|America's independent, non-partisan advocate for overburdened taxpayers.||Home | Donate | RSS | Log in|
Congress's Fiscal Ratings Remain Mired in Mediocrity, Citizen Group's Non-Partisan Scorecard Shows
For Immediate Release February 22, 2007
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700
(Alexandria, VA) -- Despite some improvement in the Senate, last year the average Member of Congress couldn't even meet taxpayers halfway in voting to reduce or control the size of government -- that's the bottom line from the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union's (NTU's) Rating of Congress. The eagerly-anticipated 28th annual scorecard, the only one to utilize every roll call vote affecting tax, spending, and regulatory issues, is widely considered to be the most comprehensive measurement of each lawmaker's stance on fiscal policy.
"Even as most Senators were trying to crawl halfway out of Washington's cesspool of wasteful spending, the typical House Member simply continued to tread in murky waters," said NTU President John Berthoud. "As far as taxpayers are concerned, the next Congress will sink or swim based on how it tackles vital concerns like deficit spending, tax complexity, and regulatory overkill."
Between 2005 and 2006, the average pro-taxpayer score in the House of Representatives dropped slightly from 40 to 39 percent. Yet, this still makes the two-session mean for the 109th Congress the poorest in 15 years. The 102nd Congress (1991-92) posted an overall score of 39 percent, barely half a percentage point lower than the previous Congress when rounding is taken into account.
Senate averages, however, took a 4 point-jump, from 44 percent in 2005 to 48 percent last year. Nonetheless, 2006 is the ninth straight year in which the typical lawmaker in the upper chamber could not even post a score of at least 50 percent. The worst averages for the 25-year-plus history of the comprehensive NTU scorecard were recorded in 1988, when they plummeted to 27 percent and 28 percent, respectively, for the House and Senate. The highest marks were reached in 1995, when House and Senate averages were 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
Unlike those of other organizations, NTU's annual Rating does not simplistically focus on only a handful of equally-weighted "key votes." For this reason, it has received praise from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including former Senator (and "Golden Fleece Award" creator) William Proxmire (D-WI). The Rating is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy (199 House and 109 Senate votes for 2006), and assigns a "Taxpayer Score" to each Member of Congress that indicates his or her commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.
During 2006, 61 lawmakers attained Taxpayer Scores sufficient for a grade of "A" (at least 84 percent in the Senate and 70 percent in the House), and hence were eligible for the "Taxpayers' Friend Award" -- a significant jump from the 44 who earned top grades in 2005. Meanwhile, 224 Senators and Representatives captured the title of "Big Spender" for posting "F" grades in 2006 (versus 227 the year before). The Senate's 2006 "F" threshold was 24 percent or less, while the House's was 23 percent or less.
The top scorer in the House of Representatives was Arizona Republican Jeff Flake with a 92 percent rating. This is the fourth consecutive year Flake has captured the prize, a feat not exceeded in the House since Ron Paul (R-TX) racked up six first-place finishes in a row (1979-1984). South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint made his first appearance in the Senate's winner's circle, also at 92 percent. Bringing up the rear with the worst scores in the House and Senate were Dale Kildee (D-MI) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), with scores of 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Neither has ranked at the bottom before.
According to Berthoud, the 2006 Rating results strongly indicate that Republican lawmakers who changed their voting patterns (and earned lower pro-taxpayer scores) tended to fare worse at the polls than those who continued their records of supporting limited government. Just two of the 22 House GOP incumbents who lost their seats in 2006 were "Taxpayers' Friends," while the remainder posted an average score of 52 percent -- well below the overall GOP average of 60 percent.
"Despite progress on earmark reform and more transparency in the federal spending process last year, the 109th Congress mostly kept fiscal policy in neutral, through temporary tax-cut patches and status-quo budgeting," Berthoud concluded. "The new Congress will need to shift into a higher gear toward limited government, if lawmakers hope to earn better NTU ratings as well as respect from taxpayers."
The 350,000-member NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and more economic freedom at all levels. Note: The 2006 Rating, and a searchable Rating database from the years 1992-2006, are both available online at www.ntu.org.