Who Are the Most Conservative Members of Congress?

Kathryn Blackhurst,

ACU offers guide for Americans to ‘understand the philosophy’ of lawmakers.

A total of 23 members of the 114th Congress received a 100 percent ranking in the 2016 American Conservative Union’s Ratings Guide released this week.

For over 46 years, the ACU has rated each member of the House and Senate after analyzing voting records from the previous year. Using a sampling of votes cast on 25 key pieces of legislation, the ACU recorded whether each politician voted in accordance with the organization’s position. Each member is also allotted a “Lifetime Rating” average score that is bolstered by the new year’s score to create a long-term indicator of how each member honors conservative principles.

congconservatives_small Who Are the Most Conservative Members of Congress? Conservatives

“Are our elected representatives listening to the voters? They sent a pretty clear message in November 2016.”

“Now more than ever, the American people want to understand the philosophy of people that they elect to Congress. And they want to know the status of the issues that they care about,” ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp told LifeZette.

Out of all 100 U.S. senators, just two — Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — received a 100 percent rating, while eight others received ratings in the 90s, earning them the Award for Conservative Excellence.

A total of 21 House members earned a 100 percent rating based on their voting records, including Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), now the director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump administration. Of those 21 highest-ranked members, at least 16 are either current members of the conservative Freedom Caucus or are former members of the caucus. Another 86 representatives ranked in the 90s also earned the Award for Conservative Excellence.

A total of 10 members of Congress have earned a consistent 100 percent Lifetime Rating average throughout their years of service. They are Sasse, Lee, Brat, Jordan, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas).

Jordan has served the longest out of those who earned a 100 percent score, with 10 years under his belt, while Lee has remained consistent throughout his six years of service. The rest have served between two and four years.

“The American Conservative Union is a leading institution of the conservative movement. It’s an honor to be recognized once again by ACU’s scorecard,” Jordan told LifeZette in a statement. “Too many Americans feel forgotten by the organizations and legislators that run Washington, and I’m proud to stand with ACU for America’s families and against corporate handouts and government cronyism.”

ACU’s rankings also reveal the most liberal members of Congress within the Republican Party. A total of eight senators received a failing grade of less than 60 percent: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). In addition, 34 House Republicans received failing grades. Ayotte and Kirk both lost their bids for reelection in 2016.

Needless to say, Democrats in both the House and the Senate received dismal rankings. The Democrat with the best score, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), received a 27 percent rating, higher than Sen. Collins’ 23 percent.

“We don’t know whether that’s because Joe Manchin is a more conservative Democrat or Susan Collins has gotten so bad that she even makes Democrats look good,” Schlapp said. “We’re trying to figure that one out.”

In selecting the 25 pieces of legislation, ACU noted in its study that it chose bills that focus on former President Ronald Reagan’s philosophy of the “three-legged stool,” including, “fiscal and economic” issues, “social and cultural” issues, and “national security” concerns.

But for the first time in its ratings history, the ACU chose for the Senate one issue in which no votes were cast at all: whether or not Senators supported the choice to allow the newly elected president to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

Schlapp noted that this decision received a double-weighted score, meaning that members were awarded double the points if they remained firm in backing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to hold the seat open. If a member initially backed the decision and then later wavered, he or she only received half the credit.

Praising the Senate Republicans for doing something that “never got done for generations,” Schlapp said they “actually got tough and decided to fight fire with fire and deny the last Obama pick for the Court for very fair reasons.”

“In total, what Mitch McConnell did — especially last year — in making sure that President Trump was able to make the selection of [Justice] Neil Gorsuch, as far as we’re concerned, those actions belong in the conservative hall of fame,” Schlapp said.

“But in this case, you know, there were no Senate votes on the floor about the most consequential decision Republicans have made in the Senate in a very long time,” Schlapp added. “And we decided that it was fair to look at the public record to determine where Senators were.”

If any senator put public pressure on McConnell to cave in to the Democrats’ demands and consider Obama’s selection of Judge Merrick Garland, Schlapp insisted they “deserved to be dinged by the American Conservative Union.”

“And those senators who stood by Mitch McConnell’s decision to leave this Supreme Court seat open deserve our praise,” Schlapp said.

Now that the ACU’s 2016 ratings report has been released and the first session of the 115th Congress has commenced, Schlapp said the ACU is looking forward to how the members of Congress will fare under Trump’s leadership.

“Now these ratings are for last year, so they don’t affect, you know, votes within the Trump administration,” Schlapp noted. “But it’s the setup to a conversation that we’re now engaged in with the basic question: Are our elected representatives listening to the voters? They sent a pretty clear message in November 2016.”