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Sen. Portman, Rep. Joyce excel in bipartisanship test on Hill



Published: Fri, March 11, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

Everyone in Washington, D.C., loves acronyms and the more clever the better.

The U.S. House approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, to delay a federal Environmental Protection Agency rule to protect brick plants from new and costly regulations until all judicial review of the rule is done.

The bill is called the BRICK Act with BRICK standing for Blocking Regulator Interference from Closing Kilns.

“To comply with EPA requirements, these small businesses will be forced to borrow millions of dollars to pay for the required control equipment,” Johnson said. “Many brick companies are already struggling to find the capital for plant modernization projects. I can’t imagine how difficult it will be for these companies to secure the needed investments to pay for new control equipment – equipment that provides zero return on investment.”

Column interrupted: I will be in Cleveland covering the trial of Martin Yavorcik, so there won’t be a column March 18.

A recent study of bipartisanship in Congress gives very high marks to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Rep. David Joyce.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan scores pretty well, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson is in the middle of the pack, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is toward the bottom.

The congressional Bipartisan Index for 2015 is compiled by Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and The Lugar Center, founded by former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican.

The index ranks all members of Congress on how frequently they co-sponsor a bill introduced by someone from the opposing political party and how often members introduce bills that attract co-sponsors from the other side of the aisle.

Lugar wrote about the index: “We gravitated toward bill sponsorships and co-sponsorships for two reasons. First, they allowed us to construct a highly objective measure of partisan and bipartisan behavior. Second, sponsorship and co-sponsorship behavior is especially revealing of partisan tendencies. Members’ voting decisions are often contextual and can be influenced by parliamentary circumstances. Sponsorships and co-sponsorships, in contrast, exist as very carefully considered declarations of where a legislator stands on an issue.”

Lugar also wrote that every member has partisan bills and not all bipartisan bills are “wisely written and considered.” But a low score is “a very strong indication that a legislator is viewing his or her duties through a partisan lens. Conversely, a consistently high score is a strong indication that a legislator is prioritizing problem-solving.”

Portman, a Republican from the Cincinnati area running for re-election, did the best among any Ohio member of Congress.

The complex formula starts with a baseline of zero, and anything higher than that is considered bipartisan. Portman’s score is 1.1.

In the Senate, Portman ranks sixth in terms of bipartisanship. He also ranked high in the 2013-14 session, finishing 12th.

Brown, a Cleveland Democrat and the state’s other senator, didn’t fare well, ranking 74th out of 98 members. The index had him 47th in the 2013-14 session.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, and Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, are excluded from the index. Overall, there were 38 senators receiving positive scores for 2015, up from 36 in the 2013-2014 session.

The two worst senators in terms of bipartisanship last year are Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent running for president as a Democrat, and Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate. Because Sanders caucuses with Democrats, the index considers his bipartisanship rank to be how he worked with Republicans on bill sponsorship and co-sponsorship.

In the U.S. House, Joyce of Russell Township, R-14th, is 21st out of 435 members in the bipartisan index. That’s the highest ranking for any House member from Ohio. In the 2013-14 index, Joyce was ranked 13th overall in the House. Joyce’s district includes northern Trumbull County.

Ryan of Howland, D-13th, is ranked 93rd among House members. That’s the 5th highest ranking for the state’s 16 House members and tops among Ohio Democrats – though there’s only four Democrats in the House from this state. Ryan was 45th in the 2013-14 index. Ryan’s district includes most of Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, came in at 219th among House members, which is 9th among representatives from Ohio. He was 164th among House members in the 2013-14 ranking. His district includes all of Columbiana County and the southern portion of Mahoning County.

Joyce and Ryan are among the 137 members receiving positive bipartisan scores while Johnson isn’t. The 137 members last year are four fewer than in the previous Congress.


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