Monday, November 20, 2006

Ideological shifts in House Committee Chairs

(I'm still digging out from the ton of stuff undone over the past three weeks, so the Table of Contents is still waiting for an update, and reorganization. But I don't want to delay further some of the new posts I had prepared last week but couldn't post while traveling. So here is a start.)

The shift in party control in Congress brings with it new committee chairs. Their outlooks give us one measure of how different the new 110th Congress may be from the 109th. Of course committee chairs are only part of what makes Congress work. We've heard and read that the Democratic leadership does not plan to give free reign to the instincts of the most liberal members. Nonetheless, the shift from generally conservative Republican chairs to generally liberal Democratic chairs is clear. The Science committee is the one substantial exception.

The graph above plots the Republican chair's vs the Democratic chair's National Journal 2005 Conservatism score, where 100 is the most conservative and 0 is the most liberal. I've used the expected chairs as reported by Congress Daily. The Intelligence committee chair appears to be the most uncertain at this point, with Speaker to be Pelosi said to be opposed to current ranking minority member Rep. Jane Harman, (D-CA). I've used Harman's National Journal score none-the-less in this plot.

It is hard to identify the cluster of points to the middle of the graph, so the dotplot below shows the shift to the left for each committee.

One other way to view this is to compare the distributions of the two party groups, as in the figure below. Here the polarization of the parties, and the modest overlap in the middle, is apparent. This distribution is not unrepresentative of the House as a whole. While the chairs are not an exact match, they are not wildly different from the House as a whole. The Republican chair median conservatism score is 73.3, while that for all Republicans in the House is 74.4. The median Democratic chair's conservatism score is 18.8 while the median for all Democrats is 23.25.