Rating Congress in the Age of “Camelot”

87th United States Congress - Wikipedia

Today I am posting the MC-Index for the 87th Congress, or the Congress of sixty years ago. At this time, John F. Kennedy was the new president and the image of Camelot for that administration was at its height and this was the very last Congress of the legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas, who would die of pancreatic cancer on November 16, 1961. In this session we see efforts at programs much in the vein of the Great Society, in this case known as the “New Frontier”. Some proposals were quite controversial like an accelerated public works program and an increased minimum wage while others like college aid and educational TV got far more consensus. President Kennedy rather unusually took a stance on the organization of the legislative branch as Rules Committee Chairman Howard W. Smith of Virginia, who scored a 93% in this session, was against the liberal agenda of the Kennedy Administration. Foreign aid was passed on a bipartisan basis as usual and in this day and age it was possible for Democrats to score a 100% on the MC-Index, including Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who would in 1964 switch to Republican. The lowest scoring Republicans were Senator Jacob Javits of New York and Representative Seymour Halpern of Queens, New York, who got a mere 15%. With the exception of a single vote in the Senate, civil rights didn’t figure on the ideological scale in this session. The largest issue, the constitutional amendment banning the poll tax, doesn’t figure as a liberal/conservative issue. Neither the ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) nor the ACA (Americans for Constitutional Action) regarded it as a telling vote for ideology and neither do I.

The following legislators scored a 100%:


Smith, R-Calif., Hiestand, R-Calif., Lipscomb, R-Calif., Rousselot, R-Calif., Hoffman, R-Ill., Findley, R-Ill., Bruce, R-Ind., Waggonner, D-La., Johansen, R-Mich., Williams, D-Miss., Beermann, R-Neb., Ray, R-N.Y., Scherer, R-Ohio, Ashbrook, R-Ohio, and Alger, R-Tex.


Goldwater, R-Ariz., Thurmond, D-S.C., Bottum, R-S.D., Tower, R-Tex., Byrd, D-Va., and Robertson, D-Va.

Click on the first link below for the grades of Congress and the second link below for descriptions of the 54 votes, 27 for the House and 27 for the Senate, that were used as the basis for these ratings.

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