National Journal just came out with its annual ideological ratings. Did you know that Chuck Schumer is the most liberal senator? It's true. I read it in National Journal.
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Jeff Merkley don't even make the list of top 15 most liberal. Chuck Schumer does.
I decided to investigate.
National Journal provides a list of the roll call votes it used in its scoring.
Let us first see what's missing from that list.
Well, there's Kirsten Gillibrand's amendment to the Farm Bill to restore SNAP cuts by limiting crop insurance reimbursements. It, unfortunately, failed 26 to 70, with even a majority of the Democratic caucus voting against it. I would think that most people would deem voting to undo SNAP cuts a liberal vote and would think that the 26 members of the Democratic caucus who voted to restore cuts took a more liberal vote than the 28 who voted against doing so. Not National Journal, my friend. They think nothing of it at all.
DiFi had an amendment to the Farm Bill to prohibit the payment by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation of any portion of the premium for a policy or plan of insurance for tobacco. I would call that a liberal amendment. You could also argue for its merits from a conservative perspective. National Journal calls it nothing.
Then there was the confirmation vote on USTR Michael Froman. He was confirmed 93 to 4 (to 1). Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Carl Levin, and Joe Manchin all voted against confirmation. Barbara Boxer voted present. I'd say that voting against the confirmation of the chief negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a man who rejected Elizabeth Warren's call for transparency in the negotiation process, is a liberal vote. Not National Journal, my friend. They think nothing of it at all.
Do you remember how student loan rates were set to spike over the summer? And how Congress took a number of votes related to that? National Journal doesn't!
The Senate Democrats originally tried to pass their preferred plan, but it couldn't pass cloture. It failed 51 to 49. Then, Obama, as you may remember, negotiated a toxic student loan deal with the leaders of both parties. The New York Times editorial board, you may remember, strongly opposed it. Jack Reed and Elizabeth Warren tried to amend it to cap interest rates. Their amendment failed 46 to 53. Bernie Sanders tried to amend it to add a sunset date. His amendment failed 34 to 65. When the full bill came to a vote, it passed 81 to 18. 17 of the most liberal senators (and 1 Mike Lee) voted against it. That was July. Maybe National Journal was on vacation.
There are also some--let us say--interestingly categorized votes.
According to National Journal, voting to confirm John Brennan, drone warrior, opponent of transparency, and trampler of the Constitution, was a liberal vote. Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, and Pat Leahy all voted against his confirmation from the left. According to National Journal, they must be conservative.
According to National Journal, voting to limit the legal rights of Guantánamo detainees brought to the United States is the liberal thing to do. Civil liberties groups like the ACLU opposed the McCain-Levin amendment to the NDAA. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, and Pat Leahy voted against it. Apparently, that makes them conservative.
Sometimes, when there are two somewhat similar votes, National Journal decides to score one but not the other.
Sheldon Whitehouse's budget amendment establishing a carbon tax gets counted. However, Roy Blunt's budget amendment establishing a point against legislation that would create a Federal tax or fee on carbon emission does not.
Mark Warner's budget amendment to repeal or reduce the estate tax, but only if done in a fiscally responsible way, gets counted. But John Thune's budget amendment permanently eliminating the federal estate tax does not.