Congress Watch, Ralph Nader's consumer advocacy organization, has labeled the 95th Congress the "Corporate Congress" because of the growth of power of the business lobby.
The consumer group also gave Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Reps. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.) and Robert F. Drinan (D-Mass.) the highest scores in its "public Citizen Voting Index," a rating based on the legislators' stands on five major issues: consumer protection, government reform, energy, tax reform and waste/subsidy.
"The cumulative data indicate an inching toward the center by both parties," said Mark Green, director of Congress Watch. He said that while traditionally liberal northern Democrats seemed less so this year, traditionally conservative Republicans scored better on the consumer survey than usual.
"While the 94th Congress began with Republicans fearing a veto-proof Congress, the 95th ends with progressive Democrats yearning for a business-proof Congress. Corporate America, if one studies the votes, seems to exercise a de facto veto on policies they find objectionable."
Green cited three factors for the success of the business lobby in the 95th Congress: "big money, an antibureaucracy mood, and Republican voting cohesion."
"When this iron triangle of big business money, an antigovernment sentiment and Republican unity link together." Green said, "Congress seems incapable of responding to consumer proposals."
On the other hand, Green said some of the consumer bills that did make it through the 95th Congress were the National Cooperative Bank, airline deregulation, a bank reform act and Civil Service reform.
Other senators who scored well with the consumer group were Edward M. Kennedy, (D-Mass.), Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Dick Clark (D-Iowa).
The lowest score in the Senate went to Miltron R. Young (R-N.D.) while low honors in the House were given to Arlan Stangeland (R-Minn.).
Congress Watch was, however, encouraged by the fact that there will be a large number of new faces in the 96th Congress. "More than half of the House will have been elected since 1974," the report stated.