feingold on Foreign Relations and the Budget Committee. Which makes the two senators' respective rankings even more mysterious.) Baldwin's opponents in the last couple of elections have tried to make an issue of her lack of legislative accomplishments, but without success. Her personal popularity is fabulously high here, as is her visibility, such that it's hard to see her losing her reelection bid this fall. The Repugs haven't run a viable candidate against her since 2000, and it looks as if her challenger this year will be the same guy she dispatched in 2004.

Other people who've represented me over the years rank like this: Iowa Senators Grassley and Harkin rank 4th and 35th respectively; Iowa representative Jim Leach is 69th; Illinois representative Lane Evans is 282nd. (I've been gone from Illinois a long time, but Lane Evans soldiers on.)

You can find out where your senators and representative rank by clicking here.

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