Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday April 16th, 2015, 4:07pm

GOP Illinois Congressmen Get Poor Grades On National Poverty Scorecard

For yet another year, Republican Illinois congressmen mostly earned poor marks on the annual poverty scorecard issued by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

In the 2014 national scorecard and accompanying report, Shriver Center staffers evaluated the voting record of nearly every U.S. senator and representative during the previous calendar year on legislation important to people living in poverty.

Scores were tabulated based on 20 votes taken in the House and seven in the Senate on legislation covering various topics including the budget, food and nutrition, health care, education and the workforce, to name a few.

The national poverty rate is 14.5 percent, with more than 45 million Americans living below the federal poverty level. At 14.7 percent, Illinois has the nation's 24th lowest poverty rate.

Although the Illinois Congressional Delegation as a whole averaged a "B" on poverty issues and earned the 16th best delegation ranking, the Shriver Center's report noted that Congress as a whole mostly failed to help poor Americans in 2014.

Last year, Republicans controlled the House, and Democrats led the Senate. This year, Republicans took control of the Senate and expanded their House majority.

In 2014, Congress approved two important pieces of anti-poverty legislation -- the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.

That was about it in terms of anti-poverty legislation approved last year by Congress. Lawmakers did reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, through the farm bill. But the farm bill included $8 billion in SNAP cuts over a decade. Compared to earlier farm bill proposals, that was actually a relatively small SNAP funding reduction.

Many other bills and amendments pushed in 2014, backed mostly by Republicans, would have harmed people living in poverty, the Shriver Center found.

"Congress, especially the House of Representatives, sought to advance legislation in 2014 that would have made the lives of people living in poverty worse. These included attacks on anti-discrimination laws, key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, immigrants, and consumer protections," the report reads. "Congress also rejected important legislation that would have made the lives of people in poverty better. These included missed opportunities to advance equal pay laws for women, raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits, protect workers from wage theft, and improve college accessibility."

All six Illinois Republican House members in Congress last year -- including Reps. Peter Roskam (6), Rodney Davis (13), Randy Hultgren (14), John Shimkus, (15), Adam Kinzinger (16) and Aaron Schock (18) -- received a "D" on the poverty scorecard.

Schock is no longer in Congress. He resigned last month amid controversy surrounding his use of taxpayer money and campaign funds.

The Illinois GOP congressmen earned D's in part for voting in favor of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI,1) controversial budget proposal as well as legislation that sought to weaken the consumer financial protection bureau, delay the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate for one year and prevent the president from implementing executive actions on immigration.

Except for U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL,1), all Illinois Democratic House members in Congress got an "A" on the scorecard last year, including Robyn Kelly (2), Dan Lipinski (3) Luis Gutierrez (4), Mike Quigley (5), Danny Davis (7), Tammy Duckworth (8), Jan Schakowsky (9), Brad Schneider (10), Bill Foster (11), Bill Enyart (12) and Cheri Bustos (17). Enyart and Schneider are no longer in Congress, as they lost their re-election bids in November.

Rush was not graded because he voted on only 12 of the 20 bills examined for the scorecard.

In the upper chamber, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) earned a "C" on the scorecard, while U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin received an "A+". Kirk's score was knocked down, in part, because he voted to block consideration of legislation to raise the federal minimum wage.

The Shriver Center's poverty scorecard is meant to serve as a helpful tool for holding lawmakers accountable.

"Too many Americans struggle to keep food on the table, obtain safe and affordable housing, or find work that pays a living wage," Dan Lesser, the Shriver Center's director of economic justice, said in a statement. "The poverty scorecard allows voters to hold their representatives accountable for their action or inaction to address these issues."

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