Study Tracks Record Breakdown in Congress's Fiscal Discipline; No Lawmakers Had Net Voting Records to Reduce Spending Last Year

(Alexandria, VA) -- For every hour the 108th Congress was in session, the Senate and House of Representatives each voted to raise federal spending by roughly $200 million -- just one of many startling findings in the latest VoteTally report issued today by National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF).

"The 'get-tough' on deficits rhetoric from Presidential candidates last year could have given Congress at least a measure of political cover to cut spending and put the country back on the path to fiscal stability," said NTUF Director of Congressional Analysis and VoteTally project leader Jeff Dircksen. "Unfortunately lawmakers wasted this chance to address an ever-expanding federal government."

Since 1994 NTUF's VoteTally cost accounting system has examined the entirety of Congress's spending decisions -- including votes on failed bills, vetoed measures, and acquiescence to "mandatory" (such as entitlement) spending growth. Among the highlights of the report, based on 659 House and Senate votes:
  • The average Senator voted for $471.0 billion in annual non-entitlement spending during the 108th Congress (2003-2004), an 83 percent increase over the 107th Congress (2001-2002). House Members supported, on average, a yearly expenditure boost of $386.9 billion -- a 101 percent jump compared to the same period in the previous Congress.
  • VoteTally totals were nearly identical for Democrats ($397.0 billion) and Republicans ($378.1 billion) in the House, although party differences were somewhat greater in the Senate ($599.3 billion for Democrats versus $353.3 billion for Republicans).
  • The House and Senate considered a total of just 39 spending reductions in 2003-2004, worth a combined savings of $63.3 billion. Just five of the amendments were adopted, for a potential cut of $5.04 billion. Excluding the Senate's decision to convert part of Iraq's reconstruction aid to a loan would cause the savings to shrink to a barely-perceptible $41 million.
  • The phrases "fiscally responsible," "fiscal discipline," "fiscal responsibility," "fiscal irresponsibility," and "fiscally irresponsible" appeared 2,740 times in the 2003-2004 Congressional Record, an increase of nearly 53 percent compared to the 107th Congress. Yet, for the fourth year running, no one in Congress had a net voting record that would actually have cut overall federal discretionary spending -- down from a high of 512 Members in 1996.
  • The House and Senate were in session for 1,893 hours and 2,485 hours, respectively, during the 108th Congress. Based on VoteTally agenda averages for their chambers, House Members voted for $204 million in spending hikes each hour they met, while Senators voted to spend at an equivalent rate of $190 million per hour.

"By failing to bring down expenditures, elected officials are putting taxpayers on the road to higher taxes and lower economic growth in the future," Dircksen concluded. "Neither the 109th Congress nor the American people can afford more missed opportunities for spending discipline."

NTUF is the non-partisan research arm of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union. Note: The report, Closed Doors and Closed Minds: The 108th Congress's Missed Opportunities to Cut Federal Spending, featuring individual VoteTally totals, is available at