Who’s More in Lockstep — Republicans With Trump, or Democrats With Biden?
The answer is: Senate Democrats have been in lockstep much more with Biden than Senate Republicans were with Trump.
There was an extraordinary Senate debate this week in Orem, Utah, between Sen. Mike Lee and challenger Evan McMullin. It was extraordinary in part because McMullin, who is running as an independent and says that if elected he will not caucus with either Democrats or Republicans, agreed with Lee in many policy areas, like federal spending and regulatory overreach. “I think our difference is in approach,” McMullin said at one point.
Instead, McMullin slashed Lee repeatedly over former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. McMullin accused Lee of urging the Trump White House “to find fake electors to overturn the will of the people.” It wasn’t true — a look at the texts Lee sent to then-chief of staff Mark Meadows shows that Lee thought that only a constitutional process could challenge the results of the election, and he hoped some state legislatures would submit competing slates of electors “pursuant to state law.” In the end, Lee saw that Trump did not have the evidence on his side, and there was no action by state legislatures. Lee became concerned by the dead-enders who, without compelling evidence, still wanted to overturn the results, and he voted to certify Joe Biden’s victory.
That didn’t stop McMullin. “You sought to urge the White House, that had lost an election, to find fake electors to overturn the will of the people,” McMullin said to Lee. “Sen. Lee, that was the most egregious betrayal of our nation’s constitution in its history by a U.S. senator, I believe, and it will be your legacy.” That seemed very nearly an accusation of treason, completely out of line with Lee’s actions, and the crowd booed. McMullin deserved it.
It was entirely in character for McMullin, who ran for president as an anti-Trump independent in 2016 and received 0.54% of the popular vote — three one-hundredths of 1% more than the category of “Miscellaneous Write-In.” McMullin has never had much to say beyond being against Trump, so it was not a surprise that, with all that is going on in the world today, he has made his case against Lee mostly about Trump.
But here was an interesting moment. At one point McMullin said, “I’m not going to Washington, if we prevail, to be a bootlicker for Donald Trump or Joe Biden.” The implication, of course, was that Lee was a bootlicker for Trump, and might be again. Lee was indignant, as he was for much of the night. Not true, he said: “No member of the Republican Senate conference voted independently during the Trump administration [more] than I did,” Lee said. “Only two senators, Susan Collins and Rand Paul, voted less with President Trump than I did.”
It’s true. During the Trump years, the political website FiveThirtyEight kept detailed records of how often each senator, Republican and Democrat, voted “in line with Trump’s position.” It found that Lee voted in line with Trump 73.2% of the time. Only Collins, at 65.1%, and Paul, at 68.9%, voted in line with Trump less often than Lee. Most Republican senators were in the 80s range: Rick Scott 84.1%, Marco Rubio 88.1%, Pat Toomey 85.5%, Rob Portman 88.3%, Joni Ernst 88.4%, Josh Hawley 86.7%, Marsha Blackburn 88.5%, Steve Daines 83.6% and Lindsey Graham 86%. Less than half were in the 90s, like Roger Marshall at 97.3%, Mike Crapo 90.4%, Shelley Moore Capito 92.1% and Kevin Cramer 94.1%. A few, like Collins, Paul and Lee, were in the low range. (Lee’s Utah colleague, Sen. Mitt Romney, who has refused to endorse Lee for reelection, actually voted in line with Trump a bit more than Lee, at 75%.)
On the other end, only one Republican, Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, had a 100% Trump-supporting record — and he was not in the Senate for Trump’s full term.
Senators usually support the president of their own party. Within that general rule, the record of Republican senators during the Trump years actually shows quite a bit of independence. Which leads to a question: How are Democratic senators doing so far under President Biden? The answer is: Senate Democrats have been in lockstep much more with Biden than Senate Republicans were with Trump, according to another analysis by FiveThirtyEight.
To begin with, 13 Democrats have voted in line with Biden 100% of the time. Benjamin Cardin, Thomas Carper, Chris Coons, Dianne Feinstein, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, Patrick Leahy, Robert Menendez, Christopher Murphy, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Sheldon Whitehouse and Mark Warner — all have been with Biden all of the time. That is an impressive record of loyalty to their party’s president.
Every other Democrat, except for one, voted with Biden more than 90% of the time. That one, of course, was Sen. Joe Manchin, who became famous as a rebel against his party; he voted with Biden 88.9% of the time. If you’re a leader, and your rebels vote with you nearly 90% of the time, you don’t really have to worry about your rebels. (The other so-called moderate in the Senate Democratic caucus, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, voted with Biden 94.4% of the time.)
The bottom line is, Mike Lee is right. He did not vote in lockstep with Donald Trump. Indeed, many members of his party displayed some measure of independence from the president of their own party. But that is less so today, with Democrats and Joe Biden.
This content originally appeared on the Washington Examiner at washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/whos-more-in-lockstep-republicans-with-trump-or-democrats-with-biden.
(Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. For a deeper dive into many of the topics Byron covers, listen to his podcast, The Byron York Show, available on the Ricochet Audio Network at ricochet.com/series/byron-york-show and everywhere else podcasts are found.)
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