Study Identifies Most Partisan House Committees

August 27, 2019 Updated: August 27, 2019

Voting by members of the House Administration and House Rules committees is the most intensely partisan of the 19 standing panels in the House of Representatives, according to a think tank analysis published Aug. 27.

“Perhaps to the surprise of some Congress-watchers, the analysis finds the House Administration to be the most partisan committee,” according to Utah State University political science professor Joshua Ryan.

“It has the highest percentage of high party line votes, the second highest percentage of low party line votes, and the highest average difference between the two parties,” Ryan wrote in an analysis published by the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group (LBCWG), a joint project of two Washington-based think tanks, the R Street Institute and New America.

Ryan’s analysis examined thousands of committee votes recorded between the 104th Congress, beginning in January 1995, and the 114th Congress, which ended in January 2017.

The Committee on House Administration has two main functions, overseeing elections to the House of Representatives and managing the day-to-day operations of the chamber.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is chairperson of the committee, while Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) is the ranking Republican. There are four other Democrats and two other Republicans on the committee.

An Administration Committee spokesman didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

The House Committee on Rules was close behind the Administration panel in the rankings, followed in descending order by the Education and Labor; Science, Space, and Technology; Budget; Ways and Means; and Appropriations assemblages.

The House Committee on Agriculture is the least partisan, according to Ryan’s analysis, closely followed, in ascending order, by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Five of the eight most partisan committees are focused on how the House functions and fulfills its most basic constitutional duty, shaping how federal tax dollars are collected and spent.

The Rules panel, for example, governs the legislative process on every piece of legislation introduced in the chamber, in consultation with the Speaker of the House and the House Majority Leader.

The Budget panel does what its name suggests, dividing federal revenues among hundreds of programs receiving appropriations from one year to the next.

The more issue-oriented committees such as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the House Committee on Natural Resources were bunched together in the middle of the pack of 19 standing panels.

Those committees have been especially prominent in recent years with bitter debates on issues that most often result in highly partisan votes on the House floor, such as environmental regulations, energy policies, and presidential conduct.

Ryan said his results show that members of Congress representing safe districts that are highly likely to reelect them every two years tend to serve on the most partisan committees.

“The results apply to both Republicans and Democrats, meaning that strong liberals and conservatives, from safe or ideologically extreme districts, are likely to seek out the most partisan committees,” Ryan wrote.

“The opposite is true as well. Members from moderate districts seek out bipartisan committees,” he said. As an example, Ryan cited Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who represents that state’s 17th Congressional District.

That Pennsylvania district has tended to elect Republicans in recent years, but the margins have typically been less than 5 percent, and Lamb’s election demonstrates that voters there are open to voting for Democrats.

R Street Institute Vice President Kevin Kosar told The Epoch Times on Aug. 27 that Ryan’s metrics are “greatly affected by votes taken on particularly salient issues, like Democrats’ headline-grabbing H.R. 1 legislation. Obviously, the committee’s work is much broader than just that.”

Kosar was referring to the “For the People Act of 2019,” the giant proposal introduced by Democrats after they regained the House majority in the 2018 election. The proposal contains numerous proposals strongly favored by liberal Democrats and fiercely opposed by conservative Republicans.

Kosar said he believes “the House Administration Committee tends to work constructively across the aisle on much of the low salience work, such as reviewing the internal operations of the House’s various administrative units.”

The administration panel could face a thorny issue when the House returns from the August recess on Sept. 9, because Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) reportedly used his tax-funded official Facebook page to air two campaign advertisements.

House rules bar representatives from using official tax-funded resources for campaign purposes. Roll Call said the two ads ran earlier this month for 13 days.

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