Political polarization is on the rise, with the last two sessions of Congress an especially contentious group, according to a new analysis.
The Lugar Center, a think tank founded by former Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar and Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, released its inaugural Bipartisan Index Tuesday, ranking members of Congress based on how frequently they work across the aisle.
The rankings are based on lawmakers’ sponsorship and co-sponsorship of bills, and measure the degree to which they succeeded in attracting co-sponsors from the opposing party and crossed the aisle to co-sponsor others’ bills during the last two Congresses.
"The Bipartisan Index offers the public an objective way to measure how frequently their members of Congress are cooperating with the other party on matters of policy," Lugar said in a press release, according to Real Clear Politics
"We hope this ranking will incentivize members of Congress to be more bipartisan when writing legislation and making co-sponsorship decisions, as well as keeping an open mind about legislation introduced by the other party."
The Lugar Center
— which bills itself as focused on issues such as "nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global food security, foreign assistance effectiveness and global development, energy security, and enhancing bipartisan governance" — plans later this year to release lifetime rankings of each member of Congress dating back to 1993, Real Clear Politics reports.
But it said the 112th and 113th Congresses were the most partisan since 1993.
"This is not a situation to be celebrated," Lugar told USA Today
. "It's one to be turned around."
According to USA Today, the Lugar Center came up with historical average scores for members of the minority and majority parties, and then lawmakers in the last Congress were compared to the baseline to see whether they ranked above or below average.
Only a little more than one-third of those serving from 2013-2014 were ranked "bipartisan," according to USA Today, with top scorers in the Senate including Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Those ranked as least bipartisan included Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
In the House, GOP Reps. Christopher Gibson and Peter King of New York ranked most bipartisan, while Reps. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and Donna Edwards, D-Md., were least bipartisan.
The scores of presidential candidates in the Senate were all in the bottom half of the index, according to Real Clear Politics, including Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio; Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul; Cruz; and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
"Right now, most citizens are unhappy with the lack of progress in Congress, the lack of legislation moving forward or — worse still — such tie-ups that the government may shut down or be threatened with being shut down from time to time," Lugar told USA Today.
The trend has been noted before.
Tracking voting patterns since the early 1950s, CQ Roll Call has found partisanship and polarization are driving legislative behavior more than in any other period since at least the start of the Eisenhower administration, according to USA Today.
The Washington Post, reporting
last month on a diagram of partisanship for each House of Representatives from 1949 to 2011, shows that starting in the 1990s, "the parties began pulling apart from each other, like a single cell dividing into two," and that "in the 2000s, there are hardly any links between the parties at all."
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