The Magnificent Seven

This year has been marked by several embarrassing downfalls of the Republican establishment in DC.  Scores of Republicans have defied party leadership and voted with the Tea Party, and certainly the 87 freshmen elected by the Tea Party are frequently praised for these actions. But a closer look shows that not all the insurgents are freshmen, and some true conservatives on Capitol Hill take a bigger risk in defying the establishment than others.

The conservative world is full of scorecards – Heritage Action, the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform – so we put together our own scorecard to see who in Congress was chipping away at the Republican establishment, and who was taking them out in big chunks.  The question we are trying to answer is “Who defies Republican leadership the most, and the most vigorously?”

We are not trying to compete with our conservative brethren – we may not ever put out another scorecard.  But as observers of Washington during this most critical time in our nation’s history, we felt it important to recognize those members of the House who most effectively defied House leadership.

We looked at 8 votes where Boehner, Cantor and the establishment were trying to push through bills that didn’t live up to conservative principles, votes where stalwart freshmen and principled senior Congressmen stayed true to their beliefs in spite of harsh pressure.  For instance, we didn’t include the Ryan budget – it was an easy vote with almost all Republicans voting for it.  A tailor made parade to jump in front of.

We looked for votes where Republican leadership was twisting arms – where they really needed the votes.  Like both the recent continuing resolutions. Or the Budget Control Act.

While science got us most of the way, figuring out who in Congress were most defiant of leadership came down to an art.  Who is the most vigorous in opposing the Republican establishment?  Who should be voting with leadership but has decided not to play their game despite whatever pressure may be exerted on them?

Here is the science:



Name Short-term CR Full year CR HS Approps FY12 Ag Approps FY12 E+W Approps FY12 Final Budget Control Act Full year CR & disaster assist. Full year CR & additional offset Total No votes Score
Rep. Joe Walsh (IL) N N N Y N N N N 7 88%
Rep. Dave Schweikert (AZ) Y N Y N N N N N 6 75%
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (SC) N N N Y Y N N N 6 75%
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS) N N Y Y N N N N 6 75%
Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) N N Y Y Y N N N 5 63%
Rep. Phil Gingrey (GA) N N Y Y Y N N N 5 63%
Rep. Tom Graves (GA) N N Y Y Y N N N 5 63%


Here is the art:

Joe Walsh wins the award for vigor.  Few in Congress have been more vigorous in the opposition to House leadership.  Even the Chicago Tribune has taken notice.  Check out this article:  “Walsh: GOP Leadership too afraid to fight in Washington.”  His voting record reflects that with him voting against Boehner and Cantor on 88% of critical votes.

Mick Mulvaney is second to Walsh for most votes against leadership.  The difference between Walsh and Mulvaney is how they got to Congress.  Walsh was not on anyone’s radar screen and owed no one for his victory.  Mulvaney seat cost House leadership more than $700,000 according to FEC records – almost half of what his campaign spent.  He comes in at 75% against the establishment.

Outpacing Mulvaney for “taking their money and voting against them” is Dave Schweikert.  Schweikert squeaked out a 52% victory in 2010 with the help of more than $3 million from the NRCC.  It’s hard to argue that Schweikert doesn’t owe his seat to the infusion of cash from House leadership.  He has a 75% record of voting against House leadership on crucial votes.

It takes a stiff spine to take $3 million from Boehner in 2010 and vote against him on 75% of the tough spending votes in 2011.

Tim Huelskamp’s world is not complex.  He votes no.  On our scale, he voted against the Republican establishment 75% of the time.

The Georgia delegation produced two standouts – Tom Graves and Phil Gingrey.  Both sit on powerful committees.  Graves has a seat on the Appropriations committee and Gingrey sits on the Energy and Commerce committee.  Guess who decides what committee assignments Congressmen get?  That’s right, House leadership. With sweet Committee assignments like these, Boehner had to give them the nod.  None the less, Gingrey sticks by his principles 63% of the time, while Graves thumbs his nose at leadership at the same rate.

Committee seats are one of the plums that leadership uses to co-opt conservatives into voting like a squish.  Gingrey and Graves took the seat Boehner gave them, and took the tough votes against leadership none the less.

While Walsh gets the award for vigor, Jim Jordan is impressive for his methodical defiance of the Republican establishment.  The Republican Study Committee is for the most conservative members of the caucus.  In past years it has been called “the conscience of the Republican caucus,” but this year, with Jordan as chair, it should be called the Republican Insurgency Committee for the work they have done to shut down free spending bills from the Republican leadership.  The 63% he gets doesn’t really reflect the impact he makes as the architect of the insurgency.

Kudos to the Magnificent Seven – Jordan, Graves, Gingrey, Huelskamp, Mulvaney, Schweikert and Walsh –  Boehner’s Bane and those who say that Cantor just can’t…