PIRG Congressional Scorecard June 1999
Edited by Rick Trilsch
The editor would like to thank the advocates, field staff, citizen outreach staff, volunteers and members for their ongoing work in fighting to preserve the environment, protect consumers, and revitalize our democracy. Special thanks to Anna Aurilio, Erin Drennan, Elke Sporseen and the staff and interns of U.S. PIRG for their help in producing this year's scorecard.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
218 D Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Additional copies of this report can be ordered by sending a check or money order in the amount of $20 to the above address, attention "reports."
U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office of the state PIRGs. The state PIRGs are nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental, consumer and good government advocacy organizations.
The PIRG Congressional Scorecard
The PIRG Congressional Scorecard is one of the many citizenship tools used by U.S. PIRG and the state PIRGs to preserve the environment, protect consumers, and revitalize participation in our democratic process.
Going door-to-door in cities and towns across the country, U.S. PIRG and state PIRG staff are distributing this year's Scorecard to more than one million citizens. The Scorecard tells citizens how their elected officials voted on public interest issues ranging from the rollback of decades of environmental and public health laws to the cutting of polluter pork subsidies to the enactment of campaign reforms.
PIRGs are nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental and consumer watchdog groups. U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for the state PIRGs across the country. Through a combination of professional expertise, citizen power, and dogged persistence, more than one million Americans pool their resources to preserve the environment, protect consumers, and promote good government.
All votes were cast in the 105th Congress between March 1997 and October 1998. All cosponsorships are as of the end of 105th Congress.
The 105th, Another Rollback Congress
Environment, Public Health and
Consumers Still at Risk
Over the last three decades some of the most basic environmental and consumer protection laws were enacted. Intended to clean the nationâs waterways, rid the air we breathe of toxins, clean up the most hazardous waste sites, and protect our health and safety in many other ways, these laws have drastically improved the quality of life of every American. However, we still have a long way to go.
n Every year, up to 50,000 plant and animal species become extinct ö the greatest rate of extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
n 40% of our rivers, lakes and streams are unfit for fishing, swimming or other uses.
n Almost 50 billion taxpayer dollars in anti-environmental subsidies are being given to polluting industries.
n Each year over 400,000 Americans die from tobacco, including over 50,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.
The 105th Congress
Judging by the media reports, you might think the 105th Congress spent its days doing nothing but passing just enough spending bills to avoid another shutdown. However, the 105th Congressâ attacks on the environment and consumers have been serious, substantial and a major threat to our health and safety.
To cite a few examples:
n A key Senate committee and House subcommittee moved to weaken the polluter pays principle of the Superfund toxic waste cleanup law.
n A proposal in the House would have blocked the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act.
n A bill to dismantle the Endangered Species Act passed out of a key Senate committee.
n The House and Senate passed anti-consumer legislation that would have rolled back stronger state laws and allowed car dealers to re-sell dangerous, rebuilt wrecked cars without warning labels.
And, after one of the least productive congressional sessions in recent memory, legislative leaders spent their final hours in session also cramming anti-environmental "riders" into appropriations bills, working overtime to pass laws too unpopular with the public to win approval in open debate.
Ultimately they succeeded in sneaking through more than 20 anti-environmental riders, including a delay in the phase-out of methyl bromide, a potent ozone layer depleter; a delay in raising royalties oil companies pay for drilling on public lands that will cost taxpayers $44 million; and a year delay in much-needed regulations for mining and grazing.
Why arenât these attacks getting the media play similar attacks did during the 104th Congress? Anti-environmental and anti-consumer members of the 105th Congress are somewhat less ambitious in their proposals than they were four years ago. Theyâve adopted a more surgical approach, attacking specific provisions of environmental laws ö like the "polluter pays" principle of the Superfund law ö that are the most objectionable to lobbyists for polluting corporations.
Theyâve also toned down their rhetoric. You wonât hear members of Congress comparing the EPA with the Gestapo anymore. Youâre more likely to hear the sponsors of anti-environmental and anti-consumer measures describe them as "reforms," or even give then "environment-friendly" names.
Stopping the Rollbacks
While U.S. PIRG and its allies have been successful so far in stopping most of the attacks on the environment and consumers, special interests and their PACs have invested record sums to retain their influence in Congress.
Nearly all the leaders of the rollback 104th Congress have retained their leadership positions, giving anti-environment and anti-consumer special interests important friends in high places. While more likely to do their dirty work behind the scenes, special interests continued to keep up their assault in the 105th Congress.
In the 106th Congress, U.S. PIRG and the state PIRGs will continue to challenge the sustained attack on the environment and consumers. Our staff of researchers, policy advocates and organizers will work with PIRG members and other citizens across the country to stop the rollback by:
n Releasing reports and studies documenting environmental and public health problems, consumer rip-offs, and special interest campaign contributions to Congress.
n Helping to deliver hundreds of thousands of messages to Congress and the President in the form of postcards, petitions, emails, faxes, and phone calls from citizens asking that the environment and public health protections not be put on the chopping block.
U.S. PIRG will continue its work to inform and energize millions of citizens to take action against the rollbacks. Giving citizens the information they need, like this scorecard, is one key way people will make the difference on Capitol Hill and stop the rollback of the nationâs environmental, public health, and consumer laws.
Heroes & Zeros
Three members of the Senate and 19 members of the House voted the public interest position on all of the votes that PIRG tracked for the 1999 scorecard÷they are considered Public Interest Heroes. Two members of the Senate and one member of the House did not vote the public interest position on any of the votes that PIRG tracked÷they are considered Public Interest Zeros.
Average Senate Score by State
New Jersey 92%
New York 79%
Rhode Island 77%
South Dakota 77%
West Virginia 65%
North Dakota 62%
New Mexico 50%
South Carolina 35%
New Hampshire 31%
North Carolina* 0%
National Senate Average is 47%
Average House Score by State
Rhode Island 92%
New Jersey 86%
New York 76%
West Virginia 51%
South Carolina 49%
New Hampshire 47%
North Carolina 37%
North Dakota* 32%
South Dakota* 26%
New Mexico 15%
National House Average is 49%
* State has one member for average.
Biggest Gains & Losses
Members of the House whose 1999 score increased more than 20 points from their 1998 score.
Member '99 Score '98 Score Increase
Hilliard (AL) 53% 20% 33
Jefferson (LA) 58% 27% 31
Hinojosa (TX) 53% 27% 26
Thurman, K. (FL) 58% 33% 25
Oberstar (MN) 63% 40% 23
Bilbray (CA) 68% 47% 21
Johnson, E.B. (TX) 68% 47% 21
Lipinski (IL) 68% 47% 21
Thompson, B. (MS) 68% 47% 21
Turner (TX) 21% 0% 21
Members of the House whose 1999 score decreased more than 10 points from their 1998 score.
Member '99 Score '98 Score Decrease
Paul (TX) 37% 67% -30
Chabot (OH) 37% 53% -16
Scarborough (FL) 32% 47% -15
McNulty (NY) 79% 93% -14
Sensenbrenner (WI) 42% 53% -11
Lewis, John (GA) 89% 100% -11
Markey (MA) 89% 100% -11
Kasich (OH) 37% 47% -10
Miller, D. (FL) 37% 47% -10
Portman (OH) 37% 47% -10
Members of the Senate whose 1999 score increased more than 20 points from their 1998 score.
Member '99 Score '98 Score Increase
Bryan (NV) 92% 63% 29
Baucus (MT) 77% 50% 27
Cleland (GA) 77% 50% 27
Abraham (MI) 38% 13% 25
Grassley (IA) 23% 0% 23
Warner (VA) 23% 0% 23
Members of the Senate whose 1999 score decreased more than 10 points from their 1998 score.
Member '99 Score '98 Score Decrease
Smith, B. (NH) 15% 38% -23
Byrd (WV) 62% 75% -13
Hutchison, K.B. (TX) 0% 13% -13
Biden (DE) 77% 88% -11
Brownback (KS) 15% 25% -10
Santorum (PA) 15% 25% -10