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McCaskill played center-left, Blunt moved rightward last year

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 21, 2013 - WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill – who campaigned for reelection partly on her centrist ranking for 2011 Senate votes – was somewhat more liberal in her voting last year, according to a National Journal analysis.

The ratings place McCaskill, D-Mo., as the 43rd most liberal senator and the 57th most conservative, with a “composite” liberal score of 62.5 and a conservative score of 37.5.

That represents a slight move leftward from the previous year, when the same publication’s analysis rated her as the 51st

most conservative and 50th most liberal of the 100 senators. Even so, the National Journal placed her in the “moderate” range, ranking as the 11th most conservative Democrat last year.

The closest to the ideological center was U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Fla., who scored 50.8 on the liberal and 49.2 on the conservative scale.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., moved a bit to the right in his voting patterns, ranking as the 32nd most conservative senator (versus the 40th most conservative in 2011) and the 68th most liberal (versus the 61st). He was not listed in the moderate range.

And U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., kept his slot as the third most liberal senator, with a composite liberal score of 89.3 (versus 86.5 in 2011) and a conservative score of 10.7 (versus 13.5 the previous year). U.S. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., missed all votes last year after suffering a stroke.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in Senate leadership, and Blunt, the fifth-ranking senator in GOP leadership, tend to stick closer to party-line votes on big issues than many other senators.

The annual National Journal ratings, released this week, also revealed that former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican from Wildwood, was the most conservative House member in his voting record last year. However, Akin missed many votes because he was campaigning against GOP rivals and, later, against McCaskill in an unsuccessful bid for the Senate seat.

According to the GovTrak site, Akin missed 87.5 percent of the House votes taken from July through September of last year. He had missed 21 percent of votes in the year’s first quarter and 16.7 percent in the second quarter. After the November election, he missed about 55 percent of House votes.

In a rerun of his 2011 voting record, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, tied for the position of most liberal House member with several other Democrats.

“I am very proud to once again be tied for 1st place as the most progressive member of the U.S. House,” Clay said Thursday.

“That ranking is based on my continuing commitment to protect and save jobs, put the 1st District first, and advance a progressive agenda that reflects what my constituents believe in.”

The only House member from Missouri who was listed in the “moderate” range was former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican who left Congress earlier this month to take a new job. All the other Missouri GOP members had voting records to the right of Emerson, while the Democrats were closer to Clay on the liberal side.

The National Journal rankings -- which tend to be viewed as nonpartisan -- break down the votes under three categories: economic, social and foreign policy issues. McCaskill was most liberal on foreign policy (scoring 85 liberal, 0 conservative), but closer to the center on economic issues (51 conservative, 48 liberal) and social issues (53 conservative, 46 liberal.)

In contrast, Blunt was most conservative on social issues (90 conservative, 8 liberal), and more moderate on foreign policy (60 conservative, 39 liberal) and economic issues (62 conservative, 35 liberal).

Durbin scored zero on the conservative scale for social and foreign policy issues and ranked 92 liberal (5 conservative) on economic issues.

McCaskill, by the way, will be in St. Louis on Friday to hold a news conference with another moderate Missouri Democrat -- Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce -- to highlight their support for reauthorization of the "Violence Against Women Act." That legislation has been approved by the Senate but not by the House.

McCaskill's support from women voters in Missouri is widely seen as a key reason why she handily defeated Akin in last fall's U.S. Senate contest.