Box Elder County Democrats

Bishop leads Utah pack in toeing the party line; Chaffetz not far behind

Republished From: Utah Democratic Party

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In his first three months in office, Utah's new congressman, Jason Chaffetz, has proved himself a loyal foot soldier for the GOP leadership, voting 94 percent of the time with his House Republican colleagues.

The Alpine resident voted differently from the majority of his GOP colleagues only 11 times since he was sworn in this year, according to an analysis of votes by The Salt Lake Tribune .

But GOP colleague Rob Bishop is even less of a free spirit than Chaffetz. Bishop, according to an initial three-month tally, voted 98 percent of the time with his GOP colleagues. He strayed just three times.

Rep. Jim Matheson, the lone Utah Democrat in Congress, votes with his party peers about 91 percent of the time.

All three fall into what have become typical percentages in Congress, where party line votes are becoming common. Indeed, several members in the last session voted every time with their party's position.

"What you see here is that the general pattern for most members, most of the time they are in accord with their party," says University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank. "Clearly, all of these people [Utah members] fall into that category."

In fact, Chaffetz so far is sticking to the GOP party line more than the congressman he beat, ex-Rep. Chris Cannon, who according to a tally, voted 89 percent with his party in the last congressional session.

Chaffetz is matching House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio (93 percent) and the man Chaffetz says he wants to emulate, Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (89 percent).

Chaffetz says the closer votes are yet to come and there will be splits in both parties. The House so far has taken up mostly Democratic legislation --- from a budget resolution to an omnibus public lands bill, both of which Chaffetz opposed.

"So far, most of the issues have been black and white," Chaffetz says. "From my perspective, they've been pretty much party line."

The freshman has differed from a majority of his GOP colleagues on several issues: he opposed a resolution supporting school breakfasts, a bill establishing a Daniel Webster congressional clerkship and even a resolution supporting Pi Day (he quips that one day isn't enough; it must go on forever).

Chaffetz says he plans to still be an independent voter, sticking with his beliefs not necessarily how party elders want him to vote.

"I don't think of it in those terms," Chaffetz says. "It sounds so cliché, but you take one vote at a time, so if Democrats have it right, I'll vote with them. I'm not purely going to vote the party line."

The polarization of Congress is "pretty stark" when compared with how members voted in the 1970s, says Don Wolfensberger, director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

"There used to be quite an overlap in the middle and now there's hardly any," said Wolfensberger, who has studied voting scores compiled by Congressional Quarterly Members over the last several decades.. Members "are going toward the poles and there's fewer moderates."

It's a shift that, in some ways, is mirrored in the make up of congressional districts.

Data released Friday by the Cook Political Report show Bishop and Chaffetz represent two of the top 10 most Republican congressional districts in the country. Matheson, meanwhile, is a rarity. The Democrat is from the 50th most Republican district in the country, the report says.

There are 435 congressional districts.

Party guys

Votes with the majority of his party:

Bishop 98 percent

Chaffetz 94 percent

Matheson 91 percent

Source: Analysis of 191 votes so far this year



Taylor, T. (2009). Bishop leads Utah pack in toeing the party line; Chaffetz not far behind. Retrieved from


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