Burr, Ellmers among most conservative in Congress

fordonez@mcclatchydc.comFebruary 27, 2012 

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers has taken over as North Carolina’s most conservative House member, according to the National Journal’s annual analysis of congressional votes.

The freshman Republican from Dunn, who ran as a leader of the Tea Party, was ranked 15 among House conservatives. She beat out U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Cherryville Republican and Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Banner Elk Republican on the conservative ranking. McHenry was ranked 20; Foxx, 62.

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, was named the most liberal member of the North Carolina delegation followed by U.S. Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat. Watt was ranked 50th on the liberal rankings. Price was ranked 112th.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, was ranked the seventh most conservative Senator. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, was ranked the 32nd most liberal Senator.

The ratings are based on 97 Senate votes and 105 House votes during 2011. The analysis reflect how polarized Congress is today. There was no overlap in rankings of the most liberal or conservative Senators. Only five House Republicans had more liberal voting records than Democrats.

“The results capture the continued remaking of Congress into an institution defined by much greater partisan discipline and philosophical conformity," the magazine reported.

Experts such as Cawtaba University political science professor Michael Bitzer said the rankings were no surprise.

“With Renee, she came from a Tea Party background,” Bitzer said. “With those folks it is a very conservative platform. Mel on the other hand is so liberal because of the district.” Nearly 60 percent of Watt’s district is Democrat. The majority of them are African American, who statistically vote along Democrat party lines. Watt said that the terms conservative and liberal were overused in political vernacular and meant little to him or average citizens.

“I cast one vote at a time,” he said. “I don’t look at whether its conservative or liberal.”

Ellmers said the scores reflect her commitment.

“Throughout my first year in office, I have listened closely to the needs and concerns of those who sent me here and have not shifted on the principles and values that they hold dear - values that I share,” she said.

Read the full report here.

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