In consultation with approximately 20 national anti-poverty experts on a wide range of topics, we selected the most significant votes on poverty issues in the U.S. Senate and House in calendar year 2011. The votes we selected cover a wide range of subject areas, including health care, housing, federal budget and tax, legal services, assets, and, for the first time, foreign aid.
Each member of the House is scored based on 18 selected votes and each member of the Senate is scored based on 11 selected votes. If a member did not cast a “yes” or “no” vote on a particular measure (for example, if the member was absent), that vote was not considered in determining the member’s score. Each vote is given equal weight. We did not score members who did not vote enough times for the score to be a fair assessment of their performance.
We ranked 431 of 435 members of the House of Representatives, each of whom voted on at least 14 of the 18 votes we selected. We ranked all 100 senators since they all voted on at least 7 of the 11 votes we selected.
Unless otherwise indicated, we used the vote on final passage. Where multiple votes were cast on a bill, we selected the vote that was the most significant in fighting poverty, either the clean vote, meaning the vote before extraneous provisions were added or after they were stripped away; the decisive vote, meaning the vote that decided whether the bill or amendment would move forward in 2011; or the compromise vote, meaning the vote on the version that had the best chance of becoming law.
While we were deciding which votes to use, we did not review the roll call on any vote, nor did we review any other material that would have indicated how a particular member voted.