May 18, 2006

Congressional Power Rankings

Marc Comtois

OK, here's something just for fun. has devised a method to determine the "Power Rankings" of Senators and Congressmen. Here is the criteria:

Power Rankings Criteria

Our project team identified 15 characteristics of power. These characteristics were then measured and weighted to determine the relative power demonstrated by Members of Congress in 2005. We grouped those characteristics into three broad categories.

1) Position: How much power could the legislator wield through his/her position in the Congress by virtue of tenure, committee assignments or leadership position? This Power Category included weightings for all committees, subcommittees, and leadership positions, taking into consideration majority or minority party status of the member.

2) Influence: How much power did the legislator demonstrate to influence the congressional agenda or outcome of votes through the media, congressional caucuses or money contributed to other Members of Congress by his or her campaign committees or leadership PACs?

3) Legislative Activity: How much power did the legislator demonstrate through the passage of legislation or shaping legislation through amendments? The team eliminated from that data items which did not substantially change the bill or existing law. These included amendments dealing with technical changes or bills of a ceremonial or commemorative nature such as naming of post offices or other public buildings, or non-binding resolutions that expressed the "sense of the Congress."

In addition, the project team recognized that Members of Congress can exert or possess power that can’t be measured by these standard measures. Therefore, we created the "Sizzle/Fizzle" factor. For example, Sizzle factors can include a legislator’s unique background and experience (Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)) or relationships (Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)) or newfound popularity (Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)) that somehow adds weight to their power that is not scored in the other categories. In contrast, Fizzle factors can be applied to legislators who have seen their power diminish during the year, despite their position, due to scandal or other factors that impair the ability of the member to be effective. This was the only subjective criteria and was not weighted heavily in the overall ratings.

Here's how the Rhode Island's delegation ranks: 1) within their chamber; 2) with respect to their party in that chamber; 3) with respect to the state delegation to that chamber. Additionally, I provided their overall "Power Score" along with their score in each of the three categories (Position, Influence, Legislation) mentioned above. Finally, I included the "general factors affecting" their rankings as given by


Sen. Jack Reed - 83rd in Senate, 33rd in Party, 1st in the State. Overall Power Score of 19.75, with 26 points in the "Position" category, 8 in "Influence" and 6 in "Legislation":

• Member has weak committee assignment or lacks significant committee influence due to member's minority party status
• Successfully passed one or more bills out of the House or Senate
• Successfully amended one or more bills on the floor of the House or Senate
Sen. Lincoln Chafee - 86th in Senate, 52nd in Party, 2nd in State. Overall Power Score of 18.67, with 32 points in the "Position" category, 3 in "Influence" and 3 in "Legislation":
• Chair of committee or subcommittee
• Successfully passed one or more bills out of the House or Senate

Rep. Patrick Kennedy - 219th in House, 45th in Party, 1st in State. Overall Power Score of 14.62, with 26 points in the "Position" category, 3 in "Influence" and 1 in "Legislation":

• Member of Appropriations Committee
• Successfully amended one or more bills on the floor of the House or Senate
• Allowed to offer one or more unsuccessful amendments on the House floor
Rep. James Langevin - 393 in House, 162nd in Party, 2nd in State. Overall Power Score of 6.00, with 12 points in the "Position" category and 0 in both "Influence" and "Legislation":
• Too few terms or years in office in Congress to have significant clout
• Member has weak committee assignment or lacks significant committee influence due to member's minority party status
Put it all together and Rhode Island's delegation ranks 46th, beating out the delegations of Colorado, New Jersey, Georgia and Arkansas, respectively.

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This is incredibly insightful stuff!! A complete dismantling of any alleged substance that Chafee has ever pretended to offer RI as a Senator. Without his committee assignments, his standing in the senate would be close to if not dead last. And these assignments were only handed to him because of his father's reputation.

Of the 1998 class of senators, Chafee ranks dead last among the five GOP senators by a huge margin and only barely beats the two democrats. If it weren't for the GOP being the majority, he would be dead last of all seven.

He is 88th out of 100 on legislation, which is the decisive factor in making his overall ranking of 86 so abysmal.

All the arguments about Chafee being a do-nothing and overly-pedigreed heir to the throne sort are now proven to be right on the money.

The most important category here is legislative activity, in which Chafee fares the worst of the three. This analysis strips out the fluff bills that Chafee loads up his website with, creating the appearance that he is busily sponsoring legislation night and day. The people clearly aren't impressed with Toby the Bear type stuff and shellfish research iniatives, from which Chafee has built virtually his entire record. has completely undressed Chafee for all the world to see. It is not a pretty sight. He will be able to re-clothe himself full time in horseshoer garb next January.

Posted by: Bountyhunter at May 18, 2006 10:59 PM


Right on brother!

46th of 50. What a joke. Not a single one of these men deserves to be in DC. We need giants and all we have is trifles, and Chafee is the smallest of the small.

Wasting these seats is a travesty.

When Steve Laffey gets down there, thankfully, we will finally have a man in our corner who can get something done.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at May 18, 2006 11:25 PM


Just watched the "furthering the dream" video on Laffey's site. He was masterful in the Q&A, in my opinion. This runs counter to the impressions left by some in the media that he ducked questions etc. To say that the reporting on his tax plan was misleading is an understatement.

Seeing Laffey up there in command of the issues and with that strong and clear drive to improve government presents such a stark contrast to the incumbent's slothful, inarticulate, do-nothing approach to his seat.

I have a hard time imagining how any Republican who cares about issues and substance could vote for Chafee after reviewing Laffey's policy presentation videos.

Posted by: bountyhunter at May 19, 2006 12:34 AM

Dear Bounty,

So are you telling us that the Governor would retract his Chaffee endorsement if he viewed Mr. Laffey's fine presentation?

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at May 19, 2006 7:25 AM

Of course! Who said you actually have to vote for the person you endorse. He could even write Laffey in, just like his confrere Chafee did with Bush.

Posted by: Bountyhunter at May 19, 2006 7:51 PM