How Fiscally Conservative Is Louisiana’s Congressional Delegation? (Updated)

The Club For Growth is out with an updated version of its Spending Cut Scorecard, which includes 25 votes on amendments offered in the House to cut spending in the past year and ranks all 435 members of Congress on their willingness to cut spending and whittle down our trillion-dollar budget deficit.

The votes are weighted equally, which might be a bit of a simplistic methodology since some spending cuts would be more efficacious to balancing the budget than others – but weighting those votes according to dollar figures likely would turn the scorecard into a mess.

Among the votes, which are detailed here, were a number of across-the-board spending cuts ranging from 0.27 percent to 24 percent, cutting funding for renewable energy, cutting funding for fossil fuels, cuts to the Economic Development Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Legal Services Corporation and several others. Only three of the 25 amendments actually passed.

Generally, the state’s congressional delegation has a decent record on spending.

Decent, but not great.

The most fiscally conservative members of Louisiana’s delegation, according to the Club’s scorecard, are Steve Scalise and Jeff Landry. Both check in at 92 percent, with 23 votes to cut spending among the 25 scored.

Next up is John Fleming, who checks in at 88 percent with 22 spending-cut votes.

From there, Charles Boustany is next with 68 percent (17 votes to cut the budget). That represents a substantial dropoff from the top three.

Bill Cassidy places fifth among the seven members of the delegation with a disappointing 60 percent score. At least Cassidy is above 50 percent, and among the 431 Congressmen rated on the scorecard (three seats are currently vacant and House Speaker John Boehner rarely votes for or against amendments to bills) Cassidy places as the 128th most fiscally conservative.

Which sounds pretty good, but given that the federal budget deficit is estimated at $1.2 trillion for 2012 it’s nothing to write home about.

After Cassidy, it gets ugly.

Rodney Alexander is a Republican. He scored an abysmal 13 percent on the Club For Growth’s tally, with only three spending-cut votes out of 23 taken. Some 16 Democrats – among them Bobby Rush, Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers – scored at or above Alexander’s level. One might conclude from that number, Alexander’s recent return to making pro-union votes and his rather meager $114,000 campaign war chest as of the last FEC filing, that he’s the most vulnerable candidate to an intra-party challenge.

And then there’s the state’s sole Democrat Congressman, Cedric Richmond. Richmond scored a zero on the Club For Growth’s tally. He voted against cutting spending all 25 times. The fact he couldn’t be brought on board for a single vote in favor of cutting a trillion-dollar deficit speaks volumes.

But outside of Alexander and Richmond, the state’s delegation ranks among the better delegations in the country. The Club hasn’t broken the vote out by delegation, but if five of the seven are in the top 128 it’s a good bet Louisiana’s delegation can claim to be on the high end of the fiscal-conservative scale.

UPDATE: Rep. Alexander’s office responds…

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am in a unique position to help determine what our government spends money on—and what it doesn’t spend money on. It has been evident for far too long that our government has been spending absurd amounts of money, money that it doesn’t have. Fortunately, when Republicans retook the House at the start of 2011, my colleagues and I were able to change the course of the government’s reckless fiscal path by slashing wasteful spending.

In our first year back in the majority, with my support on the Appropriations Committee, we saved $31 billion from the previous year’s spending and $95 billion from the levels two years before. This was the first time in modern history that federal government spending had actually been cut. While we have continued to adequately fund important programs—such as national defense, disaster relief and transportation infrastructure—we have significantly reduced, and in some cases eliminated, funding for other programs of less importance. Moreover, I supported Chairman Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan and am working through the Appropriations Committee to fund discretionary programs at these reduced levels. The significant reduction in spending that we have initiated is absolutely vital to our economic health and future. We cannot expect our deficit to fall if our spending continues to soar.

Despite my sincere and effective efforts to reduce spending, I was recently criticized by a Club for Growth scorecard for not supporting certain spending cuts. The scorecard primarily tallied votes on amendments that make blind cuts to appropriations bills that I helped write—bills that already cut hundreds of millions of dollars. Most of the amendments offered served little purpose other than to undermine the hard work of members of the Appropriations Committee, and some were simply bad government policy.

For instance, one of the amendments scored that I opposed would have cut all funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Yet this agency continues to provide substantial services that are aiding our country in an economic recovery. Another amendment sought to slash funding to the invaluable fossil fuel programs under the Department of Energy. With both the Haynesville Shale and the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale running through our state, Louisiana stands to largely gain from utilizing this energy source. A further example was an amendment that would have eliminated funding to the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), which serves much of Louisiana and the southeast U.S., and provides critical resources for small businesses and regional transportation. As much as some may want to cut spending on such programs, I believe doing so would be harmful to our economy and the residents of our state.

To say I am not supportive of cutting government spending is flat out wrong, and my record as a member of the Appropriations Committee proves that. But I believe spending cuts must be done in a responsible manner, not a reckless one. Unfortunately, there are others out there who do not agree.

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