Every state has representation in Congress, but some states have more influence on the national agenda than others. Virginia and Maryland are two of the most powerful states in the country according to this year's Roll Call clout index. David Hawkings, political columnist for Hawkings Here for Roll Call, talks about this year's index.
On what gives a state political clout: "That's often a very subjective measurement, but Roll Call, about 25 years ago, tried to give it some objective parameters. So we measure the size of every state's delegation, the number of chairmen and top minority committees, seats on the big committees, the number of members from each delegation, the amount of seniority that each member has in each delegation, and the amount of federal money that gets brought back to each state because of Congress."
On why Virginia dropped to sixth place in the clout index: "A drop from 6 to 5 isn't all that dramatic, but it is notable. Ten years ago, Virginia was eighth; 25 years ago, when we first did the roll call index, Virginia wasn't even in the top ten, so fifth was its all-time high point, sixth this year. The reason would by the per capita spending number... We go to the Census Bureau to get them to calculate how much money is returned by Congress to each state. That number dropped from second to fifth last year in the whole country. Two years ago, the last time we did this, more money was spent in Virginia than any other state except one. Now it's the fifth most. The other reason would be the low Senate seniority. Sens. Warner and Kaine — the two of them combined have less seniority in the Senate than any other delegation except two others."
On why Maryland dropped two spots from last year, and what made Maryland the ninth most powerful state in Congress this session: "[It's] the second smallest state in the top ten... definitely punching above its weight in the clout index. It also slipped a little bit in the per capita number. It used to be fourth in per capita spending, now down to tenth, still pretty good. It also still has the second-most seniority in the Senate, in contrast to Virginia. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin combined, have more years in the Senate than all but one or two other states."
On what a politically powerful state is able to do: "It's sort of around the margins these days. As you may remember, the Congress has affirmatively gotten rid of earmarking, so there's no more where a powerful member can go in and write into a bill in his or her home state or district. But around the margins, it still counts. If there's a choice between moving something between Maryland and West Virginia now, it's probably going to be Maryland. West Virginia has lost so much of its clout now that the famous Sen. Byrd as died."
Listen to the full analysis here.