The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that it will alter the system it has used to rate members of Congress to give credit for actions other than votes on legislation, such as showing "leadership" and being bipartisan.
Chamber President Tom Donohue said that the change was necessary because the level of dysfunction in Congress was sapping confidence for business and posing a threat to the growth of economy. Too much time in Washington is "governing by crisis," he said.
"We are fundamentally changing the way we measure lawmakers’ contribution to our economy, and we are revamping our congressional scorecard," he said in the trade association's annual "State of American Business" speech.
"We will give lawmakers credit for showing leadership on good legislation — even if it doesn’t pass or even come up for a vote," Donohue said. "And we’re going to take bipartisanship into account. Lawmakers should be rewarded for reaching across the aisle — not punished."
The chamber, like many trade associations and activist groups on both sides, rates lawmakers based on how friendly they are to its legislative agenda.
The chamber's scorecard is considered the main proxy for members of Congress' record on business issues and is widely cited by news organizations and lawmakers themselves.
Previously, the chamber's scorecard was limited to recorded votes by lawmakers. In the new system, a lawmaker's legislative votes would only account for 80 percent of their overall score.
Another 10 percent of the score would be based on whether they sponsored or co-sponsored chamber-backed legislation, even if it never received a recorded vote. The remaining 10 percent would be based on how often the lawmaker cosponsored a bill that was introduced by a member of the opposite party.
The new system is likely to shift many lawmakers' scores, since a lot of chamber-supported legislation never comes up for an official vote.
The change was necessary to deal with the changing nature of Congress, Donohue said, arguing that Washington’s "dysfunction, division, and incivility ... could be helped by rebuilding the political center and restoring responsible governing.”