Study: York County's GOP lawmakers up to snuff; Casey exceeds expectations
All members of Congress representing York County adequately performed their duties in the last Congress, with one member of the U.S. Senate outperforming expectations, according to a new report published by a lawmaker effectiveness watchdog group.
The Center for Effective Lawmaking — a nonprofit organization supported by Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia and two entities who fund political research — released its annual lawmaker effectiveness scores for the 115th Congress on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
In it, researchers concluded U.S. Reps. Lloyd Smucker and Scott Perry, both Republicans, and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey have authored and shepherded bills and amendments through the legislative process at a rate on par with members of similar standing in terms of seniority. Sen. Bob Casey, the only Democrat representing York County, has exceeded expectations, researchers said.
"The fundamental purpose of Congress is lawmaking," said Craig Volden, co-director at the center. "It is set up as the legislative branch, and without some way to assess who in Congress is doing that fundamental job, we’re blindly selecting members to govern us.”
The House: Smucker, R-Lancaster, and Perry, R-Carroll Township, were rated as "meeting expectations." Smucker was ranked 161 among the 244 House Republicans, and Perry was ranked 65, according to the data, which pumps 15 different criteria through an algorithm.
"I feel pretty good about the performance we had," Smucker said. "What we do is as a team here. I measure the feedback that I get back from the district and the election every two years. That to me is probably the best indicator of my job performance."
The study ranks bills by significance: "commemorative," "substantive" or "substantive and significant." It's the difference between renaming a post office, for example, and authoring major tax policy.
Although Smucker's legislative agenda was relatively small and none of his bills became law, he still meets expectations because he was a freshman member at the time, which typically means less political sway in Congress, Volden said. All of his bills were deemed substantive by researchers.
Members usually see their influence expand by their third or fourth term.
Perry's bills all ranked as substantive, and one became law. That amended The Homeland Security Act of 2002 to make the under secretary for management of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for overseeing and managing vehicle fleets throughout the department.
Perry didn't respond to requests for comment by deadline.
The study scores members on 15 criteria, including how many bills they propose; how far bills and amendments move through Congress; the content of such bills; and whether the contents represent the best interests of their respective districts.
The center used a complicated equation to come up with a "lawmaker effectiveness score," which also takes into account seniority; majority or minority party membership; and committee and subcommittee membership.
Further elaboration on the methodology of the center's research can be found at thelawmakers.org/methodology.
Senate: The difference with Casey, Volden said, is that he carried a much more extensive legislative agenda than the average senator — evidenced by his large amount of proposed bills — which is particularly impressive as a member of the minority party and why he was ranked 10th among Senate Democrats.
Sixty-seven of his bills were substantive, with just one commemorative bill.
A spokeswoman for Casey said the team was "thrilled" to see that he's being recognized as one of the most effective Democratic senators in Congress. In this session he plans to work to pass legislation to help children, working families and seniors.
Toomey was ranked 29th among Senate Republicans by the researchers. He got one commemorative and one substantive bill into law. All but one of his bills were deemed substantive; the exception was a commemorative bill.
The Republican was the only member of the delegation to propose legislation deemed substantive and significant, and although it didn't become law as a standalone bill, it was later adopted into the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act the president signed last year.
The provision requires the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to increase the yearly sales threshold beyond which an issuer is required to provide investors additional disclosures related to compensatory benefit plans from $5 million to $10 million.
A spokesman for Toomey said the senator is proud of his work to help the economy and keep his constituents safe.
Toomey's commemorative bill that became law designated a Canonsburg U.S. Postal Service building as the Police Officer Scott Bashioum Post Office Building to honor the fallen officer.
Toomey's second bill, ranked as substantive, named March 29 National Vietnam War Veterans Day and included days on which the flag should be displayed with honor.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.