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Even the Congressional Progressive Caucus Isn't That Progressive

Back in March of this year, articles at Irregular Times and That’s My Congress assessed the progressive record of members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. We were surprised to find that fewer than half of the more than 70 CPC members had acted progressively in regard to so much as half of the slate of 20 House bills we’d been tracking at the time. In those members’ defense, the 111th Congress had just started two months before that; perhaps some members were just getting themselves warmed up.

Six months have passed since then, and we’ve expanded the list of bills we track to include 23 pieces of legislation for which either a vote or a cosponsorship provides an opportunity to act in a progressive manner: in opposition to discrimination, in support of constitutional rights, in expansion of opportunity, in furtherance of education, in protection of the environment, in efforts toward peace. Now that we’re nine months into the 111th Congress, how much support is there within the Congressional Progressive Caucus for progressive legislation?

The answer: there’s more support for our slate… but not that much more.

Of the voting members of the CPC in the House of Representatives — remember, these are politicians who call themselves progressives — we have identified three classes based on the extent of their actual support for progressive bills.

The Magnificent Seven: Members of the CPC who support at least two-thirds of our progressive slate.

Rep. Janice Schakowsky: 78%
Rep. Maurice Hinchey: 78%
Rep. Bob Filner: 78%
Rep. James McGovern: 74%
Rep. Barbara Lee: 74%
Rep. Raul Grijalva: 74%
Rep. Sam Farr: 70%

The Threshold-Breaking Thirty-Six: Members of the CPC who support at least half but less than two-thirds of our progressive slate.

Rep. Peter Welch: 52%
Rep. Henry Waxman: 52%
Rep. John Tierney: 52%
Rep. Jose Serrano: 52%
Rep. Linda Sanchez: 52%
Rep. Donald Payne: 52%
Rep. Edward Markey: 52%
Rep. Jesse Jackson: 52%
Rep. Phil Hare: 52%
Rep. Steve Cohen: 52%
Rep. Michael Capuano: 52%
Rep. Neil Abercrombie: 52%
Rep. Pete Stark: 57%
Rep. Chellie Pingree: 57%
Rep. Ed Pastor: 57%
Rep. Jerrold Nadler: 57%
Rep. John Lewis: 57%
Rep. Hank Johnson: 57%
Rep. Donna Edwards: 57%
Rep. Rosa DeLauro: 57%
Rep. Elijah Cummings: 57%
Rep. Andre Carson: 57%
Rep. Tammy Baldwin: 57%
Rep. Robert Wexler: 61%
Rep. John Olver: 61%
Rep. George Miller: 61%
Rep. Carolyn Maloney: 61%
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: 61%
Rep. Peter DeFazio: 61%
Rep. Lynn Woolsey: 65%
Rep. Jim McDermott: 65%
Rep. Michael Honda: 65%
Rep. Mazie Hirono: 65%
Rep. Barney Frank: 65%
Rep. Keith Ellison: 65%
Rep. Yvette Clarke: 65%

The Tepid Thirty: Members of the CPC who support less than half of our progressive slate.

Rep. Charles Rangel: 30%
Rep. Melvin Watt: 35%
Rep. Bennie Thompson: 35%
Rep. Gwen Moore: 35%
Rep. Ben Lujan: 35%
Rep. Marcy Kaptur: 35%
Rep. Eddie Johnson: 35%
Rep. Alan Grayson: 35%
Rep. Xavier Becerra: 35%
Rep. Nydia Velazquez: 39%
Rep. Laura Richardson: 39%
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick: 39%
Rep. John Hall: 39%
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver: 39%
Rep. Corrine Brown: 39%
Rep. Maxine Waters: 43%
Rep. Louise Slaughter: 43%
Rep. Bobby Rush: 43%
Rep. David Loebsack: 43%
Rep. Luis Gutierrez: 43%
Rep. Marcia Fudge: 43%
Rep. Danny Davis: 43%
Rep. Robert Brady: 43%
Rep. Diane Watson: 48%
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard: 48%
Rep. Eric Massa: 48%
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee: 48%
Rep. Chaka Fattah: 48%
Rep. John Conyers: 48%
Rep. Lacy Clay: 48%

Of all these members, only three support more than three-quarters of the progressive slate, and those three just barely. These results show you that any claims of a Congress marching in liberal lockstep are overblown.

As an appendix, consider Rep. Judy Chu, elected about a month ago to the House of Representatives to replace Hilda Solis. Chu has promptly joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but hasn’t promptly signed on with the progressive slate of legislation that marks progressivism. As of today, Chu has acted in support of just 9% of the progressive slate. We mention this separately because most of her month has been been taken up by congressional recess, and she hasn’t had the chance to do much yet. Support for progressive politics in Chu’s 32nd District of California is very strong, with John McCain getting just 30% of the presidential vote there in 2008. We hope to see Rep. Chu climbing our charts, representing her district more actively in the months to come.

6 comments to Even the Congressional Progressive Caucus Isn't That Progressive

  • ReMarker

    Ya know Jim, your definition of progressive seems centrist to me. I think most Americans support being; “in opposition to discrimination, in support of constitutional rights, in expansion of opportunity, in furtherance of education, in protection of the environment, in efforts toward peace”?

    It’s just that the GOP currently sucks up to the Bible thumpers to get their 20% ish of the vote and the GOP snake oil salespeople do the rest. Imo, many B thumpers have weaseled their way into the GOP body politic. Now we have many hypocritical decietful Republichristians and they give politics and mainstream Christians a bad name.

    • le pelerin

      Progressives would win it all everytime if they weren’t so fanatical about legal abortion without retrictions. I know a lot of people who would vote for the Dems if their platform changed on that issue.

      • Yeah. Progressives would win a lot more if they just would stop being progressive… uh, only then they wouldn’t be progressive, and so progressives wouldn’t be winning more elections, would they?

  • Jim

    I used to think that most Americans supported those things, up until the 2004 Election. That’s when it had become very clear who George W. Bush was and what he advocated, and people went for him and his message in droves. They only abandoned him when they figured out that they weren’t going to get theirs from the Republicans. I think that’s what most Americans want: peace for themselves, protection for themselves, opportunity for themselves, freedom for themselves, education for themselves… but to hell with anybody else they don’t know.

    But I agree with you that the ideas I call “progressive” really SHOULD be considered to be centrist.

    • qs

      So if Bush had not had his 52% majority in 2004 vs. say the 47% that McCain, that would have been some grand milestone?

      • Jim

        Your sentence isn’t clear, but I think you mean to say, “what’s the big deal with a 5% shift?” Well, the first thing to say is that I’d rather have seen a 10% shift, obviously. The second thing to say is that I still think the American people act like self-centered sheep unless something really prods them into the uncomfortable act of thinking. The third thing to say is that, countering my cynicism, 5% of voters is still a lot of people changing their minds… somewhat. See, there’s the cynicism creeping in again, born from the experience of this past decade.

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