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Durbin slants left, Blunt right with McCaskill closer to Senate's center

1:55 pm on Fri, 02.24.12

WASHINGTON – In a highly polarized Congress, a new analysis rates U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin among the most liberal senators, Sen. Roy Blunt on the conservative side – but not on the far right – with Sens. Claire McCaskill and Mark Kirk closer to the center.


The ratings of 2011 votes by the National Journal, released Friday, also concluded that U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, is the most conservative Missourian in Congress and Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, is the most liberal.

While many interest groups rank lawmakers each year according to different key votes, the National Journal rankings are generally respected for not slanting the analysis. The Journal reported that, for only the third time in the three decades, no Senate Democrat compiled a voting record to the right of any Senate Republican, and vice-versa.


The Senate ratings listed McCaskill, D-Mo., as the 51st most conservative and the 50th most liberal among the 100 senators.

McCaskill’s “composite liberal score” of 58 (slightly more liberal on social issues than on economics and foreign issues) puts her as the third least liberal Senate Democrat (just to the left of Sens. Ben. Nelson, D-Neb., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., as well as independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut).  Her “composite conservative score” was 42 (“zero” on social issues but centrist on economic and foreign issues), ranking slightly less conservative than Nelson, Pryor and Lieberman.

In a statement Friday, McCaskill said she thought the ranking was fair. “I haven’t made folks on either extreme of the political spectrum happy, but I think that means I’m probably doing something right,” she said.


Blunt, R-Mo., was rated the 40th most conservative senator and 61st on the liberal scale. His “composite conservative score” of 63.8 (more conservative on social and foreign issues than economic issues) put him to the right of seven other Republican senators, including Kirk. His “composite liberal score” of 36.2 (again, more liberal on economic issues than foreign and social ones) ranked him to the right of the same seven GOP senators.


Durbin, D-Ill., with a composite liberal score of 86.5 (more liberal on economic and foreign issues than social issues) ranked as the third most liberal senator, behind only Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Durbin’s composite conservative score was 13.5, ranking zero on every category other than foreign issues.


Kirk, R-Ill., ranked 43rd among conservatives and 58th on the liberal scale. His conservative composite score of 60 (more conservative on economic and foreign issues than social issues) put him among the five least conservative GOP senators. His liberal composite score of 40 (again, more liberal on social issues) ranked him among the five most liberal Republicans in the Senate.

Clay most liberal Missouri member of Congress

Not surprisingly, Clay -– with a liberal score of 93.3, tying him with 19 other Democrats as the House’s most liberal member -– was rated as Missouri’s most liberal congressman. His composite conservative score was 6.7.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum was Luetkemeyer, rated as the state’s most conservative member of Congress. His 84.5 composite conservative rating ranked him as the 45th most conservative member of the U.S. House. His liberal score was 15.5. (The U.S. House has 435 members.)

Start of update: Proud of his voting record, Luetkemeyer said Friday that he is "hopeful that the changes my conservative colleagues and I are fighting for will make the necessary improvements to our government, make it more transparent and put our government back into the hands of the people." End update.

Not far behind in the conservative ranks was Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield (ranked 52, with a 83.7 conservative rating). Also among the more conservative House members were Reps. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville (ranked 85th most conservative, with a 79.3 score) and Todd Akin, R-Wildwood (ranked 116th, with a 74.8 composite score).

Other members of Congress from the region tended to rank more toward the center, with Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, rated as the 139th most liberal (with a 70.5 liberal score, versus his 29.5 conservative score); Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, ranked as the 173rd most liberal (with a 59.7 liberal score, versus a 40.3 conservative score); Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, as the 200th most conservative (with a 55.7 conservative score and a 44.3 liberal score); and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, as the 189th most conservative (with a 59.5 conservative score and 40.5 liberal score).

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