published Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of the Nashville area given conservative tag


by Chris Carroll

WASHINGTON — Up for re-election last year, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann campaigned as "a proven conservative."

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais pushed his "conservative approach to solving our country's problems."

And U.S. Rep. John "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. made news this week when he said he may oppose an anti-domestic violence bill because of its price tag.

But who is the only Tennessee Republican to crack a widely-read rundown of the Top 25 House conservatives?

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of the Nashville suburbs.

For the last 30 years, the Washington-based National Journal has annually named the most liberal and conservative in Congress, announcing the Top 25 before ranking all members. Short lists emerged Tuesday, and Blackburn captured the No. 3 spot in the House.

National Journal compares members with one another on an ideological scale, categorizing votes as economic, foreign or social. The list is based on votes taken last year.

National Journal admits imperfections in its methodology.

"It's beyond the capacity of a vote ratings system to determine why a member voted the way he or she did on any particular piece of legislation."

"Unlike interest groups that rate lawmakers, National Journal does not attempt to say how members should have voted," an accompanying article stated. "Our goal is to describe how they voted in comparison with one another."

A six-termer from Brentwood, Blackburn recently made national headlines for unsuccessfully challenging President Barack Obama to a skeet-shooting contest. Also this year, her office said she introduced the "first pro-life bill in the House" -- legislation that would limit federal funding for family planning and abortions.

On the other side, U.S. Rep. John Lewis was the only Southerner named to the Top 25 most-liberal list, tying for first with 13 others. The Atlanta Democrat is known for his formidable political reputation and a lifetime of civil rights advocacy.

In last year's elections, Fleischmann, an Ooltewah resident, defeated two popular primary challengers before sailing to victory over a little-known Democrat.

DesJarlais, of Jasper, battled personal issues but handily won re-election. And longtime Knoxville congressman Duncan encountered no serious opposition last year, but faced scrutiny Tuesday from the Huffington Post after the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported he's considering opposing the Violence Against Women Act because of its cost.

The publication named former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., most conservative. As a Senate candidate, Akin made waves last year by saying women's bodies have a mechanism to prevent pregnancies resulting from rape.

The full National Journal list will be released Thursday.

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