Sanders vs Clinton: a Congressional Comparison

Motivation

Particularly on the democratic side, there has been a lot of talk on characteristics like experience, electability, ability-to-get-things-done, and authenticity in the vision of the 2016 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I thought I would investigate as objectively as I could the performance and achievements of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s time in Congress by looking at some data on their activities in Congress.

This report primarily looks at their time as Representative and/or Senator in the United States Congress. Due to Bernie Sanders’ longer career in Congress, the data is organized as:

  • Sanders Total (total numbers over the entirety of Sander’s congressional career),
  • Sanders Overlap (numbers for Bernie Sanders extracted for the time period 2001-2009 where he and Hillary Clinton shared the same time in Congress), and
  • Clinton Overlap&Total (which is technically just Hillary Clinton’s total numbers).

At the end I’ll provide a small conclusion that formulates my opinion of the data and what we might be able to infer from that data alone. In the conclusion I may reference some outside factors for the candidates, but the data presented is essentially what can be found from www.congress.gov and is meant to be an objective snapshot of the candidates congressional careers.

This data was collected on 19 March 2016.

A google doc version of this report can be found here.

 

Congressional Terms

Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton
1991 102nd House
1993 103rd House
1995 104th House
1997 105th House
1999 106th House
2001 107th House 2001 107th Senate
2003 108th House 2003 108th Senate
2005 109th House 2005 109th Senate
2007 110th Senate 2007 110th Senate
2009 111th Senate 2009 111th Senate
2011 112th Senate
2013 113th Senate
2015 114th Senate

Note: Sanders has served a longer congressional career both before and after Hillary Clinton, so in order to normalize comparisons I have extracted numbers for Sanders where Clinton’s service overlaps (2001 to 2009).

 

Congressional Legislation Sponsored or Cosponsored By

Status Sanders Total Sanders Overlap Clinton Overlap &Total
Sponsored 781 359 713
Cosponsored 5,444 2,615 2,675
Sponsored to Law 3 1 3
Cosponsored to Law 203 72 74

Note: Not sure how things work, but note that Sponsored plus Cosponsored does not always equal Introduced.

 

Legislative Status

Status Sanders Total Sanders Overlap Clinton Overlap &Total
Introduced 5,347 2,516 2,165
Committee Consideration 3,518 1,596 533
Floor Consideration 716 306 544
Failed One Chamber 12 5 4
Passed One Chamber 649 273 491
Passed Both Chambers 235 91 85
Resolving Differences 47 17 21
To President 211 75 78
Veto Actions 5 2 1
Became Law 206 73 77
Committee Rate 65.8% 63.4% 24.6%
Floor Rate 13.4% 12.16% 25.12%
President Rate 3.95% 2.98% 3.6%
“Law Rate” 3.85% 2.9% 3.56%

Note: For the time that both Sanders and Clinton congressional service overlap, Sanders has a higher overall legislation introduction and committee consideration while Clinton has a higher rate of legislation passing one camber. Both Sanders and Clinton, for the time their serving times overlapped are comparable in all other rates. Sanders performance improves slightly when considering the whole of his career.

Note: Not sure how things work, but more floor considerations than committee considerations suggests some legislation either skipped committee or some other discrepancy.

 

Legislation Subject Matter

Subject Sanders Total Sanders Overlap Clinton Overlap &Total
Health 1,019 571 430
National Security 530 250 117
Taxation 394 172 130
Gov Operation 319 120 81
Education 281 139 116
Labor & Employment 241 91 81
Finance & Financial Sector 180 90 31
Environment 169 72 60
Crime And Law 167 72 109
Energy 109 58 41

Note: For the time that both Sanders and Clinton congressional service overlap, Sanders has worked on legislation on the top 10 chosen subject categories significantly more than Hillary Clinton except for Crime and Law.

Note: As Senator representing New York, presumably inclusive of Wall Street interest, Clinton worked on a comparably low number of legislation in the Finance and Financial Sector subject category.

 

The Sponsored Legislation that became Law

Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton
109th Congress (2005-2006)
To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1 Marble Street in Fair Haven, Vermont, as the “Matthew Lyon Post Office Building”.
108th Congress (2003-2004)
Kate Mullany National Historic Site Act
113th Congress (2013-2014)
Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013
109th Congress (2005-2006)
A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2951 New York Highway 43 in Averill Park, New York, as the “Major George Quamo Post Office Building”.
113th Congress (2013-2014)
A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 35 Park Street in Danville, Vermont, as the “Thaddeus Stevens Post Office”.
110th Congress (2007-2008)
A bill to designate a portion of United States Route 20A, located in Orchard Park, New York, as the “Timothy J. Russert Highway”.

Note: of the sponsored legislation that became law by Sanders and Clinton, Sanders’ Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 is the only piece of legislation of widespread national importance by either (as in, not the naming of something).

 

Of Cosponsored Legislation that became Law

Subject Sanders Total Sanders Overlap Clinton Overlap &Total
Health 18 12 15
National Security 18 9 2
Taxation 1
Gov Operation 15 7 4
Education
Labor & Employment 3 2
Finance & Financial Sector 3 1 2
Environment 3 1 1
Crime And Law 7 4 9
Energy

Note: even when taking into account only the time that both Sanders and Clinton congressional service overlap, Sanders has had more successful legislation in the areas of National Security and Government Operation than Hillary Clinton, two areas where the assumption may be that she has greater experience. Hillary Clinton meanwhile, as noted above, has more successful legislative work in the subject area of Crime and Law.

 

Congressional Elections

Bernie Sanders % of vote Hillary Clinton % of vote
1990 Vermont Representative 56%
1992 Vermont Representative 57.78%
1994 Vermont Representative 49.8%
1996 Vermont Representative 55.2%
1998 Vermont Representative 63.4%
2000 Vermont Representative 69.2% 2000 New York Senator 55.3%
2002 Vermont Representative 64.2%
2004 Vermont Representative 67.4%
2006 Vermont Senator 65.4% 2006 New York Senator 67.0%
2012 Vermont Senator 71%

 

Top Donors For Senate Campaign 2006

Bernie Sanders (2006) Hillary Clinton (2006)
Contributor Total Contributor Total
eScription Inc $25,200 Citigroup $236,610
Carpenters & Joiners Union $20,000 Goldman Sachs $205,670
Laborers Union $15,500 MetLife Inc $156,060
Operating Engineers Union $12,600 Time Warner $146,390
Bristol Bay Area Health $12,400 Corning Inc $135,750
Service Employees Union $10,500 Morgan Stanley $123,560
United Auto Workers $10,500 JPMorgan Chase $122,715
United Steelworkers $10,200 Skadden $112,530
AFL-CIO $10,000 Credit Suisse Group $111,850
Air Line Pilots Union $10,000 Ernst & Young $98,250

 

2006 Donor Summary

Contributor Recipient Industry Headquartered
Citigroup Hillary Clinton Finance USA
Goldman Sachs Hillary Clinton Finance USA
MetLife Inc Hillary Clinton Finance USA
Time Warner Hillary Clinton Communications USA
Corning Inc Hillary Clinton Manufacturing USA
Morgan Stanley Hillary Clinton Finance USA
JPMorgan Chase Hillary Clinton Finance USA
Skadden Hillary Clinton Finance USA
Credit Suisse Group Hillary Clinton Finance Switzerland
Ernst & Young Hillary Clinton Finance United Kingdom
eScription Inc Bernie Sanders Medical USA
Carpenters & Joiners Union Bernie Sanders Union USA
Laborers Union Bernie Sanders Union USA
Operating Engineers Union Bernie Sanders Union USA
Bristol Bay Area Health Bernie Sanders Union USA
Service Employees Union Bernie Sanders Union USA
United Auto Workers Bernie Sanders Union USA
United Steelworkers Bernie Sanders Union USA
AFL-CIO Bernie Sanders Union USA
Air Line Pilots Union Bernie Sanders Union USA

Note: as observed earlier, Hillary Clinton’s legislative work in the subject category of Finance and Financial Sector appears to be comparatively low when considering that 8 of her top 10 donors are from the financial industry. This would imply either that she is less likely to represent their interest (unlikely as their donations in later elections imply a satisfaction of her representation), or that it is more within these donors interest for there to be less legislation and/or less change or issues to be addressed by their representative in this area.

 

Conclusion

Obviously we have not considered other factors like Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State or Bernie Sander’s time as Mayor of Burlington Vermont, but clearly both Sanders and Clinton have formidable records during their time in congress. In total Sanders has served longer in elected positions and, due to his time as a Representative of the House having 2 year terms, he has experienced more elections. His reelection record implies that his constituents were satisfied enough to elect him repeatedly. At least in terms of congressional experience and campaign experience, Bernie Sanders has a lot more experience than Hillary Clinton.

On the subject of electability, since empirically Bernie Sanders has been elected more times than Hillary Clinton, and when considering national polls matching the democratic candidates against GOP candidate Donald Trump put Bernie Sanders in favor, the “more electable” candidate seems to be Bernie Sanders.

For the candidates’ ability-to-get-things-done, comparing the rates of legislation introduction and bills made to law are comparable. Of note is the incredible difference between how many pieces of legislation are introduced versus what number of them become law (about 3%). Clearly Sanders’ talking points of finance, economic justice, and healthcare are reflected in the snapshot of legislation subject matter worked on by Sanders. Hillary Clinton’s legislation within the area of crime and law seems to indicate a strong passion or incentive for the subject matter. However, as noted before and repeated again here, Hillary Clinton’s legislative work in the subject category of Finance and the Financial Sector appears to be comparatively low when considering that 8 of her top 10 donors are from the financial industry. This would imply either that she is less likely to represent their interest (unlikely as their donations in later elections imply a satisfaction of her representation), or that it is more within these donors interest for there to be less legislation and/or less change or issues to be addressed by their representative in this area.

Unfortunately this report doesn’t say anything of what bills Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton voted for or against but only legislation sponsored or cosponsored during their time in congress. A more granular investigation of individual votes and individual bills’ contents would really be necessary to draw more substantial conclusions. Unfortunately this report can’t say much on the point of authenticity or vision. The reader will have to draw their own conclusions and opinions from here.

Future Work

In the future I would like to aggregate data on the individual votes made by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I would also like to pull similar information for a sample of other congress members to get an idea as to how ordinary or potentially extra-ordinary their activities are against the norm of congressional activity. As a quick example, glancing at Ted Cruz’s congressional record, the numbers for nearly everything seem to be dwarfed even after taking into account his fewer number of terms. However, this may simply indicate underperformance by Cruz only, and nothing in particular about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but we cannot be sure unless we look at the rest of congress.

 

Sources:

 

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zethien Written by:

Lucas is a perpetual student of life, interested in languages, technology, politics, and more. With degrees in electrical engineering and math, he comes from a background of entrepreneurship, starting and managing a number of small businesses. Lucas’ time abroad and working in multiple industries has given him insight into today’s social issues and their potential solutions.