Senate Slides, House Hovers at Halfway Mark, on National Taxpayers Union's Annual Congressional Scorecard

(Alexandria, VA) –  Even though taxpayers could count on several dozen lawmakers to consistently vote for limited government last year, Congress’s swarm of “Big Spenders” ensured that heavy deficits and high tax burdens would continue to sting Americans. That’s the unfortunate result of National Taxpayers Union’s (NTU’s) 34th annual Rating of Congress, the most thorough assessment of the Legislative Branch’s fiscal performance available. The Rating, based on every roll call vote affecting federal taxes, spending, debt, and significant regulations, included 274 House and 127 Senate votes taken through January 1, 2013.

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In the 2012 (and part of 2013) Rating, the average “Taxpayer Score” in the House remained at the rounded level of 50 percent. Thus, for the second year in a row the House mean has managed to reach the halfway mark – a feat not achieved since 1996. The Senate’s average dipped six points, from 46 percent to 40 percent, over the same period. The Senate had an all-time low of 28 percent in 1988, and the House hit bottom that same year, at 27 percent. The highest marks were reached in 1995, when lower and upper chambers’ averages were 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively. 

In the last session of the 112th Congress, 55 lawmakers attained scores sufficient for an “A” grade (a minimum score of 84 percent in the House and 86 percent the Senate) and therefore won the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” – about the same who earned the honor in 2011. Yet, almost 200 Senators and Representatives were tagged with the title of “Big Spender” for posting “F” grades (20 percent or less in the House and 16 percent or less in the Senate). The record of 267 was reached in both 2008 and 2009.

On the House side, the best performer was Tom McClintock (R-CA), with 93 percent; though a consistently high scorer, this is his first time in the #1 spot. Close behind him with rounded scores of 92 percent were Justin Amash (R-MI) and Ron Paul (R-TX). Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has since retired from the Senate, was tops in his chamber at 98 percent.  Mike Lee (R-UT) also posted a rounded 98 percent, but came in a fraction of a point lower than DeMint.

On the other end of the scale, Dale Kildee (D-MI) had the worst House score, at 7 percent. Kildee was the second-lowest scorer in 2011. The poorest Senate finish, at 6 percent, belonged to Tom Udall (D-NM).                                                                                                                                       

Although Taxpayer Scores on the NTU Rating are issued objectively, without regard to political affiliation, the results do reflect a sharp partisan divide in Congress. Averages for Senate Democrats and Republicans were 11 percent and 72 percent respectively; in the House, the figures were 18 percent for Democrats and 75 percent for Republicans. These levels were roughly the same compared to 2011, except for the Senate GOP, which took a 12-point tumble.

Unlike those of other organizations, NTU’s annual Rating does not focus on a mere handful of equally weighted “key votes,” but on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy – appropriation, 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 significant regulations.

“With Big Spenders outnumbering Taxpayers’ Friends by nearly a four to one ratio in Congress, limited government was definitely not on the top of the legislative agenda last year,” NTU President Duane Parde noted. “Going forward, lawmakers will need to vote more carefully if the Legislative Branch is to make better progress toward keeping federal deficits, debt, and taxes under control.”

NTU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, limited government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: A searchable database of Rating results from 1992 to 2012, as well as other presentations of Rating data, is available at