“[W]e do not believe that it is wrong for members to have partisan bills in their portfolio of co-sponsorships,” writes the former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, whose eponymous Lugar Center co-produces the rankings, in an online explanation. He goes on: “Nor do we believe that all bipartisan bills are wisely written and considered. However, a consistently low score on this index will be a very strong indication that a legislator is viewing his or her duties through a partisan lens.” (Elsewhere the creators use even stronger language: A really low score shows “a member is giving little thought to working with the other party when he or she introduces bills and makes co-sponsorship decisions.”)
Lugar’s center, along with Georgetown University’s public policy school, evaluated senators on very specific metrics that neither reveal the full picture of their behavior and congeniality nor discriminate between quality and sub-par bipartisan bills. In Lugar’s words, “What we are measuring in this Index is not so much the quality of legislation but rather the efforts of legislators to broaden the appeal of their sponsored legislation, to entertain a wider range of ideas, and to prioritize governance over posturing.”
But in assigning a numerical value to senators’ records, the rankings support popular notions about senators’ behaviors and personalities. According to the new analysis, which tracked the 114th Congress’s first session, Cruz clocked in at 97th in bipartisanship, or second to last. That score is consistent with his ranking in the last Congress, which ran from early 2013 to late 2014, his first years in office. And a “lifetime” ranking of senators in office between 1993 and 2014 shows Cruz at the very bottom of the pack. Cruz’s numbers in the last couple years seem to dovetail not only with his rigid conservatism, but also with his negative reputation in the Senate.
Sanders’s “lifetime” score of bipartisanship is just a few notches above Cruz, though his independent status in the Senate might otherwise have lead some to assume he readily finds common ground with Republicans. According to the index, Sanders—who caucuses with the Democrats and has been in the Senate since 2007—has infrequently found it. (Perhaps because his far-left-leaning policies can inspire cries of “socialist!” from those who disagree.) Unlike Cruz, Sanders’s scores in recent years have changed. In the 113th, he clocked in at 90th place. But in the last year, most of which was spent running for president, Sanders’s ranking dropped: He moved from 90th to 98th, the lowest ranking in the Senate. (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid aren’t ranked.) It’s not clear why Sanders’s score dropped, though being constantly on the campaign trail might hinder on-the-Hill politicking.