|America's independent, non-partisan advocate for overburdened taxpayers.||Home | Donate | RSS | Log in|
Congress's Fiscal Ratings Drop Closer to All-Time Low, Nonpartisan Scorecard from Nation's Largest Taxpayer Group Shows
For Immediate Release April 8, 2008
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700
(Alexandria, Va.) -- The multi-year decline of lawmakers' pro-taxpayers scores under Republican control of the House of Representatives and Senate entered a nosedive in 2007 with a new Democratic majority, according to the National Taxpayers Union's (NTU) 29th annual Rating of Congress. The scorecard, the only one to utilize every roll call vote affecting tax, spending, and regulatory issues, was based on a record 609 votes -- 427 in the House and 182 in the Senate.
"Despite campaign-trail promises from many Members of Congress to put Washington on a stricter diet, our 2007 Rating shows that, by and large, the only things shrinking on Capitol Hill are lawmakers' pro-taxpayer scores," NTU President Duane Parde said. "Overburdened taxpayers looking for an end to 'earmarked' spending, an extension of President Bush's tax cuts, and an honest entitlement reform plan won?t like what they see in Congress's performance so far."
Between 2006 and 2007, the average "Taxpayer Score" in the House fell from 39 percent to 35 percent. The Senate's average plummeted by 11 points, from 48 percent to 37 percent. This spiral takes scores closer to the all-time low (in 1988) of 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.
Even though 2007's overall results were not the worst in the Rating's history, several other dubious records were achieved last year, including the lowest score ever (1 percent) and the largest number of single-digit scores (over 200 in the House and Senate). The latter result produced the lowest median scores (not averages) in the history of the Rating, and reflects tremendous political polarization between fiscally liberal lawmakers and the rest of Congress.
In 2007, only 52 lawmakers attained scores sufficient for a heavily "curved" grade of "A" (at least 85 percent in the House and 80 percent in the Senate) and hence were eligible for the "Taxpayers' Friend Award" -- a drop from the 61 who earned top grades in 2006. Meanwhile, 266 Senators and Representatives captured the title of "Big Spender" for posting "F" grades (again, heavily curved at 16 percent or less in the House and 14 percent or less in the Senate) -- a significant jump from the 224 biggest spenders in 2006.
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 procedural votes that could affect the burden on taxpayers. For this reason, it has received praise from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including former 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.
For the fifth consecutive year, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was the top scorer in the House with a 96 percent rating -- bringing him one year closer to Rep. Ron Paul's (R-TX) record of six first-place finishes from 1979 to 1984. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) captured first place in the Senate for the second year in a row with a 93 percent rating. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) received the worst score in the Rating's nearly 30-year history: 1 percent. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) was the biggest spender in the Senate with a 3 percent rating.
The NTU scorecard can also be used to show which Democratic and Republican Members of Congress fell the furthest in their relative ranking from 2006 to 2007. Among Democrats, they are Rep. William Jefferson (LA), who dropped 156 slots in the House ranking, and Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY), who declined 30 steps in Senate rank. Rep. Tom Petri (WI) slipped the most among GOP House Members (75 places) while Sen. John Sununu (NH) lost 20 steps in Senate Republican rank. In 2005, Sununu was the upper chamber's top scorer.
The Rating likewise provided clues to how Republicans, now in the minority, responded to their 2006 drubbing at the polls. House GOP Members seemed to have taken the election results as a referendum on their declining fiscal discipline, as the average pro-taxpayer score rose nine points to 69 percent. Senate Republicans, however, didn't seem to get the same memo. Their average fell nine points to 66 percent in 2007. Democrats in both chambers saw drops in average scores: 16 percent to 6 percent in the House and 15 percent to 8 percent in the Senate.
Presidential candidates Sens. Clinton and Barack Obama (D-IL) saw significant decreases in their pro-taxpayer scores between 2006 and 2007: 17 percent to 3 percent and 16 percent to 5 percent, respectively. In 2007, however, scores for both Senators were based on less than three-fourths of the weighted total of votes cast. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), was not issued a score this year because he voted on less than half of the weighted total of votes cast. In 2006, he earned a score of 88 percent.
Among state delegations, South Carolina Senators turned in the highest average score (87 percent) while Idaho topped out in the House at 69 percent. On the other end of the scale, Hawaii posted the worst averages for both chambers, at 3 percent in the Senate and 4 percent in the House. No other state's delegations have ended up in the cellar on the NTU Rating as many times as Hawaii.
"Based on the latest NTU Rating results, the 110th Congress as a whole seems intent on moving the cause of taxpayers back 20 years, to a point when lawmakers voted barely one-fourth of the time to reduce or control the size of government," Parde concluded. "The burden of taxes and deficit spending is too heavy on our economy and our families, a plight that Washington should stop making worse with careless fiscal policy."
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 2007 Rating and a searchable Rating database from 1992 to 2007 is available at www.ntu.org.