Tuesday, September 16, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;55.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/ovc.png;2014-09-16 13:26:11
Monday, April 29, 2013

PolitiFact NH: Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown can be called Mr. Bipartisan

Five months after he lost his U.S. Senate seat, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown began what could be a new campaign the same way he ended his last one: touting his bipartisan credentials.

Brown, who served three years in the Senate before being ousted in November, brought his claims of bipartisanship to Nashua earlier this month, which immediately raised questions about a possible Senate run in New Hampshire in 2014. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

Five months after he lost his U.S. Senate seat, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown began what could be a new campaign the same way he ended his last one: touting his bipartisan credentials.

Brown, who served three years in the Senate before being ousted in November, brought his claims of bipartisanship to Nashua earlier this month, which immediately raised questions about a possible Senate run in New Hampshire in 2014.

“I was the most bipartisan senator in the United States Senate,” Brown told a group of reporters following a keynote speech on April 4 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

“That’s, I think, what people want.”

Brown’s claim is a familiar one. The Massachusetts Republican made similar statements throughout his 2012 campaign, which ended in a loss to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. But is it true? PolitiFact New Hampshire decided to check his record. Bipartisanship can be measured a number of ways, according to political analysts and researchers alike. Endorsements, group memberships and bill sponsorships can be telling about a lawmakers’ willingness to reach across the aisle.

But party unity or opposition votes – the rate at which a lawmaker sides with or against members of his or her own party – is the gold standard measure of bipartisanship, they said. So, for the purposes of this check, we’ll stick to that.

Through a spokesperson at his law firm, Nixon Peabody, Brown declined to take questions on his claim or his sources. But, on his campaign website, the former senator offers a similar statement, citing Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, a political publication group, which he said deemed him the country’s second most bipartisan senator in 2011.

Brown’s site doesn’t link to a particular study or article, so we reached out to Congressional Quarterly, which pointed us to data printed each year in CQ Weekly, the group’s weekly magazine. Each year, CQ Weekly prints an annual report detailing senators’ party unity and opposition votes, those votes cast either with or against a majority from their party.

According to the data, Brown, who took office in February 2010, sided with a Democratic majority on 22 percent of votes in his first year, ranking him seventh among all senators.

The next year, he voted with Democrats 46 percent of the time, trailing only Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and in 2012, he rose to the top of the list, siding with a Democratic majority 62 percent of the time, according to the annual report, printed in the January 21, 2013 issue of CQ Weekly.

Congressional Quarterly isn’t the only media outlet to examine bipartisan votes.

As part of their Congress Votes Database, Washington Post researchers track votes using a similar methodology by looking at votes in which a majority of senators took a side on an issue.

The numbers differ slightly, but the Post researchers came to a similar conclusion after analyzing Brown’s voting records. In his first year, Brown ranked 11th among senators in terms of siding with the opposing party.

But, over his final two years in the Senate, he rose to second on the list, voting with Democrats more than any other senator except for Collins, of Maine.

Finally, researchers at Bloomberg Government, the outlet’s government information service, studied so-called unity votes, as well, excluding nominations and treaty votes, among others.

This research, covering Brown’s three years in office, showed he voted with a Democratic majority 53 percent of the time. Several media outlets reported this figure as being second highest in the country, trailing only Collins. But information on how Brown’s rate compared to other senators wasn’t immediately available from Bloomberg this week.

Still, Bloomberg research shows that Brown’s rate of voting with the opposing party more than half of the time is higher than Collins, who sided at 41 percent with a Democratic majority, and higher than Olympia Snowe, another Maine Republican, who sided with Democrats 48 percent of the time.

Collins and Snowe, who retired in 2012, are widely considered two of the nation’s most bipartisan senators. In certain cases, these party unity votes do not reflect true bipartisan cooperation, according to Ryan Kelly, a senior researcher at Congressional Quarterly and one of the authors of the CQ Weekly report.

But for Brown, like Collins and Snowe, the votes are a stronger signal of bipartisan cooperation, Kelly said.

“Senators Collins, Brown and Snowe, they’re not extremists or anything. They probably broke to the side of their Democratic colleagues more often than people in the House, like the Tea Partiers,” he said.

“(Brown) was more bipartisan than most of his colleagues,” added Patrick Griffin, a professor of government at American University in Washington, D.C. “It may have been a function of the state he represented and probably anticipating what kind of race he might have. But there’s no doubt he showed a willingness to reach across the aisle.”

For the record, we note that bipartisanship is not a one-way street.

Research shows the Democratic senators who sided most often with their Republican counterparts in 2012 were Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Claire McCaskill, of Missouri.

The numbers vary slightly between Congressional Quarterly and the Washington Post.

Still, according to both, neither Manchin nor McCaskill ranked among the top eight senators in 2011-12 in regard to siding with the opposing party.

Our ruling:

Judging by votes alone, Brown may not have been the most bipartisan senator during his time in office, but he was close. And at one point in time, Brown was right about being the best at bipartisanship. Overall, however, analyses conducted by Congressional Quarterly, Bloomberg and the Washington Post showed that Brown sided with Democrats more often than any senator, except for Susan Collins of Maine. Either way, he ranks within the top two.

We rate Brown’s claim Mostly True.