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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

McCain Voting With Democrats More Than GOP?

Q: Is it true that even though John McCain calls himself a Republican, he has sided more with the Dems than with the Repubs?

A: Not true at all. He voted in support of President Bush 95 percent of the time last year, for example.


Is it true that even though John McCain calls himself a Republican, he has sided more with the Dems than with the Repubs? Are all his bills passed written with Dems?


McCain is often remembered for his votes against President Bush’s tax cuts and his sponsorship with Democrat Ted Kennedy of the 2005 failed immigration bill. But let’s look at the bigger picture. The publication Congressional Quarterly analyzes party unity votes each year to determine how often U.S. senators and representatives voted with a majority of their party and how often they opposed their party. In 2007, CQ found that McCain voted with his party 90 percent of the time. Also, McCain voted in support of President Bush’s position on legislation 95 percent of the time, the top presidential-support score in the Senate. (It should be noted, however, that McCain participated in only 48 percent of what CQ called party unity votes and only 39 percent of votes on which the president took a position, since the senator had been out on the campaign trail much of last year.)

In 2006, McCain’s party unity score was 76 percent (and he was present for 94 percent of such votes). That year, McCain’s fairly low score ranked him sixth on the list of Senate Republicans who most opposed their party. In 2005, his party unity score was higher – 84 percent – though he was ninth on the list of those who voted in opposition of the party.

It’s a matter of opinion whether such ratings show that he’s not that conservative or that he merely goes his own way more than others who follow the party. The scores do show that he has backed his party the vast majority of the time. Other groups also have found McCain to be firmly in the Republican camp. The American Conservative Union has been rating members of Congress on just how conservative they are since 1971. It gives McCain an 82.3 rating, on a scale of 0 to 100, for the life of his congressional career. That measure, too, is based on an analysis of votes on certain issues. And GovTrack.us, a site that tracks legislation, labels McCain a "rank-and-file Republican" based on a statistical analysis of the bills he sponsored in relation to bills sponsored by his colleagues in the 109th and 110th Congress (that’s 2005 through 2008).

Now, let’s look at bills McCain has sponsored that were cosponsored by others, and ultimately signed into law. Cosponsors of McCain bills include both Democrats and Republicans. Links go to the text of the bill as introduced by McCain:

S.161, a bill to provide for a land exchange in Arizona between the secretary of agriculture and a limited partnership, 109th Congress.
Cosponsors: one Republican.

S.579, a bill to reauthorize the National Transportation Safety Board, 108th Congress.
Cosponsors: two Republicans and two Democrats.

S.1354, a bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to allow for common carriers not subject to state commission jurisdiction, 105th Congress.
Cosponsors: two Republicans and two Democrats.

S.1364, a bill to eliminate unnecessary federal reports, 105th Congress.
Cosponsors: one Democrat.

S.2413, a bill prohibiting the transfer of land in a national forest in Arizona unless the conveyance was made to a certain town or otherwise authorized by an act of Congress, 105th Congress.
Cosponsor: one Republican.

And here’s a look at just a few of the bills McCain has recently sponsored. None were signed into law:

S.83, a bill to provide more security for rail transportation.
Cosponsors: two Democrats, one Independent and one Republican.

S.85, a bill to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to make clear that Indian tribes and territories can get grants to combat methamphetamine use.
Cosponsors: 11 Democrats and three Republicans.

S.192, Lobbying, Ethics and Earmarks Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, which provides for transparency in lobbying activities.
Cosponsors: one Republican, one Democrat and one Independent.

S.166, Cell Phone Tax Moratorium Act of 2007, which restricts states from imposing a new tax on cell phone services.
Cosponsors: six Republicans and one Democrat.

According to GovTrack.us, McCain has sponsored 403 bills since Jan. 21, 1997.

– Lori Robertson



Party Unity chart. CQ Weekly, 14 Jan. 2008.nbsp;




Presidential Support chart. CQ Weekly, 14 Jan. 2008.

Party Unity chart and Leading Scorers. CQ Weekly, 1 Jan. 2007.

Party Unity chart and Leading Scorers. CQ Weekly, 9 Jan. 2006.

Congressional Ratings 2006. The American Conservative Union, 7 March 2008.

John McCain, U.S. Senator, analysis of bill sponsorship. GovTrack.us, 7 March 2008.

The Library of Congress, Thomas.gov. Legislation in Congress, 7 March 2008.