Political Notebook

In tight votes, Senator Brown often loyal to party

Senator Brown relies on a recent study by Congressional Quarterly when making his bipartisanship claims.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Senator Brown relies on a recent study by Congressional Quarterly when making his bipartisanship claims.

Republican Senator Scott Brown touts his bipartisan voting record on the campaign trail, but a study published Monday by a progressive advocacy group makes the case that Brown has failed to reach across the aisle at key moments.

ProgressMass identified 53 bills that had the support of at least 50 senators but lacked the 60 needed to break Republican filibusters and bring the measures to up-or-down votes.

On these bills, the study found, Brown sided with his party 76 percent of the time.


“On the votes where he could have displayed true bipartisan leadership, Republican Scott Brown overwhelmingly supported his right-wing Republican colleagues, choosing partisan obstruction over getting something accomplished for the American people,” ProgressMass spokesman Mathew Helman said in a statement.

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But voting records suggest Brown had limited potential to help pass the bills he opposed. ProgressMass studied 40 bills Brown voted against. In only one case would a Brown vote in favor have broken a Republican filibuster. The other 39 would have failed even with Brown’s support.

In an interview, Helman argued the fate of the bills is beside the point.

“While Scott Brown’s single vote would not have made a difference, if he’s going to claim the mantle of being a bridge builder, shouldn’t he have worked to bring some of his Republican colleagues on board?’’ Helman said.

The ProgressMass study also noted that Brown was even less likely to break from the GOP before Elizabeth Warren, his probable Democratic opponent this year, entered the race last August. On 32 bills before Warren became a candidate, Brown voted with Republicans 30 times.


The votes studied by ProgressMass represent less than 10 percent of Brown’s total since he took office in 2010, and the group’s analysis is just one way of examining Brown’s record.

A spokesman for Brown had no immediate comment on the ProgressMass study.

Brown relies on a recent study by Congressional Quarterly when making his bipartisanship claims. Congressional Quarterly took a broader approach than ProgressMass and looked at every occasion in 2011 when a majority of Republicans opposed a majority of Democrats. On those bills, Brown voted with his party 54 percent of the time. He was one of only three senators under 71 percent.

An even broader measure can be made from a Washington Post database of all Senate votes, which shows that on legislation supported by most Republicans, Brown has voted with the GOP 70 percent of the time. That figure includes bills supported by majorities of both parties; so, in a case where Brown voted for a bill backed by Republicans and Democrats, he would be recorded as voting with his party.

McCain voices criticism of president on Syria

Senator John McCain blasted President Obama on foreign policy Sunday, accusing him of mishandling relationships with countries throughout the Middle East. The Arizona Republican said the United States should arm rebels in Syria to help them fight against the government of President Bashar Assad.


“It’s an unfair fight,’’ McCain said on ABC’s “This Week.’’

“The Russians are supplying arms. The Iranians are on the ground. How could we not stand up for these people? How could we sit by and watch this slaughter go on, while the president of the United States is totally silent?’’

McCain downplayed the risk of arming a group of Syrian rebels whose long-term mission is uncertain. “I heard this same story in Libya. I heard it in Tunisia. I heard it in Egypt,’’ he said.

McCain also took aim at Obama administration policies in neighboring countries.