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Biden’s support from Democrats held steady in Senate, fell in GOP-led House

Vote Studies show slim Senate Democratic majority continued to confirm nominees

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III had the lowest rate of support among Senate Democrats for President Joe Biden’s position on votes in 2023, CQ Roll Call Vote Studies found.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III had the lowest rate of support among Senate Democrats for President Joe Biden’s position on votes in 2023, CQ Roll Call Vote Studies found. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Joe Biden entered 2023 with a divided Congress and his fellow Democrats holding the narrowest of majorities in the Senate. And like recent predecessors who lost one-party control in midterm elections, Biden saw the average support rate for his position on votes in Congress drop last year, to 70.4 percent from 94.9 percent a year earlier, CQ Roll Call’s annual Vote Studies analysis found.  

Within his own party, however, support for Biden’s position on votes was unchanged in the Senate. It dropped in the House with Republicans setting the floor agenda, but remained above rates set during President Barack Obama’s term. 

Biden had an average support score among members of the Senate Democratic Caucus of 95 percent in 2023. That’s in line with previous years of his presidency and on par with the numbers attained by Obama when Democrats had the Senate majority and Republicans controlled the House.

Of the 142 votes where his position was clear, Biden lost 14 in the Senate, with 11 coming on resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. The resolutions are considered under expedited procedures requiring only a simple majority to pass, and covered such areas as overturning rules giving protected status to the northern long-eared bat and the lesser prairie chicken.

Those setbacks were effectively temporary, however. As with other cases, the president eventually vetoed the resolutions, and advocates’ attempts to override him did not get close to the two-thirds vote needed.

Seventeen Senate Democrats, including both the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and her temporary replacement, Laphonza Butler, voted with Biden on 100 percent of roll calls where his position was clear.

Among Democrats, only Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia voted with the president less than 94 percent of the time. Manchin, who has decided not to seek reelection this year and could challenge Biden on a third-party ticket, voted against nominees with some regularity. He sided with the president 76 percent of the time on all votes, and just under 87 percent of the time on nominations. In all, he opposed nominees and procedural votes to bring up their confirmations 15 times; no other Democratic caucus member was opposed more than twice.

On the GOP side, nine senators had overall presidential support scores in the single digits. A total of 11 Senate Republicans sided with Biden on less than 10 percent of votes related to nominations.

The Republican senators voting most frequently in agreement with the president on nominations and related procedural votes were Susan Collins of Maine at 80 percent and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska at 72 percent. They were followed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who supported Biden 68 percent of the time. Graham has long been deferential to presidents on nomination votes.

House support dropped

Biden got a similar 95 percent support rate from House Democrats on a smaller universe of votes, since the chamber doesn’t vote on nominations. But that was down from 99 percent in the previous two years, when California Democrat Nancy Pelosi was speaker. 

Last year, four members disagreed with Biden’s position at least 30 percent of the time, led by Jared Golden of Maine, whose district gave its Electoral College vote to Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, the lone Democratic freshman from a district carried by Trump. Golden was in disagreement more than 62 percent of the time, with Gluesenkamp Perez disagreeing almost 41 percent of the time.

The others with presidential disapproval scores over 30 percent were Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, 36 percent; and Don Davis, D-N.C., 33 percent.

On the Republican side, only nine Republicans voted with the president more than 10 percent of the time. That list includes Rep. Celeste Maloy of Utah, who had a very limited sample size after being sworn in on Nov. 28. Maloy voted with the president on one of seven votes she cast before the House adjourned in 2023.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., voted most often for the position backed by Biden, agreeing with the president on 13 of 54 votes, or 24 percent of the time.

[House GOP had lowest win rate on ‘party unity’ votes since 1982]

Aside from Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, who is retiring, the list of House Republicans supporting Biden’s position most often included a handful of New Yorkers facing competitive races this year, as well as Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa.

Republicans’ average support for Biden’s position overall was 5 percent, the lowest ever for the party since CQ began calculating the figure in 1954. Democrats hit a similar low point in 2019, when they supported Trump’s position an average of 5 percent of the time.

One Republican did not vote to support Biden’s position at all last year. Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna also did not vote on 10 of the 54 eligible votes, however.

How votes were chosen

While it may seem simple, calculating presidential support scores is not always straightforward.

CQ Roll Call assigns a presidential position to votes based on whether the president expressed a clear position before members of Congress voted. Traditionally, this applied to votes about which the Office of Management and Budget issued a formal statement of administration policy, or when there was some other clear answer from the White House about the views of the president. Nominations also always count since the president sends the name to the Senate.

When Trump was in office, that sometimes meant decoding posts on the platform now known as X (formerly Twitter). And while it has gotten somewhat more clear under Biden, there have been challenges.

[End of proxy option drives increase in missed House votes]

When the House voted on a joint resolution seeking to overturn the Washington, D.C., City Council’s law overhauling the local criminal code, OMB issued a statement opposing the measure largely on home rule grounds. “While we work towards making Washington, D.C. the 51st state of our Union, Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s autonomy to govern its own local affairs,” OMB said Feb. 6, 2023.

Accordingly, CQ Roll Call’s team tracking floor activity determined that a “no” vote in the House was in support of the president’s position. House Democrats seemed to concur with that interpretation, and almost 85 percent of them voted against the resolution.

It passed, however, and before it came up in the Senate in March, Biden told Democrats at a caucus lunch that he would sign it if it reached his desk. So Biden clearly was no longer asking senators to oppose the measure, but he also was not clearly asking them to approve it. As a result, the Senate vote on that measure is not included among the presidential support scores.

Individual members’ scores and the average scores for their overall party caucus or conference can also have discrepancies. Calculations of average scores by chamber and party are based on all eligible “yea” or “nay” votes, whether or not all members participated. Under this methodology, average support and opposition scores are reduced when members choose not to vote. Individual members’ scores, however, are based only on votes cast.

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