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Best and Worst of Congress 2012
Winners all? Top Senate vote-getters—for better and worse—include Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, John Kerry, John Thune, Kelly Ayotte, Al Franken, and Johnny Isakson. Photo illustrations by Jesse Lenz
Comments () | Published August 29, 2012

If a definition of “congress” is “the act of coming together,” critics might call this House and Senate the Uncongress: unproductive, uncivil, uninspiring, unpleasant. Unbelievable.

Call it what you will, we count on top Capitol Hill staffers to call things the way they see them. Every election year, we survey hundreds of aides, press secretaries, legislative directors, and chiefs of committee staffs for their take on the best and worst of Congress. This year they had plenty to chew on. At times, they proved as partisan as their bosses. But where it counts—for example, who’s hot and who’s not—bipartisanship tended to prevail.

This year we also asked whom they’d like to see in the White House in 2017. As usual, their answers were revealing.


1. Tie: Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

2. Tie: Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Voting along straight party lines, Republican aides praised Oklahoma’s “Dr. No” and the Senate GOP leader, while Democratic aides honored their party’s second- and third-ranking senators.


1. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

2. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

3. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)

The ever media-needy Schumer and Tea Party leader DeMint were bipartisan picks, but the bulk of Paul’s votes came from GOP staffers.

Best Tweeter

1. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

2. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

What each party gives . . .

Worst Tweeter

1. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

2. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

. . . the other takes away.

Most Likely to Be President Someday

1. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

2. Tie: Rob Portman (R-Ohio), John Thune (R-S.D.)

3. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

Rubio got votes from both parties. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) was the Democratic runner-up.

Rising Star

1. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

2. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)

3. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

In more party-line voting, two people discussed as potential GOP vice-presidential picks outpolled Hillary Clinton’s successor.

Most Eloquent

1. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)2. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)

Their talk is music to their own parties’ ears.

Least Eloquent

1. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

2. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

3. Tie: Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Republicans ganged up on the majority leader and the ex-“Saturday Night Live” star, while Dems spread their votes around the other party.


1. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)

2. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

3. Tie: Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Mikulski is a perennial bipartisan winner; all of McCain’s votes came from the GOP.


1. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)

The cordial Georgian got more votes than half a dozen runners-up.


1. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

2. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)

Ex-comic Franken tickles aides in both parties.

Hottie (Male)

1. John Thune (R-S.D.)

2. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

3. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Thune and Brown have bipartisan appeal . . .

Hottie (Female)

1. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)

2. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

. . . as do Ayotte and Gillibrand.

Surprise Standout

1. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)

2. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

The former New Hampshire attorney general and the ex-TV personality are seen as serious and hardworking.

Biggest Disappointment

1. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

2. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Paul’s votes came from his own party, Rubio’s from both.

Gym Rat

1. John Thune (R-S.D.)

2. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

How do you think they stay so hot?

Party Animal

1. Tie: Richard Burr (R-N.C.), David Vitter (R-La.)

2. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

Party can mean different things: Burr is known for holding lots of fundraising parties, Vitter for the “DC madam” scandal, and Paul as the “Tea Party animal”—or do his votes stem from stories of bong hits at Baylor?


1. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

2. Tie: Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)

Straight party-line votes.


1. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

A surprisingly bipartisan vote. On strict party lines, runners-up were Democrats Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, and Harry Reid as well as Republicans Scott Brown and James Inhofe.

Most Partisan

1. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

2. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

3. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Democrats focused on the GOP leader; Republicans split their votes.

Least Partisan

1. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

2. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)

3. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

The moderates all got votes from both parties.

Best Dressed

1. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

2. John Thune (R-S.D.)

Runners-up were California Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Republicans Bob Corker (Tenn.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Fashion Victim

1. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

2. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)

Sanders is a three-time winner, Mikulski more.

Most Likely to Star in a Scandal

1. David Vitter (R-La.)

2. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

The Louisianan has already been in hot water; Rubio’s previous financial problems apparently raise concerns.

Least Likely to Star in a Scandal

1. Tie: Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), John Thune (R-S.D.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)

An Eagle Scout, an ex-OMB chief, Thune, and Mikulski.

Picks for the House on the next page!


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  • losapio

    Really? The one woman in the picture and you decided to have it be the Hottie award? I'm disappointed in the Washingtonian for not being smarter than that.

  • I would give the Best Tweeter award to Anthony Weiner.

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Posted at 10:52 AM/ET, 08/29/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles