Republicans say Sherrod Brown has voted with Obama 95 percent of the
January 27, 2012
in Washington, D.C., and Ohio have vast ideological differences with
Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat.
the government plays a positive role in people’s lives when it provides
safety net (new health insurance programs, financial regulation, help
cash-strapped cities and schools) while supporting the private sector.
Republicans say the government needs to step back to propel the
that is the private sector.
lofty, that makes for a poor sound bite. But the GOP knows this, and is
prepared to frame its November election effort against Brown like this:
you look at his voting record, what’s going to stick with voters is
that he has
voted with Barack Obama 95 percent of the time. He can talk about
some of the time, but you’ve got to look at the record.”
comes from Christopher Maloney, communications director for the Ohio
Party. Maloney made the claim to The Plain Dealer during a telephone
in December 2011, and again with a slight variation on Jan. 22, 2012,
we’ll discuss in a moment. It is that variation that we’re checking
interview was for a story, published Jan. 23, on how Republicans plan
campaign against Brown in the coming political season. While the
checked out the figure and had reason to believe it was accurate, it
believed -- for purposes of PolitiFact Ohio -- that the figure deserved
examination, and a ruling on the Truth-O-Meter. After all, voters are
hear the claim a lot this year.
said his figure came from Congressional Quarterly, a nonpartisan
organization that reports on Capitol Hill lawmaking dispassionately.
CQ, as it
is known, serves as a bit of a bible for journalists, congressional
even lobbyists, because it goes into the weeds of legislating like few
publications do. Its reporting winds up in CQ Today, CQ Weekly, CQ
products, and an annual hard-bound political almanac, “Politics in
covering hearings and more, CQ examines voting patterns for every
Congress and sorts them in ways that allow comparisons. One of those
through an annual examination of presidential support, or the number
percentage of votes by each lawmaker on bills in which the sitting
has staked a position.
example, CQ counted a vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment
2009, better known as the economic stimulus bill, as a vote in support
president. The same principle applied to the health care reform vote of
to votes on taxes, the debt ceiling, and so on. Presidents weigh in on
than half of all Senate votes (Obama had a position on 39 percent of
Senate’s 235 votes last year), and some bills have broad bipartisan
matter who is in the White House.
winds up with a presidential support score of zero -- not even such
small-government fans as Republicans Jim DeMint of South Carolina or
of Kentucky. But the closer to zero, or to 100, a score is, the higher
lawmaker’s opposition or support for the president’s agenda.
figure Maloney cited: He stated from the start that his source was CQ.
originally said the figure for Brown was 97 percent -- that is, that
voted with President Obama 97 percent of the time. That was based on an
of CQ ratings, for 2009 (Obama’s first year, when Brown scored 96
2010 (98 percent). Maloney was accurate when he made the statement
Weekly had not yet published its ratings for 2011.
changed, just before The Plain Dealer was about to publish its story. A
issue of CQ Weekly came out, with new numbers covering 2011. And the
of Brown and Obama, it turns out, diverged slightly more often in 2011
the previous two years.
presidential support rating dropped to 92 percent in 2011 -- matching,
out, the 92 percent support rate that other Democratic senators had on
for the president last year. In contrast, Brown’s Ohio colleague,
freshman Rob Portman, voted with the president 59.5 percent of the time
-- which while not as high as the 71.90 percent rate of Maine
Collins, still put Portman in the top tier, at 13th, of Republicans
often for Obama’s positions. DeMint and Paul, by contrast, each had
presidential support ratings of 41 percent in 2011.
averaged for the three years of Obama’s presidency so far, then,
support fell from 97 percent to 95 percent. (Do the math: 96 plus 98
divided by 3, equals 95.3.) Maloney, when told by The Plain Dealer that
had just put out brand new figures, updated his statement to reflect
this without judgment on whether it is good or bad to support the Obama
Brown has disagreed with Obama on foreign trade and on some greenhouse
issues. But Maloney says that “you’ve got to look at the record.”
record -- compiled not by an opposition party but by a publication
eminently impartial -- provides an average of 95 percent. The figure is
current. On the Truth-O-Meter, Maloney’s claim merits a rating of True.
and other articles at Cleveland Plain Dealer