Roll Call report: TN leads all states in gaining national political clout

Start of an article in Roll Call:

No state in this decade has seen a more meaningful boost than Tennessee in institutionalized congressional influence.

Only eight states, all with much bigger delegations because they’re much more populous, have more overt sway at the Capitol this year. That is one of several notable findings from the new Roll Call Clout Index, which the newspaper uses to take a quantifiable measurement of every state’s potential for power at the start of each new Congress.

Another important development, which is widely understood by many on the Hill, gets tangible support from the new calculations: Texas has now attained almost as much stroke at the Capitol as California, even though having by far the biggest congressional contingent has led the Golden State to secure the clout crown without much contest each time Roll Call has run the numbers since 1990.

Just two years ago, Tennessee’s clout ranked 14th among the states, unremarkable because that is closely in line with its ranking as the 16th most populous state, with 6.6 million residents. And only six years ago, the 11-member delegation was punching well below its weight, coming in at No. 27 in the Clout Index.

What’s changed is that the state has done better and better, especially relative to other states its size, in the calculable things that contribute to a delegation’s overall leverage. In a Republican Congress, it makes a difference that both senators and seven of the nine House members are on the majority side. In an institution with plenty of recent turnover but where seniority still provides tangible benefits, it makes a difference that all but one of the Volunteer State’s lawmakers have been in office longer than six years.

And the partisan alignment and longevity has helped propel members of the delegation into positions that convey authority and power. Not only are both senators in their third years as chairmen of premier panels, Bob Corker at Foreign Relations and Lamar Alexander at Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, but also two House members have been handed committee gavels this winter: Diane Black at Budget and Phil Roe at Veterans Affairs.

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