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2022 Vote Studies: Division hit new high in Senate, fell in House

Only one Democrat scored less than 90 percent on unity votes

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, right, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the Republicans most likely to break with their party on votes where the two parties were divided last year, CQ Roll Call's annual vote studies found.
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, right, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the Republicans most likely to break with their party on votes where the two parties were divided last year, CQ Roll Call's annual vote studies found. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It seems counterintuitive in a time of intense partisanship and narrowly divided government, but the share of House votes where majorities in the two parties lined up on opposite sides from each other was lower last year than has been in more than a decade.

Just 53.1 percent of the 548 “yea” or “nay” votes taken in 2022 met the definition CQ Roll Call’s annual vote studies use for party unity votes. That’s down from 63.2 percent in 2021, and it’s the lowest rate for the House since it set a 40 percent mark in 2010.

At the same time, the Senate set a new high of 83.1 percent, with the parties divided on 350 of 421 votes last year. That broke the record set a year earlier of 79.2 percent.

The restrictive floor process consistently employed by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic majority in the last Congress (and Republican majorities in recent history) continued a trend of the majority winning at least 90 percent of the time, though the 8.6 percent of Republican victories last year was actually an increase.

Votes that got significant bipartisan support, and therefore didn’t qualify as party unity votes, included both noncontroversial measures such as naming post offices after fallen veterans and meatier issues such as Ukraine supplemental appropriations. The tally also included amendments that, after being agreed to, were attached to bills whose final votes did split the parties.

The 2022 results are in a sense a mirror image of 2018, when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and the White House and were also looking for bipartisan victories in an effort to mitigate losses in control of Congress.

The senator who differed from her party most on party unity votes was, by a clear margin, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. The Republican only voted with her GOP colleagues on 28 percent of party unity votes, according to the CQ Roll Call data.

Collins, along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., often voted to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees, even when there was substantial Republican opposition.

Murkowski agreed with her party 38 percent of the time on unity votes, with Graham agreeing on 45 percent, the only three senators in either party under the 50 percent mark. Graham and Collins both won reelection in 2020, while Murkowski faced voters in 2022. Both Alaska and Maine now use ranked-choice voting, a system that seems to reward a degree of moderation.

Continuing the Maine theme, Rep. Jared Golden, who represents the state’s more rural 2nd District that President Donald Trump carried in his failed reelection bid in 2020, voted with his fellow Democrats 87 percent of the time. That was the lowest for any Democrat, and Golden was the only member of his party with a unity rate below 90 percent.

Second on that list for Democrats is the apparent front-runner for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Michigan, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who voted with fellow Democrats on 90 percent of party unity votes.

House Democrats voted unanimously on 204, or 70 percent, of the 291 party unity votes in 2022. This is down from 2021’s 78 percent, which was by far the highest rate since CQ began tracking unity votes in 1953, but it’s still way above the historical average and keeps the upward trend going. The caucus has become significantly more ideologically aligned over time.

Only one of the bottom five House Republicans on their 2022 House Republican party unity list is still in Congress for their return to the majority. That’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who only voted with the Republican position 54 percent of the time.

According to CQ Roll Call’s presidential support ratings, Fitzpatrick actually voted with Biden on 82 percent of roll call votes where the president had a clear position.

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who also had the lowest presidential support score among Democrats, still voted with the majority of Democrats on 92 percent of party unity votes.

The margins have been so tight that Vice President Kamala Harris, who has now cast 29 tie-breaking votes in the Senate during her time in office, cast 11 of them in 2022.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who became independent at the beginning of the 118th Congress but continues to receive committee assignments from the Democrats, voted with the majority party 96 percent of the time. Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who has announced he is running for the Senate seat Sinema currently occupies regardless of the incumbent’s plans, voted with his fellow Democrats 98 percent of the time on House party unity votes.

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