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May 18, 2017

The Outliers in the House of Representatives

by Anne Paddock

Many people identify with either the Republican or Democrat party but in reality, most voters fall somewhere between the conservative (Republican) and the liberal (Democrat) spectrum because there are so many issues – economic, environmental, education, healthcare, transportation, and more – affecting people and their beliefs.

We may be fiscally conservative and socially liberal or socially conservative but liberal in our views on education or healthcare. Whatever the combination is, the reality is that the closest the votes are to the center, the easier the compromise because both sides don’t have to give up too much. The further the votes are to the right or left, the harder it is to reach agreement because there is too much distance to bring opposites together.

One of the biggest roadblocks to getting things done in this country falls on the shoulders of the most conservative and most liberal members of the House of Representatives (Congress) – the so-called outliers. But, it’s not the “outliers” Malcolm Gladwell made famous in his book (The Outliers) that noted “the achievements of the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful.” Instead, it’s the outliers who obstruct progress by wasting time and money by not compromising in a political arena that requires compromise. These obstructionists realize the power they yield by sticking together and resist compromise all in the name of standing on principle. It’s like not seeing the forest for the trees or winning the battle but not the war except the losers are the American people. These outliers pat themselves on the back, vote the party line, and create stagnation instead of finding a way to work together.

On the conservative side, there are about three dozen members of the Freedom Caucus although only 31 have been identified or identify themselves as members:

  • Joe Barton, TX
  • Louie Gohmert, TX
  • Randy Weber, TX
  • Andy Biggs, AZ
  • Trent Franks, AZ
  • Paul Gosar, AZ
  • David Schweikert, AZ
  • Dave Brat, VA
  • Tom Garrett, Jr. VA
  • Morgan Griffith, VA
  • Ron DeSantis, FL
  • Bill Posey, FL
  • Ted Yoho, FL
  • Jeff Duncan, SC
  • Mark Sanford, SC
  • Warren Davidson, OH
  • Jim Jordan, OH
  • Gary Palmer, AL
  • Mo Brooks, AL
  • Rod Blum, IO
  • Scott DesJarlais, TN
  • Andy Harris, MD
  • Jody Hice, GA
  • Raul Labrador, ID
  • Mark Meadows, NC
  • Alex Mooney, WVA
  • Ken Buck, CO
  • Jim Brindenstine, OK
  • Steve Pearce, NM
  • Scott Perry, PA
  • Justin Amash, MI

Leading the way are multiple congressmen (not congresswomen) from Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Ohio and Alabama.

On the liberal side, there is the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a left-leaning organization that claims 71 voting members of Congress who work to advance liberal issues.  The members include:

  • Jared Huffman, CA
  • Barbara Lee, CA
  • Ro Khanna, CA
  • Judy Chu, CA
  • Grace Napolitano, CA
  • Ted Lieu, CA
  • Karen Bass, CA
  • Lucille Roybal-Allard, CA
  • Mark Takano, CA
  • Maxine Waters, CA
  • Nanette Barragan, CA
  • Alan Lowenthal, CA
  • Nydia Valezquez, NY
  • Hakeem Jeffries, NY
  • Yvette Clarke, NY
  • Jerrold Nadler, NY
  • Carolyn Maloney, NY
  • Adriano Espailat, NY
  • Jose Serrano, NY
  • Louise Slaughter, NY
  • Katherine Clark, MA
  • Jim McGovern, MA
  • Joseph P Kennedy, MA
  • Mike Capuano, MA
  • Sheila Jackson-Lee, TX
  • Vicente Gonzalez, TX
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson, TX
  • Lloyd Doggett, TX
  • Debbie Dingell, MI
  • John Conyers, MI
  • Brenda Lawrence, MI
  • Luis Gutierrez, IL
  • Danny Davis, IL
  • Jan Schakowsky, IL
  • Val Demings, FL
  • Lois Frankel, FL
  • Federica Wilson, FL
  • Raul Grijalva, AZ
  • Ruben Gallego, AZ
  • Jared Polis, CO
  • Rosa DeLauro, CT
  • Lisa Blunt, DE
  • Hank Johnson, GA
  • John Lewis, GA
  • Andre Carson, IN
  • John Yarmuth,KY
  • Dave Loebsack, IO
  • Chellie Pingree, ME
  • Elijah Cummings, MD
  • Jamie Raskin, MD
  • Keith Ellison, MN
  • Rick Nolan, MN
  • Bernie Thompson, MS
  • Lacy Clay, MO
  • Ruben Kihuen, NV
  • Frank Pallone, NJ
  • Bonnie Watson Coleman, NJ
  • Carol Shea-Porter, NH
  • Marcia Fudge, OH
  • Suzanne Bonamici, OR
  • Peter DeFazio, OR
  • Dwight Evans, PA
  • Matt Cartwright, PA
  • David Cicilline, RI
  • Steve Cohen, TN
  • Peter Welch, VT
  • Don Beyer, VA
  • Pramila Jayapai, WA
  • Mark Pocan, WI
  • Gwen Moore, WI
  • Alma Adams, NC

California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, and Florida have the most members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. With 71 voting members of the Progressive Congressional Caucus in the House along with 36 members of the Freedom Caucus, we have 107 members of the House of Representatives that represent the outliers (assuming each cast his/her respective vote to the far right or far left – this can be a moving target depending on the issue). Congress has 435 members so the 107 outliers represent about 25% of the members. The remaining 328 members (75%) appear to fall along the spectrum between the far right and far left.

If the support of every congressional bill were placed on a bell curve, we could use a standard deviation to quantify the amount of variation. In statistics, about 68% of the values fall within one standard deviation of the mean and about 95% of the values fall within two standard deviations of the mean. If we translate this to votes, then 296 votes represent 68% while 413 votes represent 95%.

In our deeply divided country where it is nearly impossible to get things done because of the far right and far left, whether it’s the Freedom Caucus or the Congressional Progressive Caucus, it is not unreasonable to suggest that support outside of one standard deviation of the mean be disregarded when it comes to voting in the House of Representatives. This type of action would encourage members of Congress to work together to do what is best for the people and not the party, and pass what most of the people want; not what a minority is holding out for.

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