New Senate Will Be More Taxpayer-Friendly, Study Finds

Published December 1, 2004

The 2004 election brought significant turnover in the United States Senate and good news for taxpayers, as revealed in data compiled by the National Taxpayers Union (of which the author is president).

Because most of the incoming senators have previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives, a comparison can be made of the fiscal records of the outgoing senators and most of the new senators.

This analysis uses the most recent National Taxpayers Union (NTU) Rates Congress grades for outgoing and incoming senators. Grades for 2003 were available for all nine outgoing senators. Grades were available for six of the nine incoming senators. Senators-elect Barack Obama (D-IL), Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Mel Martinez (R-FL) did not have previous service in Congress.

The NTU Rates Congress data present a comprehensive picture of the fiscal records of these senators and senators-elect. Unlike the ratings compiled by other organizations, NTU’s annual rating does not 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.

NTU’s rating is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy–in 2003, NTU included 287 House and 269 Senate votes–and assigns a “Taxpayer Score” to each Member of Congress indicating a commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.

Table 1 provides an overview of all nine states with new senators. Among the highlights of the data are the following:

  • The latest NTU Rates Congress grade of four of the nine outgoing senators (44 percent) was “F.”
  • The lowest grade earned by any of the six incoming senators with previous House service was “B-.” Only three of the nine outgoing senators (33 percent) achieved a “B-” or better in the 2003 NTU Rates Congress.
  • In five of the six cases where both outgoing and incoming senators had grades in NTU Rates Congress, the incoming senator has a better mark. In the sixth instance (Oklahoma), both the outgoing and incoming senators received an “A” in their most recent NTU ranking.
  • In other words, in no instance does a new senator have a lower grade than the outgoing senator.

The result is that supporters of limited government and lower taxes got very good news in the 2004 Senate elections. Come January 2005, taxpayers will have new allies in the Senate on critical votes on appropriations bills, budget process reform, pending energy and transportation bills bloated with pork, Social Security reform, and tax relief.

John Berthoud ([email protected]) is president of the National Taxpayers Union.