Election 2014: Voters Choose Less Spending
With Election 2014 mostly in the books, it’s time for taxpayers to take stock of the agendas of the Senators-elect. In this special edition of The Taxpayer’s Tab, NTU Foundation crunched the numbers of the 36 seats that were in contention, either through a general or special election, on Tuesday in how they would change the federal budget after being sworn in next year.
The Senate shakeup was startling as Republicans gained a net of seven Members, giving them control of the upper chamber for the first time in eight years. Not since President George W. Bush was in office has a Republican majority leader gaveled the Senate into session.
Pundits and analysts across the county are offering their insights into how the GOP was able to pull off such an electoral victory but few are talking about how government spending could change with the shuffling of legislators. Many of the candidates, as you will read about below, ran on agendas to cut government spending, simplify the complex Tax Code, and reduce the burdens of regulation. Yet it is difficult to know just how public spending will change amidst the campaign rhetoric.
NTUF’s BillTally project, which scores nearly every introduced piece of legislation for changes in spending, and our in-depth candidate spending analyses offers objective insight into what these newly elected Senators plan to do with your tax dollars.
|Returning to the Senate|
A large portion of incumbent Senators won reelection on Tuesday, including 11 Democrats and 12 Republicans (races in Louisiana and Virginia remain undecided). All of the Republicans who will be returning to D.C. for the 114th Congress sponsored legislation that would, on net, reduce federal spending. The average annual cut among these agendas was $172.8 billion; Senator James Risch (R) of Idaho sponsored the largest decrease agenda, at $291.7 billion per year.
The other 11 Senators who were reelected all sponsored legislation that would increase federal outlays. On average, these increase agendas amounted to $25 billion per year in additional spending, with the largest net agenda belonging to Senator Chuck Schumer (D) of New York at $37.2 billion per year.
Interestingly, the incumbents who won reelection sponsored more cuts or increases than the typical member of their respective parties in the first session of the 113th Congress. The average agenda among reelected Republicans included deeper spending cuts than the average Senate Republican (-$159.1 billion per year). Among reelected Democrats, the average increase agenda was above that of all Senate Democrats ($18.3 billion per year).
|Proposed Spending Agendas of Disputed Senatorial Races in 2014|
|(dollars in billions)|
|Bill Cassidy||R||Louisiana 1||-$50.1|
|Mary Landrieu||D||Louisiana 1||$9.4|
|Ed Gillespie||R||Virginia 2||-$49.7|
|Mark Warner||D||Virginia 2||$1.1|
| || || || |
|1 There will be a runoff election in Louisiana on December 6.|
|2 The Virginia race remains too close to call and it is possible a recount will occur.|
|Yet to be Decided|
Two races have not yet been finalized for different reasons. Louisiana law requires that election winners gain more than half of all votes cast. In the race between Senator Mary Landrieu (D) and Congressman Bill Cassidy (R), neither candidate received more than 42 percent of the vote. The state has scheduled a two-way runoff for December 6. NTUF plans to provide taxpayers with special analyses of the two candidates and what their agendas could mean for the federal government.
In Old Dominion, two Virginian politicians are almost neck-and-neck in votes. Incumbent Mark Warner (D) currently has 49.2 percent of the vote whereas former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) received 48.4 percent of the vote. In Virginia, a candidate has the right to call for a vote recount if they trail by less than one percent of the winner's vote count. It is uncertain whether or not Gillespie will ask for a recount but a winner will not be declared until he concedes or the Virginia Board of Elections names a clear winner.
|Proposed Spending Agendas of Newly-Elected Senators in 2014|
|(dollars in billions)|
|Dan Sullivan||R||Alaska||-$63.9 1|
|Tom Cotton||R||Arkansas||-$166.6 2|
|Cory Gardner||R||Colorado||-$83.3 3|
|David Perdue||R||Georgia||-$79.5 1|
|Joni Ernst||R||Iowa||-$87.1 3|
|Gary Peters||D||Michigan||$53.6 2|
|Thom Tillis||R||North Carolina||-$55.3 1|
|Ben Sasse||R||Nebraska||-$50.8 1|
|James Lankford||R||Oklahoma||-$111.9 2|
|Mike Rounds||R||South Dakota||-$64.0 1|
|Shelley Capito||R||West Virginia||-$62.5 2|
|Average|| || ||-$70.3|
|1 Preliminary NTUF proposed spending analysis, conducted after the election.|
|2 NTUF BillTally First Session proposed spending report findings.|
|3 NTUF conducted a line-by-line study of proposed spending before the election.|
Despite the two unsettled races, the political landscape for the next Congress is settled: the Republicans will control both Chambers of Congress for the first time since 2006. The question now is which policies will gain traction in the next Congress? The incoming Senate freshmen emerged from their electoral contests by linking their opponents with the Obama Administration but they also had -- with varying degrees of specificity -- issue advocacy pages on their campaign websites and there were some common themes across the candidates' platforms.
The Affordable Care Act
One of the key issues during this campaign was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka "Obamacare," and the President's promises that premium costs would decrease and that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it." All of the incoming Republican freshmen are on record for vowing to work to repeal Obamacare. Mike Rounds of South Dakota vowed to replace it with "market-based, patient-centered solutions" while other candidates offered more specific options including proposals to expand funding for high-risk pools, enact medical liability reform, and permitting the sale of health insurance across state lines. The Virginia Republican, Ed Gillespie, offered the most detailed plan to replace the ACA, but as of publication that race remains too close to call.
- Promotion of "energy independence" was another common theme across the races. Candidates spoke of backing a "comprehensive energy plan" or an "all-of-the-above approach" to expand development of traditional and renewable energy resources including "wind, solar, oil, gas, biomass, or efficiency measures". The campaigns also advocated for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
- While Cory Gardner spoke of favoring "sensible regulations that everyone can understand" other candidates used strong language to advocate for reining in federal regulations on energy and employers, whether it be against "an overbearing [Environmental Protection Agency] that is set on crushing West Virginia’s energy production" or "unnecessary regulations drive up the cost of everyday purchases such as groceries and cripple small businesses with additional costs and uncontrollable red tape" to "rolling back Washington-created job-killing regulations that are crushing small business."
- While Tom Cotton's campaign website does not include a detailed list of policy issues, he did attack his opponent for support of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law "that has made it more difficult for small businesses to obtain credit and is threatening community banks." Ernst called for outright repeal of "laws such as Dodd-Frank."
Significantly, the seven newly elected Republicans are on record for support of a balanced budget.
- The size and role of government was another common theme on the 2014 campaign trail. Cotton, who as noted did not specify a detailed platform on his website, had a succinct slogan: "Less Government, More Jobs." Similarly, Daines' slogan was "More Jobs, Less Government."
The federal deficit may have declined from its recent highs, but last Fiscal Year the federal government spent $486 billion more than it received in tax revenues and other receipts. Taxpayers can expect these new Senators to follow through on these pledges to address the budget, and NTUF will be there in the next Congress to hold all of the Representatives and Senators in the 114th Congress accountable for their legislative agendas.
- Capito: While a search of Capito's campaign website does not include the phrase "balanced budget," as a Member of the House of Representatives she is a member of the Congressional Balanced Budget Amendment Caucus.
- Cotton: "Tom Cotton supports a balanced budget."
- Daines: "Steve is working to balance the budget" and, in the House, introduced "the Balanced Budget Accountability Act, which requires Congress to pass a balanced budget or members won’t get paid."
- Ernst: “… Joni supports a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution … .”
- Gardner: “In an era of record spending, debt, and deficits, Cory sees no reason why the federal government shouldn’t put in place a balanced budget requirement.”
- Rounds: "South Dakota balances its budget every single year. The federal government should do the same. Mike supports a balanced budget amendment."
- Tillis: "As North Carolina’s U.S. Senator, Tillis will push for ... a balanced budget ... ."
National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to helping Americans of all ages understand how taxes, government spending, and regulations affect them. Through our timely information, analysis, and commentary, we’re empowering citizens to engage in important policy debates and hold officials accountable.
Our findings are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to aid or hinder the passage of legislation or as a comment on any Member’s or Candidate's fitness to serve.
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