More 'Big Spenders' Than 'Friends of Taxpayers' in Congress

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - There was "lots of talk but little action" on tax and deficit relief last year among U.S. lawmakers, a taxpayer watchdog said.

The National Taxpayers Union's annual Rating of Congress report gives an Arizona congressman and a New Hampshire senator top honors in the "taxpayers' friend" category. At the other end of the scale are two lawmakers from Illinois.

The NTU ratings are based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy (201 in the House and 169 in the Senate for 2005). Each Member of Congress is assigned a "taxpayer score" indicating his or her commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt and regulation.

In 2005, 44 lawmakers (76 percent in the Senate and 70 percent in the House) attained taxpayer scores sufficient for a grade of "A", earning them NTU's "Taxpayers' Friend Award." That compares with the 59 lawmakers who earned top grades in 2004, NTU said.

But 227 senators and representatives captured the title of "Big Spender" for earning "F" grades in 2005 -- down from 230 who earned failing grades in 2004.

For the third year in a row, the top House performer was Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who earned a score of 91 percent. Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) also scored 91 percent, giving him his first top finish.

The lowest-scoring lawmakers in the House and Senate, both Illinois Democrats, were Richard Durbin at 4 percent and Lane Evans at 8 percent.

Between 2004 and 2005, the average pro-taxpayer score in the House of Representatives rose from 39 to 40 percent -- less than a full percentage point when rounding is omitted.

The average in the Senate edged slightly downward, from 45 percent in 2004 to 44 percent last year.

"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."

The NTU said 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.

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