Since 1989, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has examined roll call votes to help identify which members of Congress have defended taxpayer interests and which have backed down on their promises of fiscal responsibility. These ratings separate the praiseworthy from the profligate by evaluating important tax, spending, transparency, and accountability measures. CCAGW applauds those members of Congress who stood up for taxpayers and ignored the temptations of satisfying local or special interests. However, those who supported a big-government agenda should be prepared to face the consequences for their spendthrift behavior.
CCAGW’s 2016 Congressional Ratings, for the second session of the 114th Congress, scored 65 votes in the House of Representatives and 16 votes in the Senate. By comparison, CCAGW rated 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 35 votes in the Senate in the first session of the 114th Congress. The significant disparity in the number of votes between the first and second sessions of the 114th Congress can be attributed to the abbreviated schedule caused by the longer-than-usual election season in 2016. The Republican and Democratic party conventions occurred much earlier than usual, resulting in a longer Congressional recess between mid-July and the elections on November 8, 2016. Fewer votes in the Senate shortened both ends of the bell curve traditionally reflected in CCAGW’s Ratings. Typically lower-performing members may have received slightly higher scores than usual, while typically higher-performing members might have experienced a drop in their respective ratings.
CCAGW rates members on a 0-100 percent scale. Members are placed in the following categories: 0-19 percent, Hostile; 20-39 percent, Unfriendly; 40-59 percent, Lukewarm; 60-79 percent, Friendly; 80-99 percent, Taxpayer Hero; and 100 percent, Taxpayer Super Hero.
In 2016, four senators – Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) – earned the coveted title of Taxpayer Super Hero by achieving the highest possible score of 100 percent. No representatives scored 100 percent. In 2015, 17 lawmakers (15 senators and two representatives) received a perfect score.
For 2016, there are 32 Taxpayer Heroes in the Senate, a decrease of 11 percent from the 36 Taxpayer Heroes in 2015. There are 204 Taxpayer Heroes in the House of Representatives, 34 percent more than the 152 Taxpayer Heroes in 2015.
There are 36 Taxpayer Heroes in the Senate, an increase of 57 percent from the 23 Taxpayer Heroes in 2014. In 2015, there are 152 Taxpayer Heroes in the House of Representatives, two more than the 150 Taxpayer Heroes in 2014.
At the other end of the spectrum, three representatives and two senators each had a score of zero in 2016. In 2015, 26 representatives and 25 senators scored zero.
Four members of Congress were ineligible to receive a 2016 score due to an insufficient number of cast votes: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Passage of PROMESA. H.R. 5278, which would prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout of Puerto Rico by establishing a financial oversight board and promoting economic growth, passed by a vote of 297-127.
Passage of Veterans Affairs Accountability. H.R. 5620, which would increase whistleblower protections and make it easier to fire Senior Executive Service employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, passed by a vote of 310-116.
Defunding Net Neutrality. During consideration of H.R. 5485, the fiscal year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, an amendment offered by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) to delete a section that would prohibit funding and enforcement for the Federal Communications Commission’s “Net Neutrality” order was rejected by a vote of 182-238.
Duplicative Catfish Regulations. S. J. Res. 28, which would provide congressional disapproval of the Department of Agriculture’s catfish rule, which duplicates the Food and Drug Administration’s catfish rule, passed by a vote of 55-43.
Passage of PROMESA. S. 2328, which would prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout of Puerto Rico by establishing a financial oversight board and promoting economic growth, passed by a vote of 68-30.
Passage of Permanent Internet Tax Freedom. H.R. 644, which included a permanent ban on state and local taxation of internet access, passed by a vote of 75-20.
Obamacare Veto Override. After the House and Senate voted to repeal portions Obamacare, the House failed to override the president’s veto by a vote of 241-186, 49 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority.
Across-the-Board Cuts to Appropriations Bills. CCAGW rated five amendments to make across-the-board spending reductions in appropriations bills, which all failed. For example, an amendment offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to cut 1 percent across-the-board during consideration of H.R. 5055, the fiscal year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, was rejected by a vote of 158-258.
Eliminating the Salary of the IRS Commissioner. During consideration of H.R. 5485, the fiscal year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, an amendment offered by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) to prohibit funds from being used to pay the salary of the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service was rejected by a vote of 197-224.
Unnecessary Regional Commissions. During consideration of H.R. 2028, the fiscal year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, an amendment offered by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border Regional Commission was rejected by a vote of 25-71.
No Audit of the Federal Reserve. On Sen. David Perdue’s (R-Ga.) motion to proceed to a bill that would remove the limitations of the Government Accountability Office to audit the Federal Reserve banks and Board of Governors, the Senate failed to invoke cloture (limit debate) by a vote of 56-44 (60 votes required).
Regulatory Reform. During the consideration of S. 2012, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016, an amendment offered by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) that would prohibit an agency from issuing a rule until it has repealed one or more existing rules and the cost of the new rule is less than or equal to the cost of the repealed rule was rejected by a vote of 49-46.
CCAGW also analyzed ratings based on party affiliation and House membership in the Republican Study Committee.
The averages were: Senate Republicans – 78 percent, down 15 percentage points from 93 percent in 2015; Senate Democrats, including Independents – 15 percent, up 10 percentage points from 5 percent in 2015; House Republicans – 87 percent, up 5 percentage point from 82 percent in 2015; House Democrats – 6 percent, up 2 percentage points from 4 percent in 2015; House Republican Study Committee – 90 percent, up 4 percentage points from 86 percent in 2015.
CCAGW congratulates the members who stood by taxpayers and championed fiscal responsibility throughout the second session of the 114th Congress and encourages the constituents of the non-Taxpayer Heroes to demand better results from those members.