Below we use Optimal Classification (OC) in R to plot the Senate’s vote on an amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) which would allow religious institutions to opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees. A measure to table the Blunt Amendment passed in a largely party-line 51-48 vote. The Senate’s vote is the latest development in the debate over requiring religious institutions to include contraception coverage in their health insurance policies, a policy which could produce important electoral and social consequences.
As seen in the plot produced by OC, the vote was primarily one-dimensional, illustrating the extent to which social issues have collapsed onto the primary liberal-conservative (first dimension) axis of political conflict in Congress. The disappearance of conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans and intra-party regional divides in Congress means that voting on social/cultural issues is now essentially party-line and ideological. Indeed, only four Senators broke with their party on the vote to table the Blunt Amendment: retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted “Yea” and three Democrats — Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) — voted “Nay.”