Congressional Appropriators: Rating the “Third Party”

By William M. Christian

WasteWatcher, June 2017

A practical reality of life on Capitol Hill can be summed up with a saying often attributed to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).  In his book, Worth the Fighting for, Sen. McCain writes that, “there are, it is often observed, three parties in Congress, Republicans, Democrats, and appropriators.”  Further explained by Barry Popik, a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary (among others), the saying “means that ‘pork barrel’ spending is nonpartisan.”

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 rates members on a 1-100 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.

CCAGW also analyzes ratings based on party affiliation and House membership in the Republican Study Committee.  However, the votes of congressional appropriators—those whose assignment to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees empower them to control the purse-strings of the federal treasury—have never been specifically analyzed by CCAGW.

Until now.

Since CCAGW rates each session of Congress retrospectively, the most recent congressional ratings available are those from the two sessions (2015 and 2016, respectively) of the 114th Congress.  For those two years, membership on the Appropriations Committees in the Senate and House consisted of the following senators and representatives.

Senate Appropriators (R)

2015 rating

2016 rating

Thad Cochran

86

69

Mitch McConnell

100

81

Richard Shelby

97

62

Lamar Alexander

89

53

Susan Collins

46

44

Lisa Murkowski

80

63

Lindsey Graham

86

58

Mark Steven Kirk

62

63

Roy Blunt

91

67

Jerry Moran

91

75

John Hoeven

91

75

John Boozman

100

69

Shelly Moore Capito

89

63

Bill Cassidy

100

69

James Lankford

97

100

Steve Daines

100

81

     

Senate Averages (R)

87.8125

68.25

     

Senate Appropriators (D)

2015 rating

2016 rating

Barbara A. Mikulski

  0

  6

Patrick J. Leahy

  0

13

Patty Murray

  3

13

Dianne Feinstein

  3

25

Dick Durbin

  0

  6

Jack Reed

  0

13

Jon Tester

  6

13

Tom Udall

  0

13

Jeanne Shaheen

  3

19

Jeff Merkley

  0

  6

Chris Coons

  3

20

Brian Shatz

  3

  6

Tammy Baldwin

  0

13

Christopher Murphy

  0

13

     

Senate Averages (D)

1.5

12.7857

     

Senate Appropriators (all)

2015 average:

47.5333

Senate Appropriators (all)

2016 average:

42.3667

     

House Appropriators (R)

2015 rating

2016 rating

Harold Rogers

67

82

Rodney Frelinghuysen

63

78

Robert B. Aderholt

76

78

Kay Granger

77

88

Michael Simpson

66

73

John Culberson

83

94

Ander Crenshaw

68

79

John Carter

86

83

Ken Calvert

68

83

Tom Cole

62

77

Mario Diaz-Balart

64

73

Charles W. Dent

64

72

Tom Graves

97

90

Kevin Yoder

86

92

Steve Womack

70

85

Jeff Fortenberry

65

71

Tom Rooney

85

87

Chuck Fleischman

90

83

Jaime Herrera Beutler

73

90

David Joyce

59

71

David Valadao

67

75

Andy Harris

95

95

Martha Roby

78

80

Mark Amodei

64

83

Chris Stewart

90

97

Scott Rigell

70

73

David Jolly

59

65

David Young

86

83

Evan Jenkins

63

78

Steven Palazzo

81

88

     

House Averages (R)

74.0667

81.533

     

House Appropriators (D)

2015 rating

2016 rating

Nita Lowey

  2

  3

Marcy Kaptur

  2

  6

Peter J. Visclosky

  2

  3

José E. Serrano

  0

  3

Rosa DeLauro

  1

  5

David E. Price

  0

  3

Lucille Roybal-Allard

  0

  5

Sam Farr

  2

  3

Chaka Fattah

  2

n/a

Sanford D. Bishop Jr.

20

  9

Barbara Lee

  0

  5

Micheal M. Honda

  2

  5

Betty McCollum

  3

  3

Steve Israel

  1

  6

Tim Ryan

  5

  2

Dutch Ruppersberger

  7

10

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

  2

  2

Henry Cuellar

37

37

Chellie Pingree

  4

  2

Mike Quigley

  2

  3

Derek Kilmer

  6

  5

     

House Averages (D)

  4.762

  6

   

 

House Appropriators (all)

2015 average:

56.634

House Appropriators (all)

2016 average:

64.15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To put these ratings in context, consider the following.  In 2015, all Republican senators averaged 93 percent, while Republican appropriators averaged slightly less than 88 percent.  At the same time, all Senate Democrats (including the Independents that caucus with them) scored an average rating of 5 percent, while Democratic appropriators rated an even less taxpayer-friendly average on only 1.5 percent.  In the House of Representatives, the 2015 average for all Republicans was 82 percent, while GOP appropriators fell behind, with an average rating of 74 percent.  House Democrats averaged a 4 percent rating that year, as their party’s appropriators actually bested them by some three-quarters of a point with an average of 4.762 percent.  Still, hardly a score to brag about.

In 2016, all Senate Republicans averaged 78 percent, while their appropriators scored an average rating of 68.25 percent.  That year, Senate Democrats averaged 15 percent, and Democratic appropriators fell slightly behind, with an average of slightly less than 13 percent.  In the House, all Republicans averaged a CCAGW rating of 87 percent, while GOP appropriators lagged behind with an average rating of 81.533 percent.   House Democrats, as a whole, averaged 6 percent; interestingly, their appropriators equaled the overall Democratic caucus average, at 6 percent, as well.

While there may not be concrete conclusions from these comparisons, it does appear that the “official” congressional spenders (the House and Senate appropriators) tend to vote less favorably, from the perspective of the taxpayer, than their non-appropriating counterparts.

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