Collins ranked second-most liberal GOP member of Georgia House delegation

Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins Collins has earned a reputation as a hard-line conservative as the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, but a nonpartisan group's scorecard ranks him as the second most liberal member of Georgia's GOP congressional delegation. Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is the second-most liberal Republican in Georgia’s House delegation, according to new rankings by a nonpartisan organization that tracks government data and statistics.

That puts him to the right of all but one of the state’s other House Republicans (Rep. Rob Woodall) and to the left of the seven others. Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice ranked as the state’s most conservative lawmaker; Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson was ranked the most liberal of the 14-member Georgia House delegation. 

Overall, Collins ranked 173rd of all 437 lawmakers scored (the list includes non-voting delegates) and the 30th most liberal member of the House GOP caucus — to the left of a couple Democrats (Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey).

The rankings are based on the pattern of legislation that lawmakers cosponsored in 2019. They do not take votes, stated positions or other factors into account that may affect lawmakers’ ideological stances, such as caucus memberships, media appearances, social media posts, endorsements in campaigns or their penchant for bipartisan friendship.

Collins also earned fairly high marks on measures of bipartisanship. 

The four-term lawmaker from the 9th district in the northeastern corner of the state wrote more bills that were cosponsored by members of the other party than all but one other member of the delegation (GOP Rep. Buddy Carter)  — and tied for 29th on that measure among all House Republicans. He was fifth most likely in the delegation to sign on to bills introduced by Democrats or independents.

Collins has earned a reputation as a hard-line conservative as the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, a perch he has used to mount a vocal defense of President Donald Trump. But the rankings could provide fodder to conservatives who are attacking him as more liberal than he lets on — especially as he mounts an intraparty challenge to GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a financial executive who was appointed to the seat late last year.

Loeffler will face Collins and other candidates in an all-party contest in November to fill out the final two years of the term vacated by ex-Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired recently citing health problems. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in November, the top two candidates will face off in a January runoff.

The Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee, has not endorsed Loeffler but recently launched a television ad painting Collins as a big-spender supportive of such liberal icons like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The group is airing a new ad in Georgia this week that attacks Collins’ position on taxes.

Jeff Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University, doubts the attacks will stick. “Saying that Collins is the second-most liberal Republican is kind of like saying he’s the second-shortest giraffe,” he said. “I don’t think it really means that much. He’s still super conservative.” 

Collins missed more votes last year than any of his House colleagues in the state’s delegation, a trend that could intensify as he mounts his Senate bid. He missed 38 votes last year — more than 5 percent of the 701 votes cast, according to GovTrack.us. Nearly half of the votes he missed last session were due to a death in the family in October, a Collins spokeswoman said.

Perdue earns low marks for legislative activity

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. David Perdue introduced fewer bills last year than most other members of the U.S. Senate and ranked in the bottom 20 percent of all senators on other measures of legislative activity, leadership and bipartisanship compiled by GovTrack.

Perdue introduced 16 bills and resolutions in 2019, ranking 12th from the bottom of the 100-seat chamber. He got 74 cosponsors on those bills, the 10th fewest of all senators. 

Three of the bills he introduced saw floor action last year, placing him 14th from the bottom on that score. One — a disaster relief bill — became law last year, a “bipartisan package” that he called “a major win for our agriculture communities in the Southeast.” 

Perdue ranked 10th last on a measure ranking senators by leadership, which assesses lawmakers by their ability to get other lawmakers to cosponsor bills. 

And he earned low scores on bipartisanship. He was among the least likely members of the Senate to join bipartisan bills, ranking 17th from the bottom, and to cosponsor legislation introduced by a Democratic or independent senator, ranking 16th from the bottom.

He also scored high on measures of absenteeism. He missed 29 of 428 votes cast last year, a 7% rate that made him the chamber’s 17th most absent. 

Perdue spokeswoman Casey Black said in a statement that the senator “has used his 40 years of business experience to get positive results for Georgians in the U.S. Senate.”

She said he has been instrumental in delivering disaster relief for farmers, securing full funding for a harbor expansion project in Savannah, getting tax cuts passed, securing trade deals for U.S. businesses and workers and securing funding for scholarships to historically black colleges and universities.

The low scores don’t necessarily make Perdue less effective or worse than other senators, according to GovTrack, nor do they assess other activities, such as constituent services or oversight. “There are many important aspects of being a legislator besides what can be measured … which aren’t reflected here,” the website states.

But Lazarus says they are an accurate reflection of the senator’s role in Congress. Perdue’s goal is to “get on TV” and curry favor with constituents and certain interest groups, not to advance legislation, he said. “He’s there to support the larger Republican agenda.”

That said, the rankings aren’t likely to affect his bid for a second term this fall, Lazarus added. Voters don’t notice the difference between workhorses and showhorses in Congress or the difference between a “messaging bill” and one that’s intended to make its way through the system, he said.

A number of Democrats are duking it out for the chance to take on Perdue this fall, but Lazarus said Perdue is likely to win because Georgia still leans Republican and because GOP Gov. Brian Kemp is “doing all that he can to make sure the electoral environment favors Republicans.”

That assessment is backed up by independent political observers who give Perdue the edge in November, including the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball

“Senators know who’s there to be serious and who’s there to just win reelection, but I don’t think voters can really distinguish that,” Lazarus said.