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2022 Vote Studies: Biden gets wins despite slim majority

Senate rejections came on nominations and COVID-19 rules

Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduces President Joe Biden before he addressed the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia on March 11, 2022.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduces President Joe Biden before he addressed the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia on March 11, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

​President Joe Biden did not always take a position on matters that the House and Senate voted on last year. But when he did, he usually got his way, especially in closely divided chambers where Democratic leaders were unlikely to bring something to the floor that didn’t have enough votes in the majority for passage. 

On the rare occasions when the Senate voted against Biden’s position on legislation in 2022, it was most often on votes about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, the president suffered 12 defeats in the Senate last year. That’s historically on the low side but still twice as many as in 2021.

Of those dozen votes, several were on nominations rejected in the 50-50 Senate where Democrats crossed into the opposition column, including the president’s choice of David Weil to return to leading the wage hour division at the Department of Labor.

But five of Biden’s defeats came on policies related to COVID-19.

[Rep. Chip Roy scores zero on Biden support]

CQ Roll Call’s annual vote studies calculate presidential support scores based on votes in which the president took a clear position at the time of the vote. In some cases, these announcements are reflected in a statement of administration policy, but in other cases CQ Roll Call journalists rely on press statements or social media posts from the administration.

Times when Senate Democrats broke with Biden include a resolution under the Congressional Review Act that would have overturned the mandate that health care workers be vaccinated against the virus.

Kansas GOP Sen. Roger Marshall pushed the Senate to overturn the declaration from President Joe Biden that the COVID-19 pandemic was a health emergency. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The president also lost twice on Senate votes seeking to terminate the COVID-19 national emergency, with more Democrats crossing over to support the resolution the second time it came up, after updated bivalent booster vaccines became available.

The Senate vote was close the first time in 2022, with the measure prevailing on a 48-47 vote and several absences. The second time, the resolution introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., received 62 votes.

[Proxies helped keep participation at record pace]

In a floor speech before the second vote, Marshall said, “Despite all the advances we’ve made in our fight against the virus and the victorious declaration by our chief executive, this administration insists the national emergency declaration remain in place.”

The House didn’t consider either of the resolutions the Senate approved. The public health emergency is currently expected to sunset on May 11.

Senate Republicans set a new record for opposing Biden. They were the least supportive a conference has ever been toward a president’s nominations and legislative positions, breaking a record set a year earlier in 2021, according to the CQ Roll Call data. They supported Biden on just 24 percent of their votes (opposing on 71 percent), besting the record set just the year before.

With a 50-50 Senate and a narrow majority in the House, neither chamber had votes to spare, so Biden needed virtually every congressional Democrat on board to accomplish his priorities.

In part because measures rarely got called up for a vote when former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not confident about the outcome, the president never lost a vote in the House last year. Biden’s position was successful on every one of the 66 times it was tested in a House floor vote. But Biden did not take a stand on many votes.

That total of 66 votes that he did take a position on amounted to 12 percent of the 548 House roll call votes decided by votes of “yea” or “nay.” That’s about the same rate as in 2021, and more than Biden’s predecessor.

Over his presidency, former President Donald Trump had weighed in on an average of 42 House votes (8 percent) a year, much lower than the totals for either term of any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower averaged 37 in his first term. Though Biden’s total and rate was higher than that of all but one of Trump’s years, it’s still on the low side, historically speaking.

The relatively small number of presidential position votes, combined with the need to keep Democrats together, also meant that even Democrats who broke with Biden the most often still had seemingly high presidential support rates, since they actually broke on a small number of votes.

The four House Democrats who voted with Biden the least, for example, had presidential support rates of 92 percent. That group included two members from the party’s left flank, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and two moderates, Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

No Democratic House member disagreed with Biden’s position more than five times. In the Senate, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III was perhaps predictably the Democrat most likely to oppose Biden —  but even he still voted with the president 94 percent of the time.

Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.   ​

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