Hot Dish Politics: Democrats in Congress more liberal with stamp of approval

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2013 - 4:32 PM
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U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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– Minnesota’s congressional Democrats are more liberal than their Republican counterparts with their pens, not just their politics.

When it comes to signing onto legislation as co-sponsors, Minnesota has some of the most prolific.

In the U.S. Senate, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are among the top 10 co-signers. Through the beginning of August, Klobuchar co-sponsored 201 bills and amendments while Franken co-sponsored 195.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison ranks seventh among the 435 U.S. House members. He’s attached his signature to 341 bills and amendments. That’s nearly four pieces of legislation for every day the House has been in session this year.

Combined, Minnesota’s three House Republicans, Michele Bachmann (104), John Kline (149) and Erik Paulsen (89), have co-sponsored 342 bills and amendments, only one more than Ellison.

Academic studies have proposed a wide range of conclusions as to why legislators publicly support legislation.

For a lawmaker touting a bill, having dozens of colleagues sign on, especially if the support is bipartisan, is a stamp of approval: something tangible they can point to as evidence of strong backing.

“It doesn’t cost anything to support a bill,” Ellison said.

“The bills that I individually introduce myself, and a few others, I put tremendous amount of effort into passing. But then there are other bills that I count on my colleagues to pull the heavy oar on, but I still support the concept.”

Some political scientists suggest that the most active co-signers are less powerful legislators, often new to Congress and eager to “bandwagon” legislation offered by more experienced lawmakers.

That theory may not hold true in Minnesota.

In addition to lending their signatures to bills, Klobuchar and Franken are sponsoring their own legislation. Since January, Klobuchar has introduced 48 bills and Franken 35.

“Senator Klobuchar … has been an active legislator in both leading and co-sponsoring bills,” said spokeswoman Brigit Helgen.

“Minnesota has both rural and urban communities with everything from cutting-edge health care to innovative companies to farmers and forestry, leading to a lot of legislative work,” she added.

Other studies suggest that co-sponsoring legislation is a way for members of Congress to signal, to campaign contributors and voters back home, their support of specific issues.

Despite previous White House veto threats, every member of the House delegation, minus U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, has signed to support a Paulsen bill that would repeal a multibillion-dollar tax on medical device makers, a thriving industry in the state.

The top overall cosigner in the House, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus with Ellison. He has lent his signature to 435 bills and amendments so far this year.

In the Senate, Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal leads the pack with 248 cosponsorships.

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