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Author:  Tony Phyrillas
Bio: Tony Phyrillas
Date:  April 19, 2011
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Topic category:  Government/Politics

Few 'Taxpayer Friends' from Pennsylvania in Congress

Pennsylvania voters were particularly agitated with members of Congress, tossing out five incumbent Democrats who represented Pennsylvania Congressional seats, as well as Sen. Arlen Specter.

The National Taxpayers Union, a 362,000-member fiscal watchdog group, has released its annual report card on members of Congress.

For the past 32 years, the Washington, D.C.-based group has issued a scorecard for each member of Congress based on his or her voting record to determine how "friendly" or "unfriendly" they are to overburdened taxpayers.

In addition to handing out letter grades — A through F — the group divides lawmakers into two groups: "Taxpayers' Friends" and "Big Spenders."

The grades are for 2010 members of Congress, many of whom have already been tossed out of office by angry voters last November.

It's no surprise that so many incumbents lost in 2010 if you follow the NTU rankings over the past three decades.

"2010 saw some of the most polarizing fiscal issues in the history of Congress, and NTU's Rating depicted the trend in stark detail," said NTU President Duane Parde. "Although an increasing number of lawmakers voted with taxpayers' interests, more than three times as many sided with special interests instead. With this lopsided tug-of-war among Members of Congress, it is no wonder the nation's finances were dragged into a quagmire last year."

Pennsylvania voters were particularly agitated with members of Congress, tossing out five incumbent Democrats who represented Pennsylvania Congressional seats, as well as Sen. Arlen Specter.

While other watchdog groups tabulate ratings based on selected votes, NTU considers every vote taken by every member of Congress during each session. For 2010, the NTU rankings are based on 165 House and 142 Senate votes.

Some 79 lawmakers attained an "A" grade (at least 90 percent in the House and a 95 percent the Senate), which makes them eligible for the NTU's "Taxpayers' Friend Award" — an increase from the 55 who earned top grades in 2009, Parde notes.

At least half the members of Congress flunked the NTU grading system, with 264 Senators and Representatives earning the title of "Big Spender" for posting "F" grades (20 percent or less in the House and 18 percent or less in the Senate), Parde says.

A familiar name finished at the head of the class among all members of Congress. For the eighth consecutive year, Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, earned top honors in the House with a 97 percent rating.

In the Senate, NTU recognized Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who earned a 99.5 percent, breaking the 99 percent mark that Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) earned in 1983. Right behind McCain was Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), whose score was rounded to 99.5 percent.

The top scorers from Pennsylvania are Rep. Joe Pitts, a Republican who represents the 16th District in parts of Berks, Chester and Lancaster counties, and Rep. Bill Shuster, who represents the 9th District in Western Pennsylvania. Both earned a B+ in the report card.

Pennsylvania Reps. Paul Kanjorski, Allyson Schwartz and Joe Sestak earned the lowest House scores.

Unfortunately for Pennsylvania taxpayers, far too many of the lawmakers who represent the state earned "F" grades from the NTU, qualifying for the group's "Big Spender" category.

Here's a look at how Pennsylvania members of Congress did on the taxpayer report card:

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. — F; Sen. Arlen Specter — F; Rep. Jason Altmire — D; Rep. Bob Brady — F; Rep. Chris Carney — F; Rep. Mark Critz — F; Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper — F; Rep. Charlie Dent — C+; Rep. Mike Doyle — F; Rep. Chaka Fattah — F; Rep. Jim Gerlach — C+; Rep. Tim Holden — D; Rep. Paul Kanjorski — F; Rep. Patrick Murphy — F; Rep. Tim Murphy — C+; Rep. Joe Pitts — B+; Rep. Todd Platts — C+; Rep. Allyson Schwartz — F; Rep. Joe Sestak — F; Rep. Bill Shuster — B+; Rep. Glenn Thompson — B

In the Senate, Specter and Casey are both Democrats. In the House, all of the Democrats from Pennsylvania received "F" grades except Reps. Altmire and Holden, who each earned a "D" grade.

Carney, Dahlkemper, Kanjorski and Patrick Murphy were ousted by voters last November while Sestak gave up his House seat for an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. Sestak's seat was won by Republican Pat Meehan. Specter failed to win another term in the Senate, losing to Republican Pat Toomey.

What lesson should politicians have learned after the "shellacking" tax-and-spend Democrats took in the midterm elections?

"Given the multi-trillion-dollar surge in the national debt during 2009 and 2010, taxpayers are now hoping for a different kind of surge — one that will take scores for both parties on NTU's next Rating of Congress to new and fitting heights," Parde said. "Time will tell if lawmakers translate their words on behalf of limited government to deeds that will show up on our scorecard — and in taxpayers' wallets."

To review the process NTU uses to determine its grades or the actual votes taken on specific bills, visit the group's Web site at

Tony Phyrillas (Columnist)

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Biography - Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (, his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas

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