In case you missed it, last week NTUF released its BillTally report for the 1st Session of the 112th Congress.
If you're not familiar with BillTally, here's a little background: Since 1991, NTUF has computed the legislative spending agendas of Members of Congress by analyzing the costs – and savings – of the bills that they sponsor and cosponsor as part of our BillTally research project. BillTally is the only comprehensive look at the potential cost to taxpayers of what Members want to spend on a Member-by-Member basis. If you're curious about what proposals your Members of Congress have made, you can search detailed reports for each Member of Congress here.
This week, we'll be blogging some excerpts from the report as well as some of the data highlights from our research. Today, we start with an excerpt from the report that looks at the House caucuses compare with one another.
Once elected to Congress, a Representative has the option to join any of several Member caucuses that organize around a particular issue area or political philosophy. In these caucuses, Members can share ideas and coordinate strategies to promote or oppose particular legislation. Such caucuses are more prevalent in the House. Two long-standing caucuses, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) and the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition (BDC), both espouse fiscal discipline for their respective parties. The RSC states that it is dedicated to “a limited and Constitutional role for the federal government.” On its website, the BDC states that its members are “dedicated to the financial stability … of the United States” and have a “commitment to fiscal responsibility.” A related third caucus, the Republican Main Street Partnership (RMSP) was founded to “promote thoughtful leadership in the Republican Party and to develop and advocate for pragmatic common sense solutions to the challenges our country faces.” The Partnership’s mission page states that its Members are “main stream fiscally conservative elected officials.” These groups have been joined by the newer Tea Party Caucus that “stands for the fundamental principles of fiscal responsibility, limited government and strict adherence to the Constitution.”
Table 5. Average Spending Agendas by Caucuses and
Number of Increase Bills
Number of Cut Bills
Republican Study Committee
Republican Main Street Partnership
Tea Party Caucus
Blue Dog Democrats
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Congressional Black Caucus
It is the Members of this newer Tea Party Caucus who are leading the way in the quest to cut spending. The typical TPC Member would reduce outlays by $174.5 billion, surpassing the cuts called for by the Members of the RSC who proposed reductions of $163.9 billion. The relatively “moderate” membership of the RMSP authored a net agenda to cut the budget by $66.7 billion.
These three caucuses would be outspent by the average Blue Dog. A disproportionate share of the Democratic incumbents who lost their seats last November consisted of Members of the BDC. The Coalition had 56 Members in the last Congress, 48 of whom ran for re-election. Of these, 22 were defeated. There are now 24 Blue Dogs in the current Congress. The average Member of the Democratic caucus claiming the mantle of “fiscal discipline” called for net budgetary hikes of $65.6 billion – a level nearly eight times lower than the net agenda of the average Democrat.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), which claims to be the largest caucus within the general Democratic Caucus, is a group that makes no claim to “fiscal discipline” but instead favors “economic justice.” The average Member of the CPC sponsored 54 bills to increase spending and two bills to cut spending, for a net agenda of $950.5 billion. This caucus was outspent by those in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), whose average net agenda would lead to budget increases of $1.05 trillion. Thirty Representatives were members of both of these caucuses, but the higher net agenda is attributable to the greater proportion of CBC members who sponsored universal health care than those in the CPC (81.4 percent versus 73.3 percent). This is the first year in recent times that a Republican has joined the Democrats in the CBC; however, not even Florida Representative Allen West’s net agenda to cut outlays by $165.9 billion was sufficient to bring the CBC’s overall total below a trillion dollars.
Last December, an NTUF commentary speculated over whether the loss of so many Democrats in the BDC to candidates pledging to work for even more fiscal restraint would spur the remaining fiscally- conservative Democrats to support additional spending cuts. Thus far the Blue Dogs have not shown signs of doing so, advocating an average of $2.0 billion in cuts from the $3.8 trillion federal budget. In the course of the 111th Congress, the average Member of the BDC had called for $39.2 billion in spending reductions. In this Congress, the Members of the Progressive and Black Caucuses have actually backed more spending cuts, due largely to support for legislation to roll back defense spending to 2008 levels.