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The Roll Call Clout Rankings: Bluegrass Bounty

Kentucky Leaps Ahead in Clout and Influence As Fellow Southern States Also See Gains

Kentuckians may not have felt much different the day the 108th Congress was gaveled into session, but they should have.

No state gained more in Roll Call’s biennial clout survey than Kentucky, which jumped from 34th in the 107th Congress (after Vermont Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords left the GOP) to 18th in the new Congress.

Nearly all of that leap is attributable to one Bluegrass State resident, newly crowned Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R). Also helping Kentucky’s cause was Sen. Jim Bunning (R), who scored a coveted spot on the Finance Committee.

Roll Call calculates its clout rankings using an impressively complicated, highly scientific formula that gives points to each state based on myriad factors, including:

  • size of the delegation;
  • number of full committee chairmanships and ranking memberships;
  • number of Members on the most influential committees;
  • top leadership posts;
  • per capita federal spending received; and
  • seniority.

Joining Kentucky in the ranks of the upwardly mobile this year was Mississippi, which moved from 30th up to 19th despite Sen. Trent Lott’s (R) fall from the Majority Leader post. Lott picked up the gavel of the Rules and Administration Committee, while his Magnolia State colleague, Sen. Thad Cochran (R), took over the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry panel.

Also moving up the ladder were Tennessee, which jumped from 23rd to 15th with the elevation of Sen. Bill Frist (R) to Majority Leader; Alabama, whose climb from 31st to 24th was aided by Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R) taking the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs gavel and by the fact that all of the state’s lawmakers are now in the majority; and Maine, which climbed from 48th to 40th.

Because this is a zero-sum game, several states are headed in the opposite direction.

Democrat-heavy West Virginia took the biggest hit, dropping from 13th to 22nd as Sens. Robert Byrd (D) and Jay Rockefeller (D) each exchanged chairmanships for ranking member slots. South Carolina dropped nine spots with the retirement of the king of seniority, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R); Sen. Fritz Hollings’ (D) loss of the Commerce, Science and Transportation gavel; and the death in 2001 of 16-term Rep. Floyd Spence (R).

Hawaii dropped eight places with the death last year of longtime Rep. Patsy Mink (D). Delaware and Vermont are also going in the wrong direction, as the change of power in the Senate sent the states down eight and five slots, respectively.

Although the size of a state’s House delegation is factored into the clout index, the reapportionment process following the 2000 Census made little difference in the final rankings.

Of the eight states that picked up seats in redistricting, none actually moved up the clout list. Even the four states that garnered two new seats didn’t get a rankings boost, mainly due to retirements. Florida and Texas remained where they were on the list, while Georgia dropped two spots and Arizona moved down three.

The real movement in Roll Call’s clout index came in the middle, as there was relatively little change at the top. Here’s a closer look at the 10 states with the most clout:

1. California

1,081 points

Previous rank: 1 (after Jeffords switched parties)

Population rank: 1

The gulf between the Golden State and everyone else only grew larger with the start of the 108th Congress, as California cemented its premier status with the addition of some gavels and a leadership post.

Although the change in power in the Senate hurt the relative clout of the state’s two Democrats in that chamber, the loss was more than balanced by the House delegation’s gains.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) assumed the position of Minority Leader, while California’s House Republicans gained three new full committee gavels: Reps. Duncan Hunter at Armed Services, Richard Pombo at Resources and Christopher Cox at Homeland Security. Rep. Bill Thomas (R) retains the helm of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, while Rep. David Dreier (R) is still in charge of the Rules Committee.

The state’s five full House panel chairmanships easily lead the field; Virginia, Illinois and Ohio are tied for second with two apiece. California also increased its tally of House ranking memberships to four, as Rep. Jane Harman took the top Democratic slot on the Intelligence Committee.

Unlike in the 106th Congress, when seven California House Members left office, only two lawmakers from the state departed in the 107th — Rep. Steve Horn (R), who retired, and Rep. Gary Condit, who lost in the Democratic primary.

Despite all those gains, California’s huge delegation still contains a number of backbenchers and thus remains near the bottom in “clout per Member.”

2. Texas

661 points

Previous rank: 2

Population rank: 2

The top GOP leadership isn’t quite as Texas-heavy as it used to be, but the Lone Star State still packs a punch.

The retirement of Rep. Dick Armey (R) and his replacement as Majority Leader by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) meant that Texas lost its claim to the Majority Whip post and now has only one House leader instead of two.

Texas also no longer has any full committee gavels, as Rep. Larry Combest (R) vacated the top slot on the Agriculture Committee in advance of his pending retirement. The situation was stable on the Democratic side, as the state retained its ranking member posts on Agriculture, Rules and Science.

Texas remains well represented on the House’s exclusive committees, with four Members on Appropriations and three apiece on Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means.

On the Senate side, the state was hurt by the retirement of Sen. Phil Gramm (R) and the loss of his seniority and his top billing on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

But despite these changes, Texas remains in an enviable position, as it still boasts several powerful lawmakers and, of course, control of the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

3. New York

631 points

Previous rank: 3

Population rank: 3

The Empire State managed to hold onto the No. 3 slot despite several factors that seemed to work against it.

Both of the state’s Senators are Democrats and thus in the minority, as are 19 of its 29 House Members. New York lost two House seats after redistricting and a combined 29 terms of seniority with the retirements of Reps. John LaFalce (D), who had been ranking member on the Financial Services Committee, and Ben Gilman (R).

At the same time, the state remains a powerhouse in that it has 11 slots on the two chambers’ key panels and a good deal of accrued seniority. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) remains chairman of the Science Committee, while Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) is still the ranking member of Ways and Means.

All of those factors helped New York post more clout per Member than California, Texas and Florida.

4. Illinois

527 points

Previous rank: 6

Population rank: 5

The horizon looks bright in the Prairie State, which has moved up three slots from the 106th Congress and two from the post-Jeffords 107th.

Of course, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) has the most to do with Illinois’ ranking, and his huge contribution is the biggest reason the state has the most clout per Member in the list’s top five. (Not to mention that the GOP Conference’s recent abolition of term limits on the Speakership could keep Illinois’ clout impressive for years to come.)

Elsewhere in the House delegation, Rep. Henry Hyde (R) wields the gavel at the International Relations Committee, while Rep. Don Manzullo (R) helms the Small Business Committee and Rep. Lane Evans (D) holds the ranking member post on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

There was little change on the Senate side, as Sens. Dick Durbin (D) and Peter Fitzgerald (R) quietly gained seniority. Durbin holds a slot on Appropriations, while Rep. Mark Kirk (R) snagged a seat of his own on the House’s spending panel, bringing the state’s total number of top House and Senate committee seats to nine.

Redistricting caused Illinois to lose a seat but relatively little seniority and no slots in the majority, as Rep. John Shimkus (R) beat Rep. David Phelps (D).

5. Florida

511 points

Previous rank: 5

Population rank: 4

The song remains the same in the Sunshine State, as gains on the House side canceled out the fact that both of Florida’s Senators now reside in the minority.

The nexus of the state’s clout lies in room H-218 in the Capitol, the office of House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R). And the state’s influence there is growing, as two of the five Republicans added to the panel for the 108th Congress — Reps. Dave Weldon and Ander Crenshaw — are Floridians.

The fact that the state seems to be trending toward the GOP helps. The election of GOP Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite, Mario Diaz-Balart, Katherine Harris and Tom Feeney gives Florida 18 House Republicans, more than any other state, except California, which has 20.

While five-term Rep. Dan Miller (R) retired and five-term Rep. Karen Thurman (D) was defeated, Rep. Porter Goss’ (R) decision not to retire prevented the state from losing another 14 years of seniority.

Florida’s Democratic Sens. Bob Graham and Bill Nelson didn’t do much to aid the state’s position, and their biggest contribution remains Graham’s Finance seat.

6. Ohio

472 points

Previous rank: 8

Population rank: 7

While it lost a House seat in redistricting and the seniority of Reps. Tony Hall (D), Tom Sawyer (D) and James Traficant (D), Ohio managed to creep two spots up in the clout rankings as the delegation got slightly more Republican.

Ohio Republicans wield three House gavels: Rep. John Boehner at the Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. Bob Ney at the House Administration Committee and Rep. Mike Oxley at the Financial Services Committee.

Other than their return to majority status, the main asset of Republican Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich is the former’s spot on Appropriations. The Buckeye State’s House delegation holds 10 seats on clout-worthy committees.

Though the state made up some lost ground, Ohio still hasn’t quite reclaimed its position at the start of the 107th Congress, when it was fifth on the clout index.

7. Michigan

466 points

Previous rank: 4

Population rank: 8

Perhaps the auto industry can figure out how to rev up Michigan’s clout numbers, because the state is losing power.

No other state in the top 10 lost as much ground as the Wolverine State did when the 108th Congress began. Sen. Carl Levin (D) had to trade the Armed Services gavel for the ranking member spot, and the state lost claim to the House Minority Whip post — and plenty of seniority — when Rep. David Bonior (D) retired.

But Michigan still has pockets of strength. Rep. John Dingell (D) remains ranking member of Energy and Commerce, while Rep. John Conyers (D) holds the same position on the Judiciary Committee. The state also has two House Members on Appropriations and three (including Dingell) on Energy and Commerce.

8. Virginia

457 points

Previous rank: 11

Population rank: 12

The Commonwealth became a little wealthier this Congress, riding the Republican tide to vault three slots.

Virginia now has three full panel chairmanships. Sen. John Warner (R) helms the Armed Services Committee, while Rep. Tom Davis (R) was handed control of the Government Reform Committee and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R) took over the Agriculture Committee.

Perhaps most importantly, the state’s heavy concentration of government workers and the presence of the Pentagon mean that Virginia receives significantly more federal spending per capita — $10,067 — than any state except for Alaska, according to Census Bureau figures. For comparison, the Old Dominion gets 9 percent more government dollars per person than the third-highest, North Dakota, and 81 percent more than California.

One of the state’s three House Democrats, Rep. Jim Moran, serves on Appropriations, as does GOP Rep. Frank Wolf.

Things could get a lot better for Virginia before they get worse. Just as Davis left a successful stint atop the National Republican Congressional Committee, Sen. George Allen was handed the reins of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a post he could parlay into a more prominent slot in the leadership.

The same is true of Rep. Eric Cantor (R), who was made Chief Deputy Majority Whip and has also been added to the Ways and Means roster.

9. Pennsylvania

448 points

Previous rank: 7

Population rank: 6

Redistricting robbed Pennsylvania of some ground, as Reps. Frank Mascara (D) and George Gekas (R) lost to other Members and took 14 terms of seniority with them. Rep. Bob Borski’s (D) retirement cost another 10 terms.

With his control of the Veterans’ Affairs gavel, Sen. Arlen Specter (R) holds the state’s only full committee chairmanship, and Pennsylvania has no ranking members.

What the state does still have is a decent share of key panel slots. Rep. John Murtha (D) remains a force on Appropriations, whose roster also includes Reps. Chaka Fattah (D), John Peterson (R) and Don Sherwood (R). Reps. William Coyne (D) and Phil English (R) sit on Ways and Means, while Reps. Mike Doyle (D), James Greenwood (R) and Joe Pitts (R) hold spots on Energy and Commerce.

In the Senate, Specter is a member of Appropriations. Sen. Rick Santorum serves as Republican Conference chairman, a post that doesn’t factor into the clout index but could eventually lead to something better.

10. Massachusetts

383 points

Previous rank: 10

Population rank: 13

Given that every one of its Members serves in the minority, the Bay State’s strength derives primarily from its wealth of seniority and a trio of ranking memberships.

Sen. Edward Kennedy is the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, while Sen. John Kerry is in the same position on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and also holds a seat on Finance. The two men have the third-most-combined seniority, now trailing only the delegations of Hawaii and West Virginia.

On the House side, Rep. Barney Frank (D) is the newly crowned ranking member on the Financial Services Committee. Rep. John Olver (D) sits on Appropriations, Rep. Ed Markey (D) holds a senior Energy and Commerce post, and Rep. Richard Neal (D) has a spot on Ways and Means.

If Kerry leaves the Senate to pursue his White House bid it would likely knock Massachusetts out of the top 10, perhaps opening the door for 11th-ranked Maryland.

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