(Alexandria, VA) -- Lots of talk but little action on tax and deficit relief last year made for mediocre fiscal voting records among most lawmakers, according to the National Taxpayers Union's (NTU's) eagerly-awaited annual Rating of Congress released today. An Arizona Congressman and a New Hampshire Senator took top honors, while two Illinoisans wound up dead last in both chambers. The Rating, based on hundreds of roll call votes, is considered the most comprehensive scorecard available on federal tax, spending, and regulatory issues.
"Deeds count for more than words in taming the growth of big government, which is why Congress's 2005 fiscal ratings barely moved from their already-depressed levels," said NTU President John Berthoud. "If Congress Members want to get their pro-taxpayer scores out of the cellar this year, they will have to follow through on promises to change Washington's pork-barrel culture."
Between 2004 and 2005, the average pro-taxpayer score in the House of Representatives rose almost imperceptibly from 39 to 40 percent -- even less than a full percentage point when rounding is omitted. The average nudged slightly downward in the Senate, from 45 percent in 2004 to 44 percent last year. This is the eighth straight year in which the typical lawmaker in either chamber could not even post a score of at least 50 percent. The worst averages for the 25-year-plus history of the comprehensive NTU scorecard were recorded in 1988, when they plummeted to 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.
Unlike those of other organizations, NTU's annual Rating does not simplistically focus on only a handful of equally-weighted "key votes." For this reason, it has received praise from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including former Senator (and "Golden Fleece Award" creator) William Proxmire (D-WI). The Rating is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy (201 House and 169 Senate votes for 2005), and assigns a "Taxpayer Score" to each Member of Congress that indicates his or her commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.
During 2005, 44 lawmakers attained Taxpayer Scores sufficient for a grade of "A" (76 percent in the Senate and 70 percent in the House), and hence were eligible for the "Taxpayers' Friend Award" -- a decline from the 59 who earned top grades in 2004. Meanwhile, 227 Senators and Representatives captured the title of "Big Spender" for posting "F" grades in 2005 (versus 230 the year before). The Senate's 2005 "F" threshold was 20 percent or less, while the House's was 24 percent or less.
The ranks of best and worst scorers contained familiar names as well as first-timers. For the third year in a row, the top House performer was Jeff Flake (R-AZ), with 91 percent. Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) earned his first top finish, also at 91 percent. Illinois' delegation had the dubious distinction of containing both the Senate's and House's lowest-scoring lawmakers -- Richard Durbin (D) at 4 percent and Lane Evans (D) at 8 percent.
The 350,000-member NTU is a non-partisan citizen organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and more economic freedom at all levels. Note: The 2005 Rating, and a searchable Rating database from the years 1992-2004, are both available online at www.ntu.org.