Washington — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is the most liberal member of the Senate, and Connecticut’s House delegation is the fourth most liberal, according to the latest rankings by the National Journal.
Blumenthal tied with Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to top the list of the Senate’s most liberal members, a list that includes Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Al Franken of Minnesota, Patty Murray of Washington and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.
Both Blumenthal and Udall voted for the liberal position on a bill 90.7 percent of the time.
In contrast, former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who retired at the end of the last Congress, was ranked 50th, right in the middle, voting with the liberal position on a bill 54.3 percent of the time.
“Blumenthal is not a firebrand like (Vermont senator) Bernie Sanders, but he casts liberal votes that are a reflection of his constituency and his philosophy,” said Ron Schurin, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.
Although Sanders is an independent with very progressive views, he sometimes votes against Democratic positions on a bill as a protest, which may account for his absence from the list of most liberal senators.
Blumenthal could not be reached Tuesday for a reaction to his ranking.
The National Journal has ranked every Congress since 1981 and is considered a respected analyst of how loyal lawmakers are to their party and their ideology.
For the 2012 ratings, the National Journal looked at all roll-call votes in the second session of the 112th Congress and selected those that split the Congress along ideological lines. Most votes were not used in the analysis; only 116 in each chamber were selected. Those were categorized as votes on economic, foreign, or social issues, with economic issues dominating Congress’ attention last year.
The all-Democratic Connecticut delegation to the U.S. House ranked after Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont on the list of the most liberal delegation.
The most conservative delegation is that representing Kansas.
Schurin noted that Vermont has only one House member and Maine has two, so it’s easier for their lawmakers to tilt the ideology of their delegations.
But it’s also true that New England has trended Democratic for years, and there are very few House Republicans left from this region of the nation. In last year’s elections, for example, the two Republican House members in New Hampshire — Frank Guinta and Charles Bass — were ousted, and Connecticut has not had a Republican in its House delegation since Christopher Shays lost his seat to Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, in 2008.
Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report, said the GOP’s march to the right has made it very difficult for Republicans to run for Congress in New England, which has had a history of sending GOP moderates to Washington.
The most liberal member of Connecticut’s House delegation is Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, who voted with the liberal position 84.8 percent of the time. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, followed closely with an 83.5 percent liberal voting rate.
The rate for Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, was 78.7; and for Rep. Jim Himes, D-5th District, it was 69 percent.
Former Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, who was elected to the Senate in the new Congress, voted with the liberal position 74.5 percent of the time in his last year in the House.
With the exception of Himes, whose voting record puts him near the middle of the 435-member Congress as far as ideology, Connecticut’s House members are considered loyal liberals in a chamber that is controlled by conservative Republicans.
But Connecticut’s lawmakers are not the most liberal members of the House.
According to the National Journal, 14 Democrats are tied for the No. 1 position on the liberal list. Those include Reps. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Donna Edwards of Maryland, John Olver of Massachusetts, and four from California–Mike Honda, Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Lynn Woolsey.
In contrast, DeLauro, Connecticut’s most liberal U.S. House member, is ranked 64th.
The most conservative House member is Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who gained notoriety for controversial comments about “legitimate rape” during a failed run for Senate last year.
Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Democrats have moved to the left and Republicans to the right as redistricting and other factors has shrunk the number of moderates in each party.
But in the end, ideological rankings don’t matter much, he said.
“What matters is not the quality of the ideology per se, but the quality of the individual,” Ornstein said.
Even the National Journal said there are limitations to its rankings.
“National Journal’s vote ratings, like any other vote ratings, should be viewed as a tool in assessing a member of Congress but not the only tool,” the publication said in a recent story describing its methodology. “Other vote ratings should also be taken into consideration, as should attributes beyond the capability of a rating system to assess qualities, such as leadership and effectiveness.”