When National Journal announced this week that Sen. James Risch of Idaho was the No. 1 most-conservative member of the U.S. Senate, it prompted widespread emotions. Namely, confusion.

“Who is James Risch?” many asked, including Glenn.

It came as a shock to many that other Senators like Rand Paul or Mike Lee weren’t at the top of the list. That’s because it all comes down to how you define conservative.

In another list published this week, the American Conservative Union takes a very different take, putting Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio at the top of their own list, which includes 40 House and Senate Republicans.

In the Senate, Rubio and Paul, who are both seen as possible 2016 presidential contenders, were awarded the Defenders of Liberty designation, receiving a “perfect 100 percent” score on their voting records, Politico reports.

They were joined by Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; and former Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

Thirty-four House members were deemed Defenders of Liberty, among them Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; and Tom Price, R-Ga.

The ACU rates lawmakers on a variety of votes related to fiscal, foreign, and social policies, among other issues.

Key votes this year included the Keystone pipeline, tax cuts, defense spending, and spending oversight.

Red State’s Erick Erickson was not amused:

So you will be as surprised as I was to find that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader with a history of undermining conservatives in the Senate, has a 100% score for 2012 — higher, in fact, that either Jim DeMint or Tom Coburn.

I had to laugh. …

I guess if ACU wants to ignore that Mitch McConnell

  • voted to keep the Essential Air Service program that conservatives annually ridicule as a waste;
  • voted to continue federal student loan subsidization at a ridiculously low rate;
  • voted for a massive highway increase;
  • voted several times in favor of parliamentary changes in the Senate that undermine conservatives' abilities to stop bad legislation;
  • voted for the debt ceiling increase;
  • voted to keep market distorting energy tax credits and subsidies;
  • voted to let a $41 billion bailout of the post office go to the floor of the Senate; and
  • voted for a host of temporary spending measures designed to kick the can down the road to no end

then I guess you might could possibly consider Mitch McConnell more of a conservative than either Jim DeMint or even Tom Coburn.