Making the normally demanding job of devising a scorecard even more difficult this year, according to Concord Executive Director Martha Phillips, was a Congress that wasn't in the mood for deficit reduction.
"Overall, the drive to balance the budget took a back seat to election year politics in 1996," said Phillips. "Nevertheless, Congress took a few important steps to reduce the deficit."
Phillips said that while welfare and agriculture reform stood out as the most important deficit reduction measures signed into law during the session, there were many other opportunities for members to "take a stand for balancing the budget."
The 16 votes in the House and 18 votes in the Senate used by Concord to gauge members' fiscal responsibility were chosen because they:
- Proposed increases or reductions in the deficit through spending or tax decisions;
- Offered a chance to eliminate or reduce spending for pork
barrel programs, to eliminate big ticket projects that cannot be
afforded right now, or to make government more efficient; or
- Involved important procedural issues affecting how budgeting decisions would be made in the future.
Recognizing that neither Democrats nor Republicans enjoy a monopoly on good ideas for balancing the budget, the scorecard credited deficit reduction measures introduced by members of both parties.
For instance, in the House credit was given for "yes" votes on both the Republican Budget Resolution and the alternative "Blue Dog" Democratic resolution. Both plans called for a balanced federal budget by 2002.