Michigan’s congressional delegation performed significantly worse in 2008 than their national peers on a broad-based measure of economic growth polices as tabulated by the Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Assigning individual qualitative point values to 23 key votes that took place in Congress during 2008, including the TARP bank bailout, the Columbia Free Trade Agreement, farm subsidies and more, the Club scorecard provides a ranking of zero to 100 percent for every member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
While 45 of the 435 total members scored at least 90 percent in 2008 — the bare minimum for securing the Club’s “Defender of Economic Freedom” designation — no member from Michigan made the list. The closest — former U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton — finished ten points below the cut-off.
Each spring, the Club provides a scorecard for the previous year in Congress. The rankings for 2009 are due later this spring.
(A different Club ranking, the RePORK Card, scores members based on their willingness to strike earmarks from budget bills, and was also the subject of a recent Michigan Capitol Confidential article.)
The 23 votes used were assigned a point value, from one to eight, reflecting the relative value that the Club placed on each policy decision. Those voting the “pro-growth” position were awarded the points for that vote, and the total points were summed together to arrive at each member’s overall score. Up to 16 additional points were also factored in to account for pro-taxpayer actions that took place outside the 23 specific key votes. A member receiving an exceptional score on the National Taxpayers Union’s 2008 Congressional ranking was awarded 10 of these points.
The $700 billion TARP bank bailout, the auto company bailout and a vote to kill the U.S.-Columbia free trade agreement were the three votes that were scored the highest — eight points each. In each of those cases, the “pro-growth” vote was “nay.”
And in each case, those voting “nay” were on the losing end of a vote that ultimately passed. All nine of Michigan’s Republicans received eight points for their vote to save the Columbia free trade agreement, while no member of the Michigan delegation — Republican or Democrat — voted against the $14 billion auto company bailout that was crafted to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from slipping into bankruptcy.
The auto bailout vote took place on Dec. 10, 2008. Both automakers were bankrupt a few months later.
Six from the Michigan delegation received the eight points for opposing the $700 billion bank bailout — two Democrats and four Republicans.
An example of a vote worth a more modest value was the $300 billion farm bill, assigned three points in the scorecard. The Club for Growth states that the pro-growth vote was “nay” because “the bill had no meaningful subsidy reforms.”
Other media commentators across the ideological spectrum offered more dramatic criticism.
The free-market Wall Street Journal editorial page denounced the bill as a “scam” since it provided income support to already wealthy farmers. The Journal’s May 14, 2008, editorial was titled “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
The New York Times editorial page chimed in two days later, calling the legislation “disgraceful” and stating that the bill “rewards rich farmers who do not need the help …”
Only two members of Michigan’s congressional delegation — both Republicans — opposed the farm bill and claimed the three points in the Club’s scorecard rating.
Overall for the whole scorecard, the Club’s average ranking for the entire Congress in 2008 was 36 percent, with the Republican minority averaging 71.9 percent and the Democrat majority posting an average of 5.3 percent.
But Michigan’s nine Republicans were well behind their party peers in D.C., averaging just 60 percent. Likewise, Michigan’s six Democrats averaged just 3.3 percent. (Note: Following the 2008 election, Michigan’s congressional delegation flipped to an 8-7 Democrat advantage.)
Along with Walberg, only U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, bested the national GOP average, posting a 73 percent ranking. The lowest Republican score for Michigan was 39 percent, posted by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.
The 2008 rankings for the Michigan delegation are listed below. Please note that Walberg and former U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Troy, are no longer part of the Michigan delegation.
The 23 votes selected by the Club for Growth, and a summary of the group’s reasoning for each vote, are also provided below. The homepage for the 2008 Club for Growth Congressional Scorecard, and scorecards from previous years, is located here.
Club for Growth 2008 Congressional Scorecard Rankings for Michigan Delegation
National Republican Average — 71.9 percent
National Democrat Average — 5.3 percent
National Average for All Members — 36 percent
Tim Walberg (R) — 80 percent
Pete Hoekstra (R) — 73 percent
Mike Rogers (R) — 71 percent
Thad McCotter (R) — 64 percent
Vern Ehlers (R) – 60 percent
Dave Camp (R) – 60 percent
Joe Knollenberg (R) – 49 percent
Candice Miller (R) – 44 percent
Fred Upton (R) – 39 percent
John Conyers (D) – 12 percent
Bart Stupak (D) – 8 percent
John Dingell (D) – 0 percent
Dale Kildee (D) – 0 percent
Carolyn Kilpatrick (D) – 0 percent
Sander Levin (D) – 0 percent
Club for Growth 2008 Congressional Scorecard Votes Used
2008 House Vote 15 -- Davis Bacon Waiver
Vote on a King (R-IA) amendment to HR 3524 that would prevent projects funded in this bill from having to comply with Davis-Bacon requirements. The pro-growth vote was "yea" because Davis-Bacon requires wages to be paid at a "prevailing" union rate, which is almost always higher than the market rate. This forces taxpayers to pay more than is necessary and limits competition. Failed 136-268, January 17, 2008.
2008 House Vote 22 -- Expand Government Run Health Care, Veto Override
Vote to override President Bush's veto of HR 3963, a bill that would extend and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because this proposal would greatly expand government intervention into health care. Veto upheld, 260-152 (275 votes needed), January 23, 2008.
2008 House Vote 101 - Government Health Care Mandate
Vote to pass HR 1424, a bill to require health insurance companies to cover mental health care as part of health insurance policies. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because this bill would greatly expand government intervention into health care, make insurance policies less flexible and increase costs. Passed 268-148, March 5, 2008.
2008 House Vote 140 -- Conservative Alternative Budget
Vote on the Ryan (R-WI) substitute to H Con Res 312, the budget resolution. The amendment proposed to lower the growth rate in discretionary spending and make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent. The pro-growth vote was "yea" because the alternative to this responsible budget was the Democratic proposal which increased spending and allowed the tax cuts to expire. Lower tax rates help create economic growth. Failed 157-263, March 13, 2008.
2008 House Vote 181 - Kill Colombia Free Trade Agreement
Vote on H Res 1092, a resolution that would effectively kill the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because freer trade leads to more economic freedom, more competition, and lower prices for consumers. Passed 224-195, April 10, 2008.
2008 House Vote 209 - Continue Medicaid Loopholes
Vote on passage of HR 5613, a bill that would effectively kill a proposed Medicaid rule. The draft rules aimed to stop States from using loopholes in Medicaid to increase their receipts of federal funds. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because Medicaid spending is out of control, threatening federal and state budgets with debt and tax increases. Passed 349-62, April 23, 2008.
2008 House Vote 238 - Limit Farm Subsidies
Vote on a Flake (R-AZ) motion to accept an amended HR 2419 passed by the Senate to impose a $40,000 per person annual limit on payments to farmers. The pro-growth vote was "yea" because it would reform the subsidy program overall, leading to fewer subsidies paid. Also, the savings would partially be used to reduce the deficit. Failed 157-259, May 1, 2008.
2008 House Vote 315 -- Pass the Farm Bill
Vote on passage HR 2419, the Farm Bill, which would authorize approximately $307 billion for commodity subsidies, nutritional assistance, and other spending programs. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because the bill had no meaningful subsidy reforms. It still allows wealthy farmers to collect market-distorting and trade-distorting subsidies paid for by taxpayers. Passed 318-106, May 14, 2008.
2008 House Vote 330 - Income Tax Surtax, Spending Increase
Vote on a motion to HR 2642 to add billions of dollars of spending to an appropriations bill and add an income tax surtax. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because higher marginal income tax rates greatly harm economic growth. Passed 256-166, May 15, 2008.
2008 House Vote 344 - New Taxes
Vote on passage of HR 6049, a bill to extend expiring tax breaks that would add new taxes. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because the bill would result in higher taxes than previously paid. The legislation also proposed an expansion of Davis-Bacon requirements that wages be paid at a "prevailing" union rate, which is almost always higher than the market rate, thus distorting labor markets. Passed 263-160, May 21, 2008.
2008 House Vote 448 -- Fuel Price Controls
Vote on passage of HR 6346, a bill that would impose criminal and civil penalties and allow states to file lawsuits against retailers for so-called "price gouging" on fuel sales. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because "price gouging" isn't well defined in this proposal and it would lead to price controls and shortages in emergency situations. Failed 276-146 (282 votes needed under suspension of the rules), June 24, 2008.
2008 House Vote 455 - More New Taxes
Vote to pass HR 6275, a bill that would provide for another one-year Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch for millions of taxpayers. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because the bill would finance the patch with other new taxes, resulting in higher taxes than previously paid. The responsible alternative would have been to extend the provision stopping the AMT tax increase without new taxes. Passed 233-189, June 25, 2008.
2008 House Vote 518 -- Highway Fund Bailout
Vote to pass HR 6532, a bill for an $8 billion bailout of the Highway Trust Fund. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because spending increases should be paid for by cutting low priority spending. Passed 387-37, July 23, 2008.
2008 House Vote 519 -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Bailout
Motion by Frank (D-MA) to adopt a compromise with the Senate to help pass HR 3221, a bill for a bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to allow the Federal Housing Administration to insure up to $300 billion of mortgage debt. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because it creates incentives for risky investments in the future that could wreak havoc on the economy. Passed 272-152, July 23, 2008.
2008 House Vote 532 -- Waive Medicare Trigger
Passage of H Res 1368, a resolution that would suspend a requirement that the House consider legislation to rein in Medicare spending beyond budgeted amounts. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because out of control entitlement spending threatens massive spending and tax increases that would harm the economic growth that makes a safety net possible. Passed 231-184, July 24, 2008.
2008 House Vote 540 -- Commodity Market Regulations
Vote on passage of HR 6604, a bill to increase commodity trading regulations. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because the proposed regulations would have greatly harmed the competitiveness of US commodity markets. Failed 276-151 (285 votes needed under suspension of the rules), July 30, 2008.
2008 House Vote 542 -- Tobacco Regulation
Vote on passage of HR 1108, a bill to direct the Food and Drug Administration to begin regulation of tobacco products. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because it would detract the FDA from its main mission of reviewing and approving new drugs, a key competitive advantage for the American economy. The bill also would impose a new tax. Passed 326-102, July 30, 2008.
2008 House Vote 556 - Expand Equal Pay Act
Vote on passage of HR 1338, a bill to allow more lawsuits to be filed for equal pay and to allow for unlimited punitive damages. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because the bill would greatly increase frivolous litigation, harm entrepreneurship and increase the cost of doing business. Passed 247-178, July 31, 2008.
2008 House Vote 560 - Cut 103 Earmarks
Amendment to HR 6599 by Flake (R-AZ) to cut 103 earmarks from the bill. The pro-growth vote was "yea" because earmarks circumvent the normal budget process, lead to wasteful spending, and are subject to broad abuse by members of Congress. Failed 63-350, August 1, 2008.
2008 House Vote 562 - Kill Offshore Drilling Amendment
Vote on a motion to kill a bipartisan amendment to HR 6599 that would allow more offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because economic growth depends in part on reliable energy sources. Royalties from new natural resource development may cause less economic distortions than income taxes. Passed (killing the amendment) 230-184, August 1, 2008.
2008 House Vote 599 - Energy Regulation Bill
Vote on passage of HR 6899, a bill that would increase energy regulations. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because the bill would greatly distort energy markets and add burdensome regulations and mandates. Passed 236-189, September 16, 2008.
2008 House Vote 681 -- $700 Billion Bank Bailout
Vote on passage of HR 1424, the bill to provide up to $700 billion to bailout banks and other financial institutions. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because the bill would reward bad behavior made by failing banks and create a moral hazard going forward. The free market is designed to give profits for success and bankruptcies for failure. This bill would change that framework and would create costly and unintended consequences that would harm our economy in the future. Passed 263-171, October 3, 2008.
2008 House Vote 690 -- Automobile Bailout
Vote on passage of HR 7321, a bill that would provide up to $14 billion to American automakers. The pro-growth vote was "nay" because passage would misallocate resources to inefficient sectors of the economy that are not willing to modernize or unable to improve and would encourage other industries to also seek special government handouts. Passed 237-170, December 10, 2008.