New York State has a 29-member delegation of lawmakers in Washington D.C. That makes New York the third-largest delegation in Congress, with 27 House members and two senators.
The main job of a member of the House of Representatives, according to their own website, House.gov, is to “introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments and serve on committees.” Senators share similar duties along with other responsibilities enumerated in the Constitution.
So, how are they doing at their job? We wanted to find out.
As Election Day approaches, we’ve compiled a series of measurements designed to give voters insight into their elected officials when it comes to the core duties of being a “lawmaker,” which are to make and revise the laws governing the country.
To compile this snapshot of a lawmaker’s results, we used one of the few publicly available primary databases of information for members of Congress: www.congress.gov.
We focused on five metrics:
We measured the 116th Congress, which gaveled in on January 3, 2019, and capped our measuring on October 3, 2020.
Sponsoring standalone legislation is the most common way for a bill to become a law. Another way for lawmakers to make their mark involves inserting legal language into larger so-called “must-pass” bills. According to officials in the Office of the Clerk of the House and the Library of Congress, while that information can be obtained with significant effort, there is no readily available, easy to understand, non-partisan, non-commercial resource to measure this alternative method of lawmaking. Some offices have provided their own legislation information in their response to our project. However, as we have run into significant difficulty verifying the accuracy of which legal language belongs to which lawmaker in a specific bill, such information should be viewed with a degree of scrutiny and are provided in the interest of transparency.
It also helps if you understand the basics of Congress. If you need to brush up on your civics, here’s a quick, easy-to-understand primer.
HOW DOES MY INDIVIDUAL LAWMAKER SCORE?
Want to see how your member of Congress is doing in Washington? Click on our profiles of the NY delegation below, or take a look at our map below the profiles.
Not sure who your member of Congress is? Find out here.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE METRICS
Number of bills sponsored:
To sponsor a bill is to pursue an idea – and then put it in writing. Any member of Congress can sponsor a bill and any member can endorse another member’s bill (called ‘co-sponsoring.’) This metric measures the number of unique bills put forward by a Representative or a Senator. Many bills don’t get beyond this stage of the process and only a tiny fraction ever make it to the President’s desk. Some bills are non-controversial and take minimal effort, such as renaming a post office or other federal entity. And then there are weightier bills that can stoke political fires. A Resolution usually expresses an opinion or addresses procedure in the House or Senate and doesn’t go to the President. An Amendment is a change to the language in a piece of legislation. Everything has to be voted on.
Number of bills passed out of one chamber:
Getting a bill passed through a chamber is tough. In order to pass a bill out of a chamber, a member of Congress must build consensus among his or her colleagues. This is where reputation, dealmaking, and clout can come into play. Sometimes a member of Congress is unable to pass a bill on its own and, instead, that idea or legal language is inserted into other bills such as funding legislation for the federal government or defense spending. Language or ideas that are inserted into other so-called “must pass” bills aren’t reflected by congress.gov, and, therefore, aren’t included in our numbers. Some Congressional offices have taken issue with this and have volunteered their own numbers in which, when provided, is listed in an office’s response statement. The statement is a response to our project from a congressional office and/or a political candidate. Any statistics or data in the aforementioned statements are provided in the interest of fairness & transparency and have not been independently checked for accuracy.
Number of bills signed into law:
If a bill from an opposite party is signed into law by a president, the achievement is a significant victory for that member of Congress. It’s an incredibly arduous and complicated process to get a standalone bill signed into law. The basic system is designed to be that way.
Percentage a member votes with his or her party:
This number is courtesy of ProPublica, an award-winning, investigative journalism foundation. The percentage is pretty self-explanatory with a caveat: just because a percentage is high doesn’t mean someone is a die-hard devotee of his or her party. Procedural votes count toward this score and it isn’t entirely indicative of a member’s loyalty, or disloyalty, to the party.
Lugar Center Bipartisan Index Score:
The Bipartisan Index is a joint project of The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. In the most general terms, the Bipartisan Index measures: 1) the frequency with which a member of Congress sponsors bills that are co-sponsored by at least one member of the opposing party; and 2) the frequency with which a member co-sponsors bills introduced by members of the opposite Party.
Majority and minority members are compared to the average score of their respective groups over a 20-year baseline period that includes the 103rd through the 112th Congress (1993-2012). A positive score (a score above 0.00) indicates that a member has scored better on the Bipartisan Index formula than the average score for members of his or her respective group during that 20-year baseline period. A negative score indicates that a member falls below the average of his or her group for the 20-year baseline period. Scores above 1.0 are outstanding. Scores above .5 are very good. Conversely, scores below -.5 are poor. Scores below -1.0 are very poor. This number measures only the 1st Session of the 116th Congress.