How progressive are Washington State’s members of Congress?

Govtrack.us has a useful chart that purports to show where each member of Congress stands on a continuum from liberal to conservative.

The chart is based on co-sponsorship relationships between members of Congress: how often they cosponsored each other’s bills. Lawmakers who cosponsored another lawmaker’s legislation are placed close together. The X axis measures ideology (from progressive on the left to conservative on the right). The Y axis measures leadership: how often the lawmaker sponsored bills.

Click this link to explore the data interactively. I have copied the image here and marked Democrats with arrows and names:

Ideological positions of Washington State Congressional Democrats, from govtrack.us

A surprising thing about their analysis is that it puts Adam Smith to the left of Primila Jayapal. This seems wrong. I will redo their analyses using my own data science skills.

The govtrack pages for each candidate show scores from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters, Human Rights Campaign, NORML, and various right wing advocacy groups, such as Freedom Works, the Chamber of Commerce and Club for Growth.  See

Another scorecard they should probably have shown is the Social-Economic Justice Scorecard from the AFL-CIO: https://aflcio.org/what-unions-do/social-economic-justice/advocacy/scorecard/us-house-scorecard . According to that scorecard, all Democratic Washington State Reps score pretty high. Again, Smith scores higher than Jayapal or anyone else.

District Name Party 2015 (%) 2016 (%) 2017 (%) Lifetime (%)
WA 1 DelBene D 92 100 92 94
WA 2 Larsen D 88 100 95 91
WA 3 Herrera Beutler R 14 50 18 17
WA 4 Newhouse R 17 13 24 20
WA 5 McMorris Rodgers R 13 13 11 10
WA 6 Kilmer D 92 100 95 94
WA 7 Jayapal D 97 97
WA 8 Reichert R 42 63 37 41
WA 9 Smith D 100 100 95 90
WA 10 Heck D 96 100 95 95

I am curious about their votes on taxation and military issues. Are there scorecards covering those fields?

Here’s govtrack’s image for all Senators (Click to see bigger version):

U.S. Senator ideology

And for all House members (Click to see bigger version):

U.S. House member ideology



2 Replies to “How progressive are Washington State’s members of Congress?

  1. Problems with rating them on their votes include the many meaningless and symbolic votes, important votes might be on an amendment, bills contain many items sometimes including nasty riders, and these days, all too often important items never come to a vote. Leadership of both sides have used the floor of Congress as much for the next election campaign, as for doing the nation’s business.

    For instance, for the upcoming election, support for a universal, single-payer health care system is a defining issue for a progressive candidate. If they don’t say they are for it, they aren’t progressive. If they say they are, they can be considered one pending actually voting for one. The major health care vote this Congress has taken has been on repeal of ACA, an issue that didn’t provide much differentiation among Democrats.

    Another example is the vote on Sander’s amendment to a larger bill that would have allowed importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada. Cory Booker and Cantwell voted no. It might not have survived House-Senate conference, but it was the best chance they were going to have to pass it this Congress. Passing the amendment would have given organizers a chance to whip up public sentiment to keep it in the final bill. That they have both now co-sponsored a stand alone bill allowing such imports is nice, but that bill isn’t coming out of committee.

    Howie Klein’s Progressive Punch ranks our Dem Reps as follows. Grade is based on their progressive score versus their district. A MOR Dem in a very red district gets a better grade than the same one in downtown Seattle. I’m listing the “crucial vote” score- lifetime/ current session, their grade, and, in parentheses, the variance from their district rating. Their ranking is based on their lifetime score. There is more info at the site, including discussion of methodology.
    4, (Tied)- Jayapal- 96.97/ 96.97- A (+13.64)
    137. Larsen- 74.99/ 76.84 – F (-8.34)
    140. Heck- 74.11/ 72.16 – F (-9.22)
    145. Smith 72 57/88.66 – F (-10.76)
    150. DelBene 71.08/ 70.71 – F (-12.25)
    154. Kilmer 68.80/ 68.69 F (-14.53)


  2. Thanks, Walter. On the other hand, ProgressivePunch gives Adam Smith an overall score of 86.13%. Does that warrant an F? Rick Larsen’s lifetime score is 89.62%, but he too gets an F. But they give Nancy Pelosi an A, with a lifetime score of 93.67%. Their methodology also seems fishy.

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