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Key Budget, Spending and Tax Votes of the Supercommittee Members

August 12, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The deficit reduction supercommittee that was created by the debt ceiling bill is going to have an extraordinary amount of power. All areas of federal spending and revenues will be on the table when they meet, and whatever proposal they come up with will be guaranteed a vote in both chambers of Congress with no amendments and no filibusters allowed. Now that the 12 supercommittee members have been named, here’s a look at some of their key votes on budget, spending and tax legislation over the past few years, as well as some information on their party loyalty.

Senate Members


Murray [D, WA] Baucus [D, MT] Kerry [D, MA] Kyl [R, AZ] Toomey [R, PA] Portman [R, OH]
Budget Control Act  Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye
Cut, Cap, and Balance (motion to table)  Aye  Aye  Abstain (against party)  Nay  Nay  Nay
2011 CR (cuts spending $38B below 2010 levels)   Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye 
Bush tax cuts extension bill  Aye Aye   Aye  Aye  NV  NV
Repealing ethanol subsidies  Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye  Nay (against party)
Amdt. to return to higher ’09 estate tax level  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye  Nay  NV  NV 
Temporary CR (cuts $6B over three weeks)  Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye  Nay (against)
Anti-outsourcing jobs bill w/ payroll tax break for repatriated hires  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye  Nay  NV  NV
TARP  Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye  NV  NV
Ending funding for F-22 procurement  Nay (against party)  Nay (against party)  Aye  Aye (against party)  NV  NV

One of those most remarkable things about the Senate appointees is the broad support for extending the Bush tax cuts. It’s unclear if that’s an issue that will come up in the meetings (the tax cuts are set to expire in 2012) but it shows a lack of desire in the supercommittee to shift more of the tax burden to the rich. Along similar lines, the Senate Democratic members are not solidly supportive of increasing estate tax levels on the wealthy. Also, it looks like one of the more interesting areas of discission will be defense cuts, with the potential for party position to be almost irrelevant. It’s unclear how Toomey and Portman would have voted on ending F-22 procurement if they had been in the Senate at the time, but there is reason to believe that Toomey at least would have been in favor.

House Members


Clyburn [D, SC]Becerra [D, CA] Van Hollen [D, MD]Hensarling [R, TX]Camp [R, MI]

Upton [R, MI]

Budget Control Act  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye  Aye  Aye  Aye
Cut, Cap, and Balance  Nay  Nay  Nay  Aye  Aye  Aye
2011 CR (cuts spending $38B below 2010 levels)   Nay  Nay  Aye (against party)  Aye  Aye   Aye 
Bush tax cuts extension bill  Nay (against party)  Nay (against party)  Nay (against party)  Aye  Aye  Aye
Clean debt ceiling increase  Nay (against party)  Nay (against party)  Nay (against party)  Nay  Nay  Nay
Amdt. to return to higher ’09 estate tax level  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye  Nay  Nay  Nay 
Temporary CR (cuts $6B over three weeks)  Nay  Nay  Aye (against party)  Aye  Aye  Aye
Cutting funds for F-35 alternate engine program  Nay (against party)  Aye  Aye  Aye (against party)  Aye (against party) Aye (against party)
TARP  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye  Nay  Aye (against party)  Aye (against party)
Authorizing a one-time extra Social Security payment for seniors  Aye  Aye  Aye  Nay  Nay  Nay
AMT relief, funded by tax increases on oil companies and hedge fund managers  Aye  Aye  Aye  Nay  Nay  Nay
2007 Farm Bill  Aye  Aye  Aye  Nay (against party)  Aye  Aye

Van Hollen appears to be generally supportive of the Republicans’ spending-cut-only approach to deficit reduction. He voted for both of the 2011 continuing resolutions, which cut billions in spending while doing nothing at all about revenues.  Also noteworthy, all committee members voted against a clean debt ceiling increase, which suggests that they all wanted to use the debt ceiling crisis as an opportunity for making budgetary changes. Like in the Senate, defense cuts from the House members looks possible. All House Republicans on the supercommittee bucked their party leadership earlier this year to vote against funding the alternate F-35 engine program. Across the whole supercommittee, cutting wasteful defense programs seems to have at least majority support.

Party Loyalty

On one level, the members of the supercommittee haven’t been selected based on their personal preferences in these issues, they’ve been selected to represent and support their party’s position (i.e., in general, no tax increase for Republicans and no entitlement cuts for Democrats). Using data from OpenCongress’ unique party loyalty data, the six Democrats and six Republicans average out to make a fairly balanced committee. The Democrats on the committee have an average loyalty rating of 92.2% while the Republicans on the committee have an average rating of 92.9%.

However, when compared with the overall loyalty of their party caucuses, the Republicans have an advantage on the supercommittee. The supercommittee Republicans are on average 1% more loyal than congressional Republicans in general, while supercommittee Democrats are 1% less loyal than the overall Democratic caucus. Those 1% differences may not sound very significant, but they really are. The OpenCongress loyalty ratings factor in every single vote taken in Congress, and the vast majority of stuff that gets voted on is routine, procedural, and non-controversial. If those votes were not factored in, the 1% differences would be approximately 5%, which means that between Democrats and Republicans on the supercommittee we’re really looking at something like a 10% loyalty gap when it comes to substantial votes.

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