Visualizing How Democratic Senators Voted on Trump’s Nominees (May 9, Update)

At the end of last week, the Senate concluded voting on President Trump’s first round of cabinet nominations. His initial Labor Secretary nominee, Andy Puzder, dropped out because he couldn’t suppress the interview of his ex-wife describing how he beat her up (Trump hires the best people). The Senate haven’t held hearings on his next nominee Alexander Acosta (another prize). The Senate held votes on 18 nominees. Among Republicans, Trump’s nominees received 99.5% of the Yes votes available in the chamber (a few missed votes). Democrats only voted to approve Trump’s choices 37.7% of the time.

Joe Manchin from West Virginia voted for the most nominees. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York approved of the fewest.

Support for nominee varied widely. Shulkin, Mattis, Haley, Chao, McMaster, and Kelly at Homeland Security got strong support. Devos, Price, and Mulvaney got no Democratic votes. Carson, Gottlieb, Tillerson, Verma, Gorsuch, Friedman, Pruitt, Mnuchin, and Sessions were widely opposed.

Looking beyond the percentages to see how the Democrats voted compared to each other to the correlations between senators, most voted with each other with Manchin as a clear outlier.

Looking at Senators who voted with each other most of the time (correlation coefficient >.8), clear groups emerge:

Three groups of senators emerge — 1) a conservative group supporting many of the same nominees (King, Tester, Warner, McCaskill), 2) a liberal group opposing similar nominees (Markey, Harris, Warren, Booker, Merkley, and Gillibrand), and 3) a large group of senators who vote similarly, just not with the first two groups. Reed and Whitehouse of Rhode Island stand out as senators who vote most with each other and less with other senators. The two senators most frequently mentioned as 2020 candidate for President — Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker — have not deviated from each other on Trump nominees.

Finally, many senators voted the exact same way on each nominee. The chart above tease them out. There are five different clusters, with the largest containing nine senators. Trump’s nominees divided the Democratic caucus but they allow us to see the different groups emerging. Advocates with limited time and staff should prioritize hitting 1–2 senators in each group to maximize reach.