nytimes— Who are the two most disagreeable United States senators?
The pair are the most reliable Democratic supporters on roll-call votes in the current Congress. In large part because of an increase in votes on presidential nominations after Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, limited the use of the filibuster last year, both senators are headed toward record levels of disagreement with their party.
Ms. Collins has sided with Democrats on cloture votes that allow a nomination to proceed for a vote on confirmation 82 times in this Congress.
Bucking a majority of their party on roll-call votes has become much less common among senators over the past quarter century. As recently as 2008, as many as 10 senators disagreed with a majority of their party colleagues on at least one in five votes. Now there are only these two who do. In the current political climate, where a primary challenge is a real threat (even if few succeed), increased voting against the party seems like potentially risky behavior.
“When you think of how easily conservative senators have been challenged by the Tea Party,” said Jeffrey Segal, a political scientist at Stony Brook University who studies judicial nomination votes, “they’re both really out on a limb here.”
Yet Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski, who have opposed their party on about four of every 10 votes since 2012, aren’t in any particular danger. Both have long demonstrated independent streaks in voting, and Ms. Murkowski survived a primary defeat in 2010 to win re-election as a write-in candidate. Ms. Collins is on the ballot this November; The Upshot’s Senate model, Leo, gives her a 99 percent chance of victory.
Senators willing to buck their parties have decreased in part because of departures. The retirements of Ms. Collins’s former Maine colleague Olympia Snowe, a Republican, and Democrats such as Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana removed from the Senate people willing to cross party lines. Others, like Scott Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts who is seeking a return to the Senate this year (this time from New Hampshire), were defeated in re-election bids.
There are no current Democrats who approach the level of party voting disagreement that Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski have. The closest is Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who votes against a majority of his fellow Democrats just 14 percent of the time. In a Senate that’s fairly closely divided, unity is important for the majority, which is a big reason every other Democratic senator (as well as Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, both independents) votes with a majority of the party at least 90 percent of the time.
If you exclude nomination votes, Ms. Collins has agreed with a majority of Republicans 70 percent of the time; Ms. Murkowski 78 percent of the time. Representatives of both senators did not respond to emails requesting comment.