The Truth About Kerry, #622 in a series of a 1,000.
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Regarding President Bush’s claim that Senator Kerry is the most liberal Senator in Congress:
Earlier this year, National Journal identified Kerry as the senator with the most liberal voting record in 2003, not over the course of his career.
When the National Journal looked at Kerry’s entire Senate voting record, the magazine determined that Kerry was not the “most liberal” senator. In fact, the National Journal reported in March that "10 other current senators have a lifetime composite liberal score that is higher than Kerry’s.
But even the single “measure” the Republicans can cite credibly – the National Journal’s rating on Kerry’s 2003 voting record – can fairly be called into question.
The National Journal ranks senators based on their votes in three categories: economic policy, social policy and foreign policy. However, because Kerry missed so many votes while campaigning in 2003, the National Journal lacked sufficient data to grade him on social policy or foreign policy.
Thus, Kerry’s 2003 ranking is based solely on his 2003 votes on economic policy – an area in which the National Journal has traditionally seen Kerry as significantly more liberal than he is on, say, foreign policy.
And even when it comes to the 2003 economic policy votes the National Journal counted, it’s not entirely clear that Kerry’s views should be deemed “liberal.” The National Journal included 32 Senate roll calls in its economic policy rankings. Kerry voted in 19 of those. In each of those 19, Kerry’s vote was exactly the same as that cast by a majority of the Senate’s Democrats.
On average, 46 senators – including 3.6 Republicans – sided with Kerry on the 19 votes used in his National Journal ranking. On 12 of the 19 votes, at least one Republican joined Kerry. On three of them – votes against loans for the construction of nuclear power plants, against the study of offshore oil and gas drilling and against the privatization of air traffic controllers – 10 or more Republicans joined Kerry.
And it wasn’t just crossover moderates like McCain or Maine’s Olympia Snowe. North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole voted with Kerry on the offshore drilling measure; Missouri Sen. Jim Talent and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe voted with Kerry on the air traffic controllers; and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel voted with Kerry on a Medicare issue.
While Kerry led the National Journal’s liberal rankings during the first few years of his Senate tenure, he moved to the middle after he was reelected in 1990.
“Kerry was especially moderate in his second term when it came to foreign policy issues,” the National Journal’s Richard E. Cohen wrote in February as the magazine unveiled its 2003 rankings. “He opposed the liberal position in key Senate showdowns on missile defense and intelligence spending in 1993 and on procurement of additional F-18 Navy fighters in 1996 … Kerry also voted with President Clinton and congressional Republicans, but against many liberals, in favor of welfare reform in 1996, and he occasionally split from organized labor on workplace issues.”