Skip to content

What CQ Vote Studies say about Trump’s possible running mates

Stefanik, who didn't vote on nominations, had lower presidential support score

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., questions former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Nov. 15, 2019.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., questions former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Nov. 15, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Former President Donald Trump is looking for a new running mate for his third White House campaign for president after his first, former Vice President Mike Pence, was deemed insufficiently loyal in the final days of Trump’s presidency.

The candidacy of some Republicans vying for the spot could be complicated by their congressional service during his presidency, when they faced plenty of loyalty tests on votes for or against Trump’s policies and nominees. Those tests are tracked annually by CQ Vote Studies, which measures how often a lawmaker votes for or against the president’s position if that position is known when the vote is cast.

Trump’s reported shortlist includes four people who were compelled to cast votes for or against his position. The three senators under consideration broke with the then-president on just 4 percent of the votes they cast, though there was a slight variance in subject matter. A fourth senator, freshman J.D. Vance of Ohio, won his Senate seat during the Biden administration and was able to avoid these tests.

Here’s a rundown:

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida

Rubio, one of Trump’s main 2016 primary foes, cast votes on 499 presidential support votes from 2017 to 2021. He supported Trump’s position on 480 of them. 

Nine of the opposing votes were against confirmation of Trump nominees, and on five of them Rubio voted the same way as a majority of his fellow Republicans. Rubio was one of the few Republicans, however, to oppose the nomination of Jerome Powell to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and Kimberly Reed, Spencer Bachus and Judith Pryor to be directors of the Export-Import Bank. In each of these cases, Rubio advocated for more of a hands-off approach to the economy.

Rubio’s other breaks were on votes against Trump’s more isolationist foreign policies. Three were in opposition to Trump’s use of the National Emergencies Act for immigration enforcement at the southern border, and two were in protest of government spending levels. These included two votes Rubio missed, but later stated his opposition for the Senate record.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina

Scott was briefly one of Trump’s challengers in the less-contentious and less-competitive 2024 Republican presidential primary, during which he managed to largely avoid criticizing or offending the former president.

When it came to his votes during Trump’s tenure, Scott participated in 525 votes that had a known presidential position and agreed with Trump on 506 of them. As with Rubio, Scott joined most Republicans to break on a handful of nominations and took a more traditional, hawkish Republican approach to foreign policy and defense.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas

Cotton is the only one of the three senators who never took Trump on in a primary, though he didn’t make his 2016 primary endorsement until it was clear Trump would be the Republican nominee.

Cotton supported Trump’s position on 508 of the 526 presidential support votes he cast. He broke from the president on the same nominations and foreign policy votes as Rubio, Scott and most of his Republican colleagues in the Senate. He also opposed more spending bills than the other two.

Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York

Stefanik won a competitive district in 2014 and entered Congress as a traditional moderate Republican, with prior experience as a staffer in the George W. Bush administration and as a campaign aide to the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. Her 2016 endorsement of Trump was tepid at times: “I’m supporting my party’s nominee,” she said in the final weeks of the campaign, “But I’ll continue being an independent voice for the district.”

By 2019, however, she was battling to defend Trump in impeachment hearings, building a reputation in the party that eventually led to her moving into the House leadership after the ouster of then-Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

Without the hundreds of nomination votes to pad her Trump support score that senators had, Stefanik only backed Trump’s position on 78 percent of her presidential support votes (134 of 173 House votes). Stefanik notably broke from Trump to support environmental protection measures and votes on legislation designed to prevent discrimination based on factors including sexual orientation and age. In a series of 2019 votes, she joined a handful of other Republican moderates in the House to support several spending bills, despite the opposition of Trump and the vast majority of her rank-and-file Republican colleagues.

The Trump card

Despite overwhelming deference to then-President Trump’s positions on legislation and nominations, there is perhaps no greater litmus test for him than the level of support he received in his refusal to concede defeat in 2020, and his insistence that the election was illegitimate.

Though the three senators are reliable conservatives and each supported Trump more than 96 percent of the time, all three ultimately voted to accept the official slates of electors from states Joe Biden won, making the same decision that led to the excommunication of Trump’s first running mate, Pence.

So did Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, another reported name on the short list, who had only been sworn into the House three days earlier.

Conversely, Stefanik had more policy disagreements with Trump than all but 11 of her fellow Republicans over his four years, but voted to reject Biden’s Pennsylvania slate of electors mere hours after the Jan.6, 2021, insurrection and has remained a dedicated defender of the notion Trump’s victory had been stolen. She said in an interview on CNN she “would not have done what Mike Pence did.”

Recent Stories

Her family saw the horrors of the Holocaust. Now Rep. Becca Balint seeks to ‘hold this space’

Supreme Court clarifies when a gun law is constitutional

Capitol Ink | The Trumpy Handbook

House Republicans shift message on extending 2017 tax cuts

Will the real Donald Trump get the coverage he deserves?

‘Hospital at home’ gains bipartisan support but questions remain