Other than turning the lens on me, I haven’t done a veridiction (my made-up name for the exercise of verifying predictions) post since June of this year.
In that month, a politician made a prediction and now the time has come to see how it panned it out.
Two months ago, Congressman Darrell Issa (R, CA), the chairperson of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman and the Representative leading the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious had this to say when asked about an upcoming vote of against Attorney General Eric Holder for being in contempt of Congress…
I believe they will (vote to hold him in contempt),…[b]oth Republicans and Democrats will vote that — I believe it will be bipartisan.
Before we delve into what the vote actually was, a definition needs to be hammered out.
What exactly does “bipartisan” mean?
It’s a word that is bandied about in political discourse (such as here and here and here for examples) but is it tossed about so much that it is essentially meaningless?
My apologies for falling back on a cliché, but if I want to discover what the definition of a word means then I have to go to the dictionary.
TheFreeDictionary.com defines the word as Of, consisting of, or supported by members of two parties, especially two major political parties;
Merriam-Webster says the word is of, relating to, or involving members of two parties;
The Oxford Dictionary defines bipartisan as of or involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies
The first two definitions above define something as bipartisan when members of two parties support that thing. Since there is no modifying word to describe how many people of each party must support the thing, it can be assumed that as long as more than zero members of both parties support something, it is therefore bipartisan.
Using this broad definition, then Representative Issa’s predication came true as both Democrats and Republicans voted to find the Attorney General in contempt (Roll Call Vote 441) on June 28.
However, it should be pointed out that the number of GOP members who voted AYE was 238 while only 17 Democrats voted in the affirmative. If it can be stated that any legislation is bipartisan that has more than zero members from each party voting in favor of such a bill then any Democratic-sponsored bill that earns at least one Republican vote can be labelled as such. With that as a definition, then the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (S 181) can be classified as bipartisan as only a trio of Republicans voted for it (Roll Call Vote 037).
If a more nuanced definition of bipartisan is to be used, then Representative Issa’s prediction comes up short. The definition above provided by The Oxford Dictionary states that something that is bipartisan involves the agreement or cooperation of both parties. Since it is silly to say that a political party is in agreement or is cooperating if a sole, lone member supports the opposing party, then where should the cut-off be? What percentage of the membership does it take to cross the aisle for a measure to be considered bipartisan? 25? 45? 75?
For my money, my cut-off mark would be fifty-percent-plus-one. If a majority of the members of a political party vote with the opposition to support a measure, then it is bipartisan.
By that standard I set, Representative Issa’s prediction did not come true as only 8.9% (17 out of the available 191) of Democrats voted with the GOP.
By Issa’s standard (he uses the modifying clause “…Republicans and Democrats will vote that…” in his quote), he was correct as more than zero Democrats voted with his party.
Like the concept of bipartisanship itself, Issa’s success or failure with this prediction depends on what standard you wish to use.
Read Full Post »