- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

At least six Republican senators — George Allen of Virginia, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Bill Frist of Tennessee, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John McCain of Arizona and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania — reportedly are giving serious consideration to running for the 2008 presidential nomination. Messrs. Allen and Santorum will have to win re-election this year, while a third, Senate Majority Leader Frist, is retiring. Voters will want to know how the political ideologies of these potential candidates rank among their colleagues.

Recently, the nonpartisan National Journal and the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) released their 2005 voting guides ranking the ideological purity of members of Congress. Herewith is a review of those rankings among the six senators.

ADA followed its customary practice of selecting what it considers to be the 20 most important votes of the year and awarding a senator five points for each vote in support of ADA’s position. Among the six Republican senators, Messrs. Allen and Frist compiled the ADA’s lowest “liberal quotient” — 5 percent. The other four received ADA scores of 10 percent.

In October, all six senators joined 84 other senators in supporting the so-called McCain amendment, which prohibited cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners detained by the United States. Messrs. McCain and Brownback were the only two among the six who voted for an amendment permitting the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate Medicare-drug-prescription prices with pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Santorum was the only one who supported a motion by John Kerry to modify legislative rules in order to more easily appropriate $3.1 billion for a low-income heating program. Only Mr. Hagel voted in December to maintain the filibuster against a bill re-authorizing the Patriot Act.

The National Journal’s rating system is more complex. It ranks the 100 senators on liberal and conservative continuums. In addition to providing sub-rankings according to senators’ positions on economic issues (41 votes in 2005), social concerns (16 votes) and foreign-policy matters (13 votes), the journal provides composite liberal and conservative scores. Among the six in 2005, Mr. Allen received the highest composite conservative score: 85.8 (out of 100), making him the eighth most conservative senator last year. The composite conservative scores for the others were: Mr. Frist (81.5, 16th most conservative); Mr. Brownback (79.8, 21st); Mr. Santorum (70.0, 35th); Mr. Hagel (69.3, 37th); and Mr. McCain (59.2, 45th). The National Journal also calculated the following lifetime composite conservative scores: Mr. Brownback (82.2 since 1997); Mr. Allen (79.7 since 2001); Mr. Santorum (78.0 since 1995); Mr. Frist (77.6 since 1995); Mr. McCain (72.5 since 1987); and Mr. Hagel (71.5 since 1997).

Recall that the composite figures represent an aggregate conservative score based upon 70 roll-call votes classified as either economic, social or foreign-policy issues. For each of the three categories, the journal’s system enables it to declare that a member is more conservative than a specific percent of the Senate. For example, Mr. Allen’s 85.8 conservative composite score in 2005 results from his voting record being more conservative than 80 percent of the Senate on economic issues, more conservative than 77 percent of the Senate on social issues and more conservative than 74 percent of the Senate on foreign-policy issues. (Because 22 other senators voted the same way as Mr. Allen on the 16 social issues and because 25 other senators voted the same way as Mr. Allen on the 13 foreign-policy issues, it is fair to say — based upon the National Journal’s rating system — that no senator was more conservative than Mr. Allen on either social or foreign-policy matters last year.)

The journal made similar assessments in all three categories for the others. Last year, Mr. Frist was determined to be more conservative than 86 percent of the Senate (economic issues); 64 percent (social); and 74 percent (foreign policy). The respective percentages for the others are: Mr. Brownback (80, 64, 74); Mr. Santorum (65, 57, 74); Mr. Hagel (86, 56, 64); and Mr. McCain (52, 64, 54).

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