For the first time ever, two sitting senators are running head to head as the major party candidates for President. This gives us a unique opportunity to look at the legislative records of the candidates – John McCain (R-AZ) and Barack Obama (D-IL) – to find solid clues about their governing styles and policy priorities beyond what gets said on the campaign trail. Here’s a bird-eye-view look at how the Obama and McCain’s legislative records stack up.

For this post, I’m considering Obama and McCain’s legislative records in the current session of Congress (110th) and the previous session (109th). These are the two sessions of Congress that both candidates were in the Senate, and it happens to give a nice balance to the comparison – in the 109th Congress, Republicans held the majority, giving McCain a legislative edge; in the 110th, Democrats held the majority, giving the edge to Obama. It should also be noted that the Republican-controlled 109th was Obama’s first session as a U.S. senator, so he had a lot of catching up to do. Also, both McCain and Obama were on the campaign trail for a large part of the Democrat-controlled 110th session, so both of their records are somewhat thinner in the 110th.

Grand Totals:

Stand-alone Bills Passed Into Law:

McCain – 3
Obama – 1

Bills Sponsored in the Senate:

McCain – 97
Obama – 137

Sponsored Amendments Passed Into Law:

McCain – 10
Obama – 15

Simple Resolutions Passed (these don’t have the force of law; they express the “sense of the Senate,” etc.):

McCain – 6
Obama – 6

McCain’s Stand-alone Bills Passed Into Law:

S.161 – Northern Arizona Land Exchange and Verde River Basin Partnership Act of 2005

A bill to provide for a land exchange in the State of Arizona between the Secretary of Agriculture and Yavapai Ranch Limited Partnership.

S.1481 – Indian Land Probate Reform Technical Corrections Act of 2005

A bill to amend the Indian Land Consolidation Act to provide for probate reform.

S.2464 – Fort McDowell Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Revision Act of 2006

A bill to revise a provision relating to a repayment obligation of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation under the Fort McDowell Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act of 1990, and for other purposes.

Obama’s Stand-alone Bills Passed Into Law:

S.2125 – Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2005

A bill to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

McCain’s Amendments in the 109th that Became Law:

(Notes on amendment data: Some of these amendments were added onto bills that did not become law, but were eventually adopted into other bills that did. Also, there is no way for me to provide links to a primary source for amendments from the 109th Congress. THOMAS, the Library of Congress’s website that has all this information, recently created a new system for permalinking legislative info (thanks, LOC and OHP!), but they haven’t integrated it yet with info from previous sessions.)

S.AMDT.1151 to H.R.2360 – To specify how certain vehicles are to be deployed to enhance border security.

S.AMDT.1438 to S.1042 – To redesignate the Naval Reserve as the Navy Reserve.

S.AMDT.1555 to S.1042 – To regulate management contracts, require an Analysis of Alternatives for major acquisition of the Department of Defense and impose additional limitations on certain leases and charters.

S.AMDT.1707 to H.R.2862 – To express the sense of the Senate regarding funding directives contained in H.R. 2862 or its accompanying report.

S.AMDT.1785 to H.R.2744 – To express the sense of the Senate regarding funding directives contained in H.R. 2744 or its accompanying report.

S.AMDT.1977 to H.R.2863 – Relating to persons under the detention, custody, or control of the United States Government.

S.AMDT.1978 to H.R.2863 – To prohibit the use of funds to pay salaries and expenses and other costs associated with reimbursing the Government of Uzbekistan for services rendered to the United States at Karshi-Khanabad airbase in Uzbekistan.

McCain’s Amendments in the 110th that Became law:

S.AMDT.19 to S.1 – To include a reporting requirement.

S.AMDT.3090 to H.R.1585 – To enhance the computation of years of service for purposes of retired pay for non-regular service.

S.AMDT.3103 to H.R.1585 – To require a pilot program on commercial fee-for-service air refueling support for the Air Force.

Obama’s Amendments in the 109th that Became Law:

S.AMDT.390 to H.R.1268 – To provide meal and telephone benefits for members of the Armed Forces who are recuperating from injuries incurred on active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

S.AMDT.670 to H.R.3 – To provide for Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) refueling capability at new and existing refueling station facilities to promote energy security and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

S.AMDT.808 to H.R.6 – To establish a program to develop Fischer-Tropsch transportation fuels from Illinois basin coal.

S.AMDT.851 to H.R.6 – To require the Secretary to establish a Joint Flexible Fuel/Hybrid Vehicle Commercialization Initiative, and for other purposes.

S.AMDT.1061 to H.R.2361 – To provide that none of the funds made available in this Act may be used in contravention of 15 U.S.C. section 2682©(3) or to delay the implementation of that section.

S.AMDT.1264 to H.R.3057 – To support a United States contribution to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

S.AMDT.1362 to S.1042 – To require a report on the Department of Defense Composite Health Care System II.

S.AMDT.1453 to S.1042 – To ensure the protection of military and civilian personnel in the Department of Defense from an influenza pandemic, including an avian influenza pandemic.

S.AMDT.2301 to H.R.3010 – To increase funds to the Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity Program and to the Office of Special Education Programs of the Department of Education for the purposes of expanding positive behavioral interventions and supports.

Obama’s Amendments in the 110th that Became Law:

S.AMDT.41 to S.1 – To require lobbyists to disclose the candidates, leadership PACs, or political parties for whom they collect or arrange contributions, and the aggregate amount of the contributions collected or arranged.

S.AMDT.905 to S.761 – To require the Director of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education to establish a program to recruit and provide mentors for women and underrepresented minorities who are interested in careers in mathematics, science, and engineering.

S.AMDT.923 to S.761 – To expand the pipeline of individuals entering the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields to support United States innovation and competitiveness.

S.AMDT.924 to S.761 – To establish summer term education programs.

S.AMDT.3073 to H.R.1585 – To provide for transparency and accountability in military and security contracting.

S.AMDT.3078 to H.R.1585 – Relating to administrative separations of members of the Armed Forces for personality disorder.

For sure, both Obama and McCain have more legislative accomplishments in the 109th and 110th Congress than what I have listed here. Both have been leading co-sponsors of major pieces of legislation (the Lugar-Obama Non-Proliferation Act comes to mind), and I will be dealing with those in future posts. For this post I wanted to stick with objectively verifiable measurements (bills and amendments can only have one primary sponsor) rather than get into speculating on how much work they put into bills that they have co-sponsored. Subscribe to our RSS feed to make sure you get all our future posts regarding the Obama and McCain’s records in the Senate.

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