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Rank and File

By Alyson Klein — November 03, 2006 1 min read
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College football teams have the Bowl Championship Series standings. Baseball players have their batting averages. And members of Congress have a list, compiled by Knowlegis, a Fairfax, Va.-based government-relations firm, that ranks them by the power they wield within the House or the Senate.

The “Power Rankings” are based on lawmakers’ seniority, their committee assignments, leadership positions, and the progress of bills they sponsored during the most recent session, among other criteria. The firm also weighs harder-to-quantify factors, such as how much “sizzle,” or star quality, a member has. Lawmakers can also lose ground for “fizzle” factors, such as being implicated in a scandal.

On this year’s list, compiled in advance of the Nov. 7 midterm elections, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, outscored the panel’s chairman, Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo. Mr. Kennedy came in 15th in overall power in the Senate, while Mr. Enzi was 23rd. That may seem surprising since Senate rules give committee chairmen much more control over hearings and legislation than their ranking minority members.

But Sen. Kennedy has far more years of service, an important asset in an institution that rewards seniority, said Brad Fitch, the chief executive at Knowlegis. Mr. Kennedy is in his seventh full term, while Sen. Enzi is only in his second. Moreover, while Mr. Enzi is seen as a quiet, low-key legislator, Mr. Kennedy has plenty of “sizzle,” thanks to his family name and his role as an elder statesman in his party, Mr. Fitch said.

Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, ranked below the panel’s chairman, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., in power within the House. Mr. Miller came in 65th, while Mr. McKeon placed 43rd in the rankings.

Still, Mr. Miller is not without some sizzle. He ranked higher among House Democrats than Mr. McKeon did within the GOP. Rep. Miller was rated the 17th most powerful out of 205 House Democrats, while Rep. McKeon emerged as only the 34th most powerful Republican out of 231.

That’s partly due to Rep. Miller’s close working relationship with the House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.

“He’s Nancy Pelosi’s right-hand man,” Mr. Fitch said.

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A version of this article appeared in the November 08, 2006 edition of Education Week

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