Congressional Scorecard 2001
Written by Rick Trilsch
Contributions by Kate Abend, Anna Aurilio, Ellynne Bannon, Jeremiah Baumann, Grant Cope, Ivan Frishberg, Julia Hutchins, Gene Karpinski, Athan Manuel, Ed Mierzwinski, Lexi Shultz, Tiernan Sittenfeld, Becky Stanfield, Rick Trilsch, Rachel Weintraub.
The annual 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.
State PIRGs are nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy groups. U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for State PIRGs across the country. With a combination of professional expertise, citizen power, and dogged persistence, Americans pool their resources to preserve the environment, protect consumers, and promote good government through the State PIRGs and U.S. PIRG.
Over the last thirty years some of our most basic environmental and consumer protection laws were enacted. These laws were intended to clean the water we drink, the air we breathe, and protect our health and safety -- these laws have drastically improved the quality of life for every American. Yet for all that we have achieved, there is still a long way to go.
• 1,700,000 children under the age of five in the U.S. are affected by lead poisoning.
• There are 69,000 toxic waste sites in the U.S..
• 117,000,000 Americans live in areas where the air in unhealthy to breathe.
• $50 billion in taxpayer subsidies are being given to polluting industries.
Based on media reports, you might have thought that the 106th Congress spent little time doing the "people’s business," and instead spent its time positioning itself for the 2000 elections. However, during the 106th Congress there was a continued effort to roll back key environmental laws, take away consumer protections, and stifle campaign finance reform.
• The House and Senate voted to mandate the transportation of highly radioactive waste through 43 states putting millions of Americans at risk.
• The House and Senate voted to allow financial mergers without protecting consumer privacy.
• The Senate blocked efforts to take the incremental campaign reform step of banning "soft money" contributions.
• The Senate voted to continue to allow oil companies to underpay royalties to taxpayers by $66 million per year.
These attacks did not get the media play similar attacks did during the 104th Congress and its Contract with America. Anti-environmental and anti-consumer members of the 106th Congress were less sweeping in their proposals. They adopted a more surgical approach, attacking specific provisions of environmental laws -- like the "polluter pays" principle of the Superfund law -- which are the most objectionable to lobbyists for polluting corporations.
They also toned down their rhetoric. You didn’t hear members of Congress comparing the EPA with the Gestapo. You were more likely to hear the sponsors of anti-environmental and anti-consumer measures describe them as "reforms," or even give them "environment-friendly" names.
Stopping the Attacks in the 106th
While U.S. PIRG and its allies were successful in stopping most of the attacks on the environment and consumers, special interests and their PACs invested record sums to retain their influence in Congress.
Many of the leaders of the rollback 104th Congress 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 first months of the new Administration and Congress there have been renewed attacks on the environment, public health and consumers.
• Using the country’s "energy crisis" as an excuse, the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is in danger of being opened up to oil and gas drilling by some members of Congress and the new Administration.
• The ban on road-building, logging and other harmful development in our national forests is being "modified" by the new Administration.
• The new Administration has delayed new standards for arsenic in drinking water.
• The House and the Senate have passed new bankruptcy bills that do not protect average consumers.
During the 107th Congress and the Bush Administration, 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 attacks on consumers and the environment. Ideally, we will find opportunities to pass positive agenda items as well.
U.S. PIRG will continue its work to inform and energize millions of citizens to take action against these attacks, and continue to find ways to make progress on its public interest agenda. 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 nation’s environmental, public health, and consumer laws.
Three members of the Senate and 17 members of the House took the public interest position on every vote and cosponsorship that U.S. PIRG tracked for the 2001 scorecard -- they are considered Public Interest Heroes. Thirty-one members of the Senate and 17 members of the House did not take the public interest position on any of the votes or cosponsorships that PIRG tracked -- they are considered Public Interest Zeros.
Average Senate Score
National Senate Average is 42%
Average House Score
National House Average is 47%
* Only has one member for average.
Members of the Senate whose 2001 score decreased more than 15 points from their 2000 score.
Members of the House whose 2001 score increased more than 15 points from their 2000 score.
Members of the House whose 2001 score decreased more than 15 points from their 2000 score.