Congressional Poverty Scorecard – Anti-Poverty Legislation Blocked

(Affluence creates poverty. Marshall McLuhan – promoted by pfiore8)

On Monday, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law released its 2007 Congressional Poverty Scorecard. The President of the Center, John Bouman, noted that in states with the highest poverty rates, their congressional delegations tended to score the worst.

“Poverty is everywhere in America, but it is interesting that in states with the highest concentrations of poverty, the Congressional delegations seem least interested in supporting initiatives that fight poverty,” said John Bouman, president of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, which released the study. “This appears deeper than simply opposing spending. A member could have opposed any of the measures we analyzed that called for new spending and still could have voted to support half of the poverty-fighting measures on our list.”

Former presidential candidate John Edwards was also on the center’s conference call with reporters.

“We can get the national leadership and we can get the congressional leadership we need,” Edwards said. “But first voters need to be educated as to who is doing the work and who is not.”

Southern and Western states are doing the worst on poverty issues, according to the scorecard.

States whose delegations had the worst voting records and highest poverty rates were South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont were the only four states whose entire congressional delegations earned all A’s.

Most of the proposals that were considered for calculating the grade on the scorecard did not pass the House and Senate. The Senate in particular had trouble passing these bills due to filibusters or the threat of filibusters by Republican members. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who received a grade of A+, explained as follows:

“That’s something I don’t think the America people understand,” said Sanders on Monday, adding Republicans are “obstructing” the work of the Senate. “A lot of these votes were not yes or no on the specific bill. They were yes or no to end a filibuster.”

Edwards said that progress on poverty will only come with leadership, but added that both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have promised him that they will make poverty an issue in their campaigns and focus on it in the White House, if elected.

The report considered bills on a variety of issues affecting poverty.

The votes we selected cover a wide range of subject areas, including affordable housing, budget and tax, civil rights, early and higher education, health care, immigrants, labor, legal services, prisoner reentry, and rural poverty. In some important subject areas such as assets policy, we did not include any votes because we determined that no votes important to fighting poverty occurred in that subject area in 2007.

The report considered fourteen votes in the Senate and fifteen votes in the House. Members were scored on “yes” or “no” votes and absent votes were eliminated.

The center was able to provide a score for 92 out of 100 Senators. Eight Senators received no score because they had not participated in enough of the votes. In many cases this was because they were running for President, though one was ill and one had arrived in the Senate partway through the year. They were also able to rank 424 out of 435 House members, with the few who were not scored also not voting enough times for similar reasons.

Click here to see which bills were considered and how your own Congressional representatives did.

Crossposted from EENR Blog


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  1. This needs to be addressed by people in each state.

    I reviewed the PDF 44 page that they have, it breaks down to the St Reps and how they have been voting on poverty issues.  A very good report, many should review it and hold theie own state reps and senators accountable.

    I reviewed it looking for TN. There are many states that need to address this, not just the worst on the list.

    Much work continues to bridge the gaps between those who get richer and those who are getting poorer.

    The current state of the economy will surely worsen this issue.

  2. …from my state (Iowa) both scored 100.  Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack both took over Republican seats in 2006.  Good to see them developing a good track record in their first terms.

    • OPOL on March 13, 2008 at 02:12

    I am grateful for anyone and everyone who ever fought the good fight for the poor.  These are special people.  We need more like them.

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