The Freedom Index: A Congressional Scorecard Based on the U. S. Constitution

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Our second look at the 112th Congress shows how every Representative and Senator voted on key issues such as the debt deal, the South Korea trade deal, Libya (House only), and indefinite detention (Senate only).

House Vote Descriptions

11 Libya. During consideration of the Defense appropriations bill, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced an amendment to prohibit the use of funds in the bill to carry out military actions against Libya unless Congress declares war against Libya.

The House rejected the Kucinich amendment on July 8, 2011 by a vote of 169 to 251 (Roll Call 530). We have assigned pluses to the yeas because under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution only Congress has the power "to declare war."

The Founding Fathers assigned this power to Congress because they did not want a single man deciding when to go to war. Yet President Obama usurped this congressional war-making authority by initiating offensive military actions against Libya without even asking advice from Congress, much less requesting the required declaration of war.

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12 Incandescent Light Bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs ranging from 40 to 100 watts will be phased out during 2012-2014 in accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140). The first size to be phased out in 2012 will be the 100-watt incandescent light bulb. The energy efficiency standards in PL 110-140 that will effectively ban the ubiquitous incandescent light bulb will leave the environmentally questionable (due to mercury content) compact fluorescent light bulbs as the only economical light bulb in the marketplace. However, this ban on incandescent light bulbs led to the introduction of H.R. 2417, a bill that would repeal the relevant sections of PL 110-140 so that the familiar incandescent light bulbs would continue to be available for purchase in the United States.

The House rejected H.R. 2417 on July 12, 2011 by a vote of 233 to 193 (Roll Call 563). The bill was brought to a vote under suspension of the rules, which required a two-thirds majority of those present and voting (284 in this case) for passage. We have assigned pluses to the yeas because the federal government has no constitutional authority to establish energy efficiency standards that would prevent the production, distribution, and consumer purchase of a previously perfectly acceptable and universally used product, such as the incandescent light bulb.

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13 Debt Deal. This legislation (S.365) provided for an immediate $400 billion increase in the national debt limit, while allowing the President to raise the ceiling an additional $500 billion unless Congress passes a resolution of disapproval (see House vote #14 below).

This legislation also established a process for reducing future cumulative deficit projections by up to $2.4 trillion for fiscal years 2012 through 2021, including the establishment of a supercommittee tasked with recommending cuts totaling up to $1.5 trillion for the 10-year period. If the supercommittee were to fail in recommending at least $1.2 trillion in cuts (and, as we know, the supercommittee failed to recommend any cuts), then the legislationwould trigger automatic cuts totaling up to $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

The debt-raising/deficit-cutling package created the appearance that Congress was doing something to rein in out-of-con-trol spending. But in reality, the total national debt would still increase even if the entire dollar amount of cuts called for in the legislation were identified and enacted, since the cuts are not cuts in the absolute sense but cuts in future budget projections. The national debt would continue to go up, but not as fast as before, for the simple reason that cutting (say) $1.2 trillion over 10 years will not offset projected annual $1 trillion-plus deficits.

The House passed S. …