Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ted Cruz clear leader in Brookings Institute legislative efficiency rankings-Politico Magazine, 1/14/14

"Here’s what might be the most surprising result of all: Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was the clear leader in the Senate, with seven of his eight bills making it out of committee."...p. 2 (Not surprising to us!) 1/14/14, "Congressional Moneyball. How effective are your senators? And guess who’s No. 1?" Politico Magazine


1/14/14, "Brookings study points to Harry Reid and Senate Democrats as source of gridlock," Wasington Examiner, Joel Gehrke

"Brookings Institution scholars, inspired by baseball statistics, conducted an analysis of the 113th Congress that points rather directly at the Democrat-controlled Senate as a the locus of congressional gridlock.

The analysis opens with the observation that the House, contrary to expectation, passed twice as many bills as the Senate in 2013. Why? Because of the Senate committee process.

"When we look at this category, then, we begin to understand where the problem lies: even in the traditionally collegial Senate, 87 percent of bills die in committee," Molly Jackman and Saul Jackman, of Brookings, and Brian Boessenecker write in Politico. "While the filibuster may grab all the headlines, committees are a far deadlier weapon."

That observation undermines the conventional wisdom about Republican opposition to President Obama causing gridlock. (even taking into account the statement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said in 2009 that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.")
Filibusters are the weapon of last resort for a Senate minority, in terms of procedural maneuvers they can use to block a bill's passage. Committees, on the other hand, are run by the majority party. The chairman's gavel is a hammer that Democrats can use to kill Republican proposals.

One countervailing point against the idea that the committees account for the gridlock: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has the authority to bypass the committee process and bring legislation to the Senate floor for a vote -- which he does on controversial issues, such as the unemployment insurance extension.

That may sound more efficient, but it's also likely to inspire more filibusters from a minority that didn't get the opportunity to shape the bill at the committee level. The drafting process is replaced by floor amendments, which may be substantive or may just be partisan messaging votes. (And, given the likelihood of messaging amendments, Reid routinely refuses to allow most amendments to receive a vote.)

McConnell conceded last week that Republicans have staged show-votes for political reasons, but outlined a proposal to rehabilitate the Senate legislative process by empowering the committees and then have senators spend more time on the floor voting."...


The Brookings study doesn't mention GOP and democrat leadership are on the same team. Appearances to the contrary are for show. The opposing team is the taxpayers:

1/14/14, "Congressional Moneyball," "How effective are your senators? And guess who’s No. 1?" Politico Magazine, by Molly Jackman, Saul Jackman and Brian Boessenecker

"If the 113th Congress were a sports team, it would be on a record-breaking streak of futility. During the first session, the 113th Congress passed fewer public laws than any other Congress since at least 1947. So which legislators are most to blame for the unprecedented levels of gridlock in the current Congress, and which are trying to solve the problem? Using a series of baseball-inspired statistics, the FixGov team at The Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management evaluates which legislators were most productive in 2013, and which let their team down.

For sports fans, few things are more frustrating than watching your team lose game after game (a certain Washington football franchise comes to mind). When this happens, conversations turn to who is to blame and how to fix the problem. Certainly, you inevitably think, if you were the general manager, you could do a better job.

Political junkies find themselves in the same awkward spot today. If the House and Senate were sports teams, their managers would be fired. Of the 5,700 bills introduced across both chambers during the first session of the 113th Congress, only 56—less than 1 percent—became public laws. We expect gridlock in the House, where the majority party’s stronghold on the Rules Committee and speakership enable obstructionism. The Senate, though, has typically been regarded by scholars as dominated by unanimous consent and collaboration between the majority and minority leaders. But, contrary to this expectation, in the 113th Congress, the House was able to pass nearly twice the rate of bills introduced as was the Senate.

Heading into the 2014 midterm elections, voters have the opportunity to act as general managers, choosing who to keep and who to throw out when cleaning house. To evaluate the players in the Senate, in a new series published by the Brookings Institution, we propose a number of baseball-inspired measures of legislative efficiency and effectiveness.

Measuring Senate at-bats, hits, and batting averages

By this analogy, a senator is “at-bat” if she introduces a bill. In this past session, every senator had at least one at-bat, and a total of 1,894 bills were introduced. David Vitter (R-La.) led in this category, introducing 61 bills, followed by Mark Begich (D-Ark.) with 49, and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) with 48.
Coming up to bat does little for a team without a hit. Likewise, in the Senate, the introduction of a bill is inconsequential for policy if that bill does not make it past the committee stage (or find a way to bypass it). Just like reaching first base is the first step toward scoring a run, reaching the floor calendar is the first step toward becoming a public law.

Predictably, there are far fewer hits in the Senate than there are at bats, with only 253 bills making it past committee. Leading in hits were Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) with 13 and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with 11.

When we look at this category, then, we begin to understand where the problem lies: even in the traditionally collegial Senate, 87 percent of bills die in committee. While the filibuster may grab all the headlines, committees are a far deadlier weapon....

Next, we can go on to calculate a batting average for each senator—the percentage of bills sponsored that were placed on the floor calendar. The advantage of looking at this stat rather than the raw number of hits is that it accounts for those legislators who are introducing a lot of bills that are going nowhere. For instance, despite his Senate-leading 61 at-bats, none of Vitter’s bills made it out of committee—not the most efficient use of government time.
Here’s what might be the most surprising result of all: Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was the clear leader in the Senate, with seven of his eight bills making it out of committee, good for a 0.875 average. By comparison, in second place—and the leading Democrat—was Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who saw three of his six bills survive committee. On the other hand, 29 senators—including 16 Republicans, 12 Democrats and one Independent—had a zero percent success rate.

Interestingly, some senators who did well on hits and batting average were able to avoid the committee stage altogether. According to Senate Rule XIV, senators can bypass the committee stage and have their bills placed on the floor calendar with the same status as if they had been considered and reported by committee. This was the case, for example, with Senator Cruz’s Senate Bill 1292, which would defund Obamacare. Regardless of how he did it, Cruz got a hit, since the bill was placed on the floor calendar. However, Rule XIV does not ensure that the bill will be considered by the Senate, and SB1292 never came to a vote. Considering the full progression of bills in the legislative process will, thus, provide a better picture of legislative effectiveness – and we will do just that in the coming weeks on the FixGov blog.

Playing general manager

So, who is the more effective senator? Vitter, who batted 61 times and recorded zero hits? Or Cruz, who only came to bat on eight occasions, but saw most of his bills through the committee process? In a Congress with limited time, it is hard to justify wasting resources on bills that have no future. On the other hand, taking positions though the introduction of bills is a valuable legislative activity, enabling legislators to define their preferences and parties their platforms. We think efficiency is more valuable, and will build on this point in the coming weeks on the Center for Effective Public Management’s FixGov blog, housed at the Brooking Institution.

To be sure, the measures shown here only cover the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evaluating members of Congress. While getting bills past second reading is important, it is nonetheless just the first step on the path to becoming a bill. Nor are all bills equally important: Ceremonial bills should not be given the same credit as landmark legislation. Additionally, senators can also cosponsor legislation and subsequently lobby for that bill’s passage. (We will turn to each of these nuances in subsequent posts on the Brookings website.)

But the fact is, even if we just focus on the most straightforward of measures, the Senate is not serving its intended role in the U.S. political system. Rather, it is characterized by partisan bickering and contentiousness—far from the “cooling saucer” George Washington described. Moreover, representation cannot occur if senators cannot get their bills to the floor for a vote, much less to pass. Regardless of whether voting Democrat or Republican, citizens need to choose candidates who can effectively persuade their colleagues to support their bills as they move forward in the legislative process. We hope that these metrics provide some insight into who those candidates are so that voters can more effectively manage their team.

To find out how effective your elected representatives are, search by name and state in our Congressional Moneyball interactive."

"Note: This article has been update to reflect a clarification in the methodology regarding Senate Rule XIV."

"Molly Jackman and Saul Jackman are Fellows in the Governance Studies Program at The Brookings Institution. Brian Boessenecker holds a political science degree from UCLA."

Ooops..."wacko birds" came out on top:
1/15/14, "Brookings Moneyball Scores: Ted Cruz Most Efficient Senator, Ron Wyden and Rand Paul Most Effective,", Emily Ekins

"It may surprise some that Paul and Cruz, two senators dubbed tea partywacko birds” could be so effective in getting their legislation through committee. It demonstrates that while these Senators are often defined by their willingness to take ideological stances on issues, albeit different stances at times, they are also willing to engage with the actual political process in efforts to make changes."...


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