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California Remains Unequaled in Congressional Clout, But Proportionately, the Smallest States Do Just Fine

Thanks to its Congressional delegation, the Golden State just got a bit more golden.

For the ninth consecutive survey, California is No. 1 on Roll Call’s biennial assessment of Congressional clout. And thanks largely to Rep. Jerry Lewis’ (R) assumption of the Appropriations chairmanship, the state actually increased its lead over the No. 2 finisher, which this year is New York.

In fact, New York swapped places with now-third-ranked Texas, despite Lone Star Staters’ high from last week’s inauguration of President Bush to a second term. The rest of the top 10 was fairly stable, with only Ohio (which jumped from 6th to 4th) and Florida (which dropped from 5th to 7th) moving more than one spot in either direction since the start of the 108th Congress.

Roll Call calculates its clout rankings using a blindingly complex statistical formula that gives points to each state based on several different 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;

• number of Members in the majority party;

• per capita federal spending received; and

• seniority.

While the top 10 didn’t see much movement, there were plenty of states further down the list that saw their fortunes swing measurably.

No state moved up further than Wyoming, which jumped from 39th all the way to 31st, largely on the strength of Sen. Mike Enzi’s (R) takeover of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee gavel.

Other big gainers include Georgia (26th to 19th), Indiana (28th to 23rd), West Virginia (22nd to 17th) and Oregon (45th to 40th).

On the negative side of the ledger, South Dakota took the biggest hit, as the election defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) sent the state plummeting from 37th to 49th.

Louisiana also suffered a big decline, dropping from 21st to 32nd with the retirement of House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R). Nebraska (42nd to 50th) and Iowa (16th to 23rd) were similarly unfortunate.

Disappointed with your state’s clout ranking? Try clout per Member — a calculation that Roll Call is publishing for the first time this year. By this measurement, the tiniest states (in population anyway) tend to come out on top.

The leader, far and away, is Alaska, with almost one-and-a-half times as much clout as the second-ranking state, Wyoming. Rounding out the top 10 are Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, Hawaii, Delaware, West Virginia, New Mexico and South Dakota. None of these states ranks higher than 36th in population.

Numbers 48, 49 and 50 are, in order, California, Texas and Florida.

Here’s a closer look at the 10 states with the most clout:

1. California
1,192 points
Previous rank: 1
Population rank: 1
It might seem strange that Democrat-rich California would keep doing so well in an era of Republican Congressional dominance.

But while the state does lean blue, its 20 House Republicans have a remarkable amount of clout.

With Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R) and Rules Chairman David Dreier (R) retaining their posts, Lewis’ victory in the race for the Appropriations chairmanship means that California has three of the House’s four exclusive committee gavels.

As a bonus, Californians also chair the Armed Services, Resources and Homeland Security committees. The six total House chairmanships give the Golden State a commanding advantage over Virginia and Ohio, which are next with three apiece.

Across the aisle, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) holds the post of Minority Leader, and five other California Democrats occupy ranking member positions.

One small consequence of the death of Rep. Robert Matsui (D) is that it deprived the state of the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But Matsui’s seat on the the Ways and Means Committee was taken by California Rep. Mike Thompson (D).

Neither Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D) nor Barbara Boxer (D) holds a leadership post or ranking membership, but both have seats on exclusive committees.

2. New York
727 points
Previous rank: 3
Population rank: 3

While California depends on its Republican lawmakers for most of its clout, similarly liberal-leaning New York derives most of its power in this survey from Democrats.

In this year’s survey, the Empire State jumped from third place up to second, thanks to Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) taking the ranking member post on the Rules Committee and Sen. Charles Schumer (D) scoring a seat on the Finance Committee as well as the chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) continues to hold the ranking member spot on Ways and Means, while Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D) remains in the same post on the Small Business Committee.

On the Republican side, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert runs the Science Committee, and Rep. Tom Reynolds helms the National Republican Congressional Committee.

3. Texas
652 points
Previous rank: 2
Population rank: 2

Texas’ total points have barely moved since the start of the previous Congress, shrinking slightly from 661 to 652, but the Lone Star State still lost the No. 2 spot to New York.

The state gained a power player when Rep. Joe Barton (R) took over the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2004.

But the November elections robbed the state of two ranking members — Reps. Martin Frost (D) at Rules and Charlie Stenholm (D) at the Agriculture Committee, both of whom were defeated after redistricting put them in tougher seats. By undertaking a GOP-led re-redistricting plan, Texas also lost some points in the survey by cashiering senior Democratic Members in favor of rookie Republicans. The bottom line is that Barton is now the only chairman or ranking member in the Texas House delegation.

Of course, Rep. Tom DeLay (R) remains a force for the state in his position as Majority Leader, and a second term for President Bush (which doesn’t factor in this poll) doesn’t hurt the state either. But Texas is somewhat less of a colossus than it was back when DeLay was Majority Whip and then-Rep. Dick Armey (R) was Majority Leader.

On the Senate side, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is vice chairwoman of the Republican Conference and also sits on Appropriations.

4. Ohio
536 points
Previous rank: 6
Population rank: 7

The state that decided the 2004 presidential election lost out on a chance to crack the top three when Rep. Ralph Regula (R) lost his bid for the Appropriations gavel to Lewis. Even so, Ohio was able to move up an impressive two spots since the 108th Congress.

Though the state’s delegation holds no exclusive chairmanships, it does control the gavels of the Education and the Workforce, Financial Services and House Administration committees.

Rep. Deborah Pryce also looks after Ohio in her role as Republican Conference chairwoman.

In the other chamber, Sen. Mike DeWine holds a seat on the Appropriations Committee.

By one measure, Ohio does relatively well compared to other large states: At No. 7 on the population list, it has more clout-per-Member than any of the six states before it.

5. Illinois
523 points
Previous rank: 4
Population rank: 5

With Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) still running the House, Illinois retains an enviable amount of clout.

But the state still slipped a bit in the past two years. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R) retired and was replaced by a freshman Democrat, Barack Obama. The departures of veteran Reps. Phil Crane (R) and Bill Lipinski (D) also robbed the state of valuable seniority.

Despite those losses, Illinois still has plenty of chits. In addition to Hastert, the state also boasts two chairmen — Rep. Henry Hyde (R) at International Relations and Rep. Don Manzullo (R) at Small Business.

Two Democrats also helped keep the state afloat with new posts. Sen. Dick Durbin (D) ascended to Minority Whip, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel was picked to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Illinois could certainly face another decline in clout in the near future, as a mere 24 points separate it from the 9th-ranked state, Pennsylvania.

6. Michigan
519 points
Previous rank: 7
Population rank: 8
Michigan inched up a spot since the previous ranking and is now breathing down Illinois’ neck for No. 5.

Like New York, Michigan’s clout derives mostly from its Democrats. Sen. Carl Levin (D) is the ranking member on Armed Services, and two other Democrats hold House ranking posts — Reps. John Conyers at Judiciary and John Dingell at Energy and Commerce.

On the Republican side, Rep. Pete Hoekstra boosted Michigan’s fortunes when he assumed the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.

Michigan has been able to remain near the top of this chart despite receiving less federal money per capita than any other state in the top 10 of the clout index.

7. Florida
509 points
Previous rank: 5
Population rank: 4
Though it sits just 10 points behind Michigan, Florida is not in great shape compared to two years ago.

Chairmanship term limits are to blame, as they forced Rep. Bill Young (R) to give up the gavel of the Appropriations Committee and helped push the state’s ranking down two notches.

And while Rep. Porter Goss (R) retired to take the job of CIA director, that shift did not help the state for the purposes of this survey, since Goss had to give up the chairmanship of the Intelligence panel.

So despite the state’s size and a large reserve of collective seniority, Florida no longer has a chairman or ranking member in either chamber. The state also has no lawmakers in leadership positions.

On the plus side, Florida benefits from the GOP’s control of the House. With 18 members, the state’s House Republican delegation trails only Texas’ and California’s in size.

8. Virginia
501 points
Previous rank: 8
Population rank: 12
Thanks mostly to the generosity of Uncle Sam, Virginia has settled into the top 10.

The Old Dominion State receives $11,163 in federal spending per capita, more than any other state in the union except for Alaska. That money has helped the state move up from 11th in clout in the 107th Congress to 8th in the 108th and 109th Congresses.

Having a goodly number of gavels helps too. Sen. John Warner (R) chairs the Armed Services Committee, while in the House, Reps. Tom Davis (R) and Bob Goodlatte (R) helm the Government Reform and Agriculture panels, respectively.

The state lost out, though, when Sen. George Allen left the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

9. Pennsylvania
499 points
Previous rank: 9
Population rank: 6
Not much changed this time around for the Keystone State, which remained in 9th place with a gain of 51 clout points since 2003.

The Senate is the main source of Pennsylvania’s power. Sen. Rick Santorum serves as chairman of the Republican Conference and also holds a seat on the Finance Committee. Sen. Arlen Specter (R), meanwhile, traded the Veterans’ Affairs Committee gavel for the more influential Judiciary chairmanship.

In the House, Pennsylvanians hold no chairmanships or ranking memberships, but several members of the state’s delegation do serve on exclusive committees.

10. (tie) Maryland
427 points
Previous rank: 11
Population rank: 19
Maryland clawed its way back onto the top 10 list this year after a brief period in the wilderness.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D) is the main source of the state’s clout, with Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D) also helping out with his ranking member post on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

But like neighboring Virginia, the real key to Maryland’s strength is its ability to attract government money. The state gets $10,464 in federal spending per capita, putting it third behind Alaska and Virginia.

Maryland might do even better if its voters didn’t lean blue. Both of its Senators and six of its eight House Members are Democrats.

10. (tie) Massachusetts
427 points
Previous rank: 10
Population rank: 13

Like Maryland, Massachusetts has plenty of Democrats. In fact, the minority party controls both of the state’s Senate seats and all 10 of its House slots.

In a strange way, the defeat of Sen. John Kerry (D) in the presidential race actually aided his home state in these rankings, as it enables Kerry to keep his seat on Finance and his ranking member post on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) helps to keep Massachusetts afloat as the top Democrat on the HELP panel, while Rep. Barney Frank (D) serves as ranking member on Financial Services in the House.

Massachusetts has been 10th on this list for three consecutive Congresses, after having been 11th for the three Congresses before that. Will the Bay State be able to hold on, or will Maryland break the tie in the 110th Congress? Tune in next time.

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