Batten’s Center for Effective Lawmaking Announces the Most Effective Lawmakers in the 115th Congress

Today the Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL), a joint initiative between the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Vanderbilt University, announced the most effective lawmakers of the 115th Congress (2017-18). In addition to ranking the most effective members, the CEL for the first time ranked lawmakers with long-standing patterns of effectiveness as well as the most high-performing freshmen.

The CEL determines a Legislative Effectiveness Score (LES) for each Senator and each Representative in each Congress, combining 15 metrics regarding the bills that members sponsor, how far they move through the lawmaking process, and how important their policy proposals are. For each member, the CEL also identifies a benchmark score based on the average effectiveness of lawmakers who share that legislator’s similar level of seniority, majority- or minority-party status, and chair position on a committee or subcommittee. Additional information on the methodology used to determine scores is available on the CEL website.

Top 10 House Republicans (115th Congress)
1. Don Young (AK-AL)
2. Edward Royce (CA-39)
3. Michael McCaul (TX-10)
4. John Katko (NY-24)
5. Steve Knight (CA-25)
6. Bob Goodlatte (VA-6)
7. Greg Walden (OR-2)
8. Scott Tipton (CO-3)
9. Steve Chabot (OH-1)
10. Barbara Comstock (VA-10)

Top 10 Senate Republicans (115th Congress)
1. Chuck Grassley (IA)
2. Orrin Hatch (UT)
3. John Thune (SD)
4. John Cornyn (TX)
5. Ron Johnson (WI)
6. Jeff Flake (AZ)
7. Lisa Murkowski (AK)
8. Dan Sullivan (AK)
9. Roger Wicker (MS)
10. Marco Rubio (FL)

Top 10 House Democrats (115th Congress)
1. Eleanor Norton (DC-AL)
2. Elijah Cummings (MD-7)
3. Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
4. Matt Cartwright (PA-17)
5. Nita Lowey (NY-17)
6. Nydia Velazquez (NY-7)
7. Timothy Walz (MN-1)
8. Elizabeth Esty (CT-5)
9. Bennie Thompson (MS-2)
10. Eliot Engel (NY-16)

Top 10 Senate Democrats (115th Congress)
1. Amy Klobuchar (MN)
2. Claire McCaskill (MO)
3. Jon Tester (MT)
4. Gary Peters (MI)
5. Bill Nelson (FL)
6. Benjamin Cardin (MD)
7. Dianne Feinstein (CA)
8. Mazie Hirono (HI)
9. Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
10. Robert Casey (PA)

Some members of Congress attain the status of being a top-ten lawmaker within their party quite infrequently, rising onto the list due to their committee chair position or as a Senator seeking legislative accomplishments prior to a tough electoral battle. For others, effective lawmaking is a way of life. Those members who significantly outperform their benchmark score fall into the “exceeds expectations” category.

Only about one quarter of lawmakers qualify for this exceptional category in any given Congress, and those who do so regularly are truly remarkable and worth watching. The list below shows those with the longest active streaks of exceeding expectations continuing through the 115th Congress. This list shows both Republicans and Democrats to be prolific lawmakers, despite differences in their ideological positions and their views about government activism.

Longest Streak of “Exceeding Expectations” (through 115th Congress)
1. Rep. Don Young (R-AK)
     Streak: 23 Congresses                
2. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
    Streak: 10 Congresses      
3. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX)
    Streak: 6 Congresses       
4. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
    Streak: 4 Congresses     
5. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
    Streak: 4 Congresses       
6. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
    Streak: 4 Congresses    
7. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
    Streak: 4 Congresses     
8. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
    Streak: 3 Congresses       
9. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
    Streak: 3 Congresses       
10. Thirteen House Members
       Streak: 3 Congresses                

There are also a number of new freshmen lawmakers who are off to a promising start in their first two years, scoring in the “exceeds expectations” category in their first term in office. Research suggests that performance in a lawmaker’s freshman term is highly correlated with subsequent lawmaking effectiveness, as well as with their overall career trajectory.

Freshmen “Exceeding Expectations” (115th Congress)
1. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
2. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI)
3. Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)
4. Rep. John Faso (R-NY)
5. Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL)
6. Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL)
7. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)
8. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA)
9. Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA)
10. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
11. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)
12. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)
13. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ)
14. Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (D-PR)
15. Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL)

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