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
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

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.

Workhorse

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.

Showhorse

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.

Meanest

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.

Nicest

1. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)

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

Funniest

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?

Wisest

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.

Clueless

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!

Workhorse

1. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

2. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

3 John Boehner (R-Ohio)

Voting the party lines.

Showhorse

1. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.)

2. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

3. Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

The Texas Democrat got mostly Republican votes—as did
(surprise!) the Oversight Committee chair and the majority
leader.

Rising Star

1. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)

2. Jim Himes (D-Conn.)

3. Diane Black (R-Tenn.)

Rodgers, vice chair of the House Republican Conference, has
been mentioned as a VP pick.

Most Eloquent

1. David Dreier (R-Calif.)

2. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

3. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Dreier and Hoyer impress staffers in both
parties.

Least Eloquent

1. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)

2. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Votes here were mostly partisan, but there were crossovers,
too.

Meanest

1. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.)

2. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)

Lee got another bipartisan nod, but Sherman’s votes came
from his side of the aisle.

Nicest

1. Lois Capps (D-Calif.)

Lots of members were named, but repeat winner Capps came
out on top. Kentucky’s Brett Guthrie got the most GOP
votes.

Funniest

1. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)

The retiring Massachusetts wit won in a bipartisan
landslide.

Party Animal

1. Tie: John Boehner (R-Ohio), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Bill
Shuster (R-Pa.)

Don’t Democrats have any fun?

Surprise Standout

1. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

2. Tie: James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cedric Richmond
(D-La.)

Conservative Gowdy polled the most votes, but all three
freshmen have impressed their bases.

Biggest Disappointment

1. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

2. Tie: Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Austin
Scott (R-Ga.), Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.)

Pelosi’s votes were all GOP, Duffy’s mixed. Majority whip
McCarthy and freshman-class president Scott were dissed by their own,
Quayle by the opposition.

Hottie (Male)

1. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)

2. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)

3. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.)

Schock is a repeat winner. Former Air Force pilot Kinzinger
and “Real World” star Duffy are newcomers. Dems with the most votes:
Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Steny Hoyer (Md.), Cedric Richmond
(La.).

Hottie (Female)

1. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)

No one else came close to the comely rancher and former South
Dakota Snow Queen.

Gym Rat

1. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)

2. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

3. Tie: Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Martin Heinrich
(D-N.M.)

And working out certainly appears to pay
off.

Wisest

1. John Dingell (D-Mich.)

2. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

3. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)

Dingell and Hoyer got votes from both parties. The
Republican with the most votes was California’s David
Dreier.

Clueless

1. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.)

2. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

3. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.)

Johnson and Foxx got tagged by the opposition, Bachmann by
both parties.

Best Tweeter

1. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

2. Jim Himes (D-Conn.)

3. Tie: Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Cathy McMorris Rodgers
(R-Wash.)

All prolific, 140 characters at a time.

Worst Tweeter

1. Former representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.)

Clear winner, pants down.

Most Partisan

1. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

2. Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

3. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

The votes were purely partisan, too, of
course.

Least Partisan

1. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio)

2. Tie: Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah)

So partisan is Congress that moderates LaTourette and Boren
aren’t running again. Matheson’s district is the most Republican one
represented by a Democrat.

Fashion Victim

1. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)

2. Tie: Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.),
Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)

DeLauro and Lee are repeat winners. Apparently not everyone
adores Wilson’s trademark hats.

Most Likely to Star in a Scandal

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

2. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)

3. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)

Once under investigation, always under a cloud?

Least Likely to Star in a Scandal

1. Lois Capps (D-Calif.)

2. Tie: Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.),
Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

All straight arrows—but not necessarily
dull.

Best Dressed

1. David Dreier (R-Calif.)

2. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

3. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)

Both Californians have won for years. In partisan voting, the
Utahan was also a runner-up for Fashion Victim.

Most Likely to Be President Someday

1. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

2. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

Ryan was Hill staffers’ top pick weeks before he was Mitt
Romney’s.

Person I’d Like to See as President in 2017

1. Paul Ryan

2. Hillary Clinton

3. Mitt Romney

Do Ryan fans discount the possibility of a second—or
first—Romney term?

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