As members of the 118th Congress approach the one-year mark in January, the newest members of the House and Senate have been busy. Top among them is George Santos (R-NY-3), the lawmaker who reportedly fabricated many details of his background before the election and is now under federal indictment. He introduced more bills than any other freshman legislator.
The 84 Congressional freshmen, which we define as lawmakers new to either chamber, cast hundreds of votes. They introduced more than 550 pieces of legislation. Fifteen have passed at least one through committee. Nine House members have even seen bills they sponsored pass in the chamber, though none have yet seen one signed into law.
Watching how freshmen perform has long been a spectator sport in Washington, and it can be entertaining. But there is a practical side to this exercise, too. Public affairs teams that cultivate relationships in Congress are well served by studying how new lawmakers operate. Knowing who works in a bipartisan fashion, who writes bills and leans into cosponsorship, and who shows up for votes can be helpful information when campaigning for or against a piece of legislation.
The following are some of the highlights of the freshmen class, according to Quorum data covering the roughly eight months between January, when the 118th Congress was sworn in, and Sept. 20th.
Santos Sponsored 30 Bills, But Only One Was Co-Sponsored
It is one thing to introduce legislation but another to marshall support and see it pass. Most freshman lawmakers introduced a few pieces of legislation; they averaged about seven bills each. But some did far more.
Santos, who faces a 13-count federal indictment on charges of money laundering and lying to Congress, led the pack with 32 bills. But only one of those bills attracted a single cosponsor. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-9) was the sole person to join a Santos bill, in this case, the Defund the CCP on Campus Act of 2023, which would prohibit the availability of federal funds to institutions of higher education that fund Confucius Institutes. Santos’ other bills included legislation directing the president to sanction China; directing the Secretary of State to study the Chinese Communist Party’s role in fentanyl distribution; and prohibiting federal funds from flowing to the World Health Organization pending an investigation into ties with China. Other bills varied, addressing everything from women’s rights to the meat industry.
Of course, not all members of the freshman class have sponsored legislation. Two lawmakers did not, as of September 20th: Reps. Valerie Foushee (D-NC-4) and Jonathan Jackson (D-IL-1).
Nearly all the Representatives who saw a bill they sponsored pass the House are Republicans because the party has controlled the chamber since January. They are Reps. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ-6), Mike Collins (R-GA-10); Monica De La Cruz (R-TX-15); Russell Fry (R-SC-7); John James (R-MI-10); Lawler (R-NY-17); Laurel Lee (R-FL-15); Max Miller (R-OH-7); and Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19).
One Democrat got a bill out of the House — Rep. Morgan McGarvey (D-KY-3). McGarvey’s bill, the Isakson-Roe Education Oversight Expansion Act, passed the House with 410 yeas, zero nays, and 22 absences. If enacted, the bill would amend the United States Code to improve methods by which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs conducts oversight of certain educational institutions.
Rep. Eli Crane Co-Sponsored the Most Bills
Together, the 84 Congressional freshmen co-sponsored more than 10,000 pieces of legislation. They averaged 119 co-sponsorships each, and those who led the list lent their support (or at least their name) to hundreds of bills.
The top five included Reps. Eli Crane (R-AZ-2) at 599; Jill Tokuda (D-HI-2) at 418; Lawler (R-NY-17) at 386; and Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-0) at 301. Sen. Welch (D-VT), was fifth and the highest in the Senate at 259.
Who co-sponsored the fewest bills? That was Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA-10) at 32.
Rep. Jeff Jackson Cosponsors the Most Bills Across the Aisle
There are many ways to gauge how willing lawmakers are to work with members of the opposite party, from the rhetoric they deliver to the groups they join. But one concrete indicator is whether they are willing to co-sponsor bills with the opposition.
By that measure, Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC-14) was the most bipartisan member of the freshman class, co-sponsoring bills with Republicans more than 67% of the time. Only three others exceeded 50%: Rep. Don Davis (D-NC-1) at 58%; Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) at 57%; and Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-3) at 50.5%.
Of course, Democrats are more likely to co-sponsor bills with the opposition because Republicans hold the majority in the House. Among the Republicans who were most willing to work across the aisle, Molinaro leads the list followed by Reps. Zach Nunn (R-IA-3) at 41%; Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR-5) at 38%; Lawler (R-NY-17) at 38%; and Del. Jim Moylan (R-GU-1) at 37%
The least bipartisan members of the class? Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ-2) cosponsored bills with Democrats 1% of the time and Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO-70) had 1.1% on Democratic bills.
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez Votes Against Her Party Most Often
Another measure of partisan leaning is how often lawmakers vote with and against their party. The truth is that it is difficult for most lawmakers—and particularly freshmen—to vote against their party. It can bring about clashes with party leadership and political trouble back home.
But it does happen as lawmakers cast votes on everything from post office namings to policies on immigration and gun control. Perhaps not surprisingly, several of those most willing to buck their party were also on the list of those most willing to co-sponsor legislation with members of the opposition.
The House freshman who most often opposed her party was Gluesenkamp Perez, who opposed Democrats almost 19% of the time. Also in the top five were Reps. Davis at just above 17%; Crane at 14%; Josh Brecheen (R-OK-2) at about 13%; and Eric Burlison (R-MO-7) at 11%.
In the Senate, Sen Eric Schmitt (R-MO) led the list AT 12.5%, followed by Sens. J.D. Vance (R-OH) at 12%, and Pete Ricketts (R-NE) at 7%.
The lawmakers who voted most often with their party were led by Rep. Morgan McGarvey (D-KY-3) and Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC-4), who supported their party over 99% of the time. Others in the top five, all of whom were above 98%, included Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-MD-4); Rep. Laurel Lee (R-FL-15); and Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-VA-4).
Rep. Wesley Hunt and Sen. John Fetterman Missed the Most Votes in Their Respective Chambers
Lawmakers cast hundreds of votes over the year, and it can be difficult to attend every single one. But some freshmen are better at it than others.
The House freshman who missed the most votes was Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX-38), who was absent nearly 23% of the time. Others in the top five were Reps. Brandon Williams (R-NY-22) at more than 15%; Don Davis (D-NC-1) at about 10%; Kevin Mullin (D-CA-15) at 9%, and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL-23) at 7%. Hunt made headlines on his voting presence (and lack thereof) before even being officially sworn in, having missed rounds of the heated speaker vote in January to be with his newborn premature son. Hunt flew back to DC to help push McCarthy over the edge in the 15th vote.
In the Senate, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) led the list at 36%, unsurprising with his time away from the Senate to take care of his mental health. All other freshman senators missed less than 4% of the votes.
There are also those who have maintained perfect attendance—in fact, there were 13 of them, all members of the House. No freshman members of the Senate had perfect attendance, but Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) came close. She missed only .4% of the votes.