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Citizen Group’s Nonpartisan Scorecard Finds More “Taxpayers’ Friends” but Many “Big Spenders” in Congress
For Immediate Release February 25, 2010
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700
(Alexandria, VA) – Although more lawmakers joined the ranks of "Taxpayers' Friends" for their voting records in 2009, the vast legion of "Big Spenders" who opted to grow government remained overwhelmingly large, according to the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union's (NTU) 31st annual Rating of Congress. The scorecard, the only one to utilize every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy, was based on 333 House and 227 Senate votes from the first session of the 111th Congress (all of 2009).
"Despite a few encouraging trends, the results from NTU's Rating vividly demonstrate why 2009 was such a fiscal disaster," said NTU President Duane Parde. "For every Member of Congress doing his or her best to relieve overburdened taxpayers, five other lawmakers were doing their worst."
Between 2008 and 2009, the average "Taxpayer Score" in the House rose from 36 percent to 38 percent. The Senate's average increased from 32 percent to 39 percent. The Senate had an all-time low of 28 percent in 1988 (the House hit bottom that same year, at 27 percent). The highest marks were reached in 1995, when House and Senate averages were 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
In 2009, 55 lawmakers attained scores sufficient for an "A" grade (earning at least a 90 percent in the House and the Senate) and hence were eligible for the "Taxpayers' Friend Award" – an increase from the 48 who earned top grades in 2008. Meanwhile, 267 Senators and Representatives captured the title of "Big Spender" for posting "F" grades (15 percent or less in the House and 16 percent or less in the Senate). This number is unchanged from the record 267 Big Spenders recorded in 2008.
For the seventh consecutive year, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was the top scorer in the House with a 99 percent rating – earning him the distinction of the greatest number of consecutive years as NTU's top scorer. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), always a top 10 finisher, captured the number one spot in his chamber for the first time. Coming in at a close second was Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), whose rounded score also added up to 97 percent but was still just two-tenths of a point behind Coburn's.
On the bottom of the scale, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) turned in the lowest House score, rounded to 1 percent. Unfortunately, he was not alone. Incredibly, a total of 21 other House Members had scores that were higher by fractions, but which still amounted to a mere 1 percent each when rounded. The same phenomenon occurred in the Senate, where Tom Harkin (D-IA) had the absolute worst score, at 4 percent (3.71 percent unrounded). Six of his colleagues (Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Kerry (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)) posted slightly higher scores that nonetheless rounded to 4 percent.
The improvement in overall averages can generally be attributed to the performances of Republican lawmakers. House GOP Members boosted their average score by 16 percentage points between 2008 and 2009; GOP Senators gained a huge 26-point jump in their average over the same period. Although Democrats had much lower averages, some within their party broke away from their leaders on a sufficient number of votes to earn significantly higher marks. A total of 10 House Democrats scored at least 30 percent enough to earn at least a "C-" grade . The top finishers were Reps. Bobby Bright (Al, 58 percent), Gene Taylor (MS, 54 percent), and Walt Minnick (ID, 51 percent). One Democratic Senator, Evan Bayh (IN), had a score (39 percent) high enough to place him into the "C-" category.
Unlike those of other organizations, NTU's annual Rating does not simplistically focus on a handful of equally weighted "key votes," but every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy – appropriations, authorization, and tax bills; budget target resolutions; amendments; and certain regulatory or procedural votes that could affect overburdened taxpayers. For this reason, NTU's Rating has received praise from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including the late Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI), creator of the "Golden Fleece Award." A Member of Congress's "Taxpayer Score" reflects his or her commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.
"Regardless of which party has controlled Congress over the last 31 years, NTU's Rating has recorded only two years in which both chambers managed to achieve an average pro-taxpayer score of more than 50 percent," Parde concluded. "This dismal past performance helps to explain why our present federal financial situation is so grave, and why lawmakers on both sides of the aisle must improve their scores to give taxpayers the prosperous future they deserve from their elected officials."
The 362,000-member NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: The 2009 Rating and a searchable Rating database dating back to 1992 is available at www.ntu.org.