WASHINGTON — He ran for president last year as a “maverick” Republican and had a high-profile meeting with Barack Obama after the election, but Arizona Sen. John McCain has been a staunch Republican vote since failing to win the White House.
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In fact, McCain is siding with his party this year on closely divided votes with greater frequency than at any other period in his 23-year Senate career, according to a CQ analysis of Senate votes.
On votes that pitted most Democrats against most Republicans, McCain has sided with the consensus GOP position 95.4 percent of the time, a CQ-defined “party unity” score that would be the highest of his Senate career if it holds up for the remainder of the year. He had a 95.2 percent party unity score in 1996, when Republicans held the Senate majority at the end of President Bill Clinton’s first term.
McCain’s year-to-date 2009 party unity score is the 14th highest among the 40 Republican senators. It’s even higher than that of the Senate’s top two Republicans, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (94.0 percent) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl , also of Arizona (94.5 percent).
McCain has participated in 196 of 199 Senate party unity votes, siding with the majority Republican position on all but nine of those votes. Like most Republicans, McCain voted “no” on the economic stimulus law and on Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
McCain led the Republican charge against numerous Democratic proposals this Congress, often acting as the lead sponsor of amendments outlining a Republican alternative. That was the case March 2, when the Senate by a vote of 32-63 rejected McCain’s substitute amendment to the fiscal 2009 omnibus appropriations act and again on April 2, when the Senate rejected McCain’s substitute to the fiscal 2010 budget resolution by a 38-60 vote.
Three of the nine votes on which McCain broke party ranks came Obama nominations for top Justice Department posts. Unlike most Republicans, McCain voted to confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general, David W. Ogden as deputy attorney general and Thomas Perrelli as associate attorney general.
McCain in years past was more likely to buck his party and side with Democrats.
In 2001, the year after he lost the Republican presidential nomination to George W. Bush , McCain’s 67 percent party unity score was among the lowest in the Senate GOP Conference.
In May of that year, after Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords left the Republican Party and became an independent, McConnell said that McCain “has positioned himself increasingly to the left.”
— Kathleen Hunter contributed to this story.
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