The National Journal on Tuesday released its annual list of the most conservative and liberal members of Congress. The only Minnesota member of the House who gets a mention is Republican Rep. John Kline, who tied with two other colleagues as the 26th most conservative representative.
Political observers will note the irony here. Kline has been criticized by some in his own party for not being conservative enough. His 2011 vote to raise the debt ceiling and prevent the nation from a catastrophic default on its debt is a particular sticking point.
Kline was “primaried” last summer by challenger David Gerson, who claimed that Kline “repeatedly votes” for big government and wasteful spending, and wasn’t “pro-liberty.” One state GOP activist tweeted a call to for another primary challenge in 2014 after Kline’s yes vote on a fiscal cliff deal to avoid raising taxes on most Americans.
The National Journal calculated its rankings based on roll-call votes on key issues. Its formula then assigned a percentile score to each representative. Former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who made the infamous comment about “legitimate rape” during the fall campaign, was rated the most conservative member of the House. Fourteen Democrats, including five from California, tied for first as the most liberal House members.
Minnesota’s Tea Party firebrand Michele Bachmann didn’t crack the top 25 list of House conservatives. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison didn’t make it into the top 25 most liberal members, despite tying for first last year.
Kline’s score was 89.7 percent, meaning he voted more conservatively than other representatives 89.7 percent of the time last year. The six-term Republican faced a strong challenge from Democrat Mike Obermueller in last fall’s general election in his newly redrawn and slightly more moderate Second Congressional district. Kline tied for the 26th most conservative House ranking with South Carolina Republican Joe “You Lie” Wilson and Republican Diane Black of Tennessee.
The National Journal, which is releasing its rankings slowly over the week, on Wednesday announced its most liberal and most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. Minnesota Democrat Al Franken tied for third most liberal. Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal were tied for most liberal, while Idaho Republican Sen. James Risch garnered the top conservative spot.
Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.