New Congress, Same Dysfunction

Posted on January 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

113 congressCongress’ approval rating, how low can it go?

The 113th Congress was sworn in last week with 90 percent of the membership and 100 percent of the partisanship returning for another term. Don’t these folks realize that they are not sent to Washington to do politics? Don’t they know they are sent to govern?

Okay, so the 112th Congress adjourned to the history books with an 11th hour vote to avoid the fiscal cliff, the overused term for a series of tax hikes and budget cuts that would have sent the economy tumbling into free fall.

If they had actually solved that issue, you might have been able to say the last Congress accomplished something. But it didn’t, it simply kicked the can down the road, setting up another high stakes game of chicken in the coming weeks.

The Democrats made gains in both the House and the Senate in the November elections, but not enough to make any difference. In the Senate, Democrats now have 53 seats to 45 Republicans, and two Independents will caucus with the Democrats. Republicans retained control in the House, with 233 members to the Democrats’ 200.

There are record numbers of women in both houses, with 20 senators and 81 House members. Among the new Democrats in the Senate are Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly gay senator, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman.

These demographic strides aside, though, it’s pretty much; meet the new Congress, same as the old Congress.

On its way out the door on January 1, the old Congress dealt with the tax portion of the fiscal cliff problem, which will raise taxes on those earning more than $400,000 per year and keep everyone else’s taxes the same. But the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, were simply put off for two months.

So that’s on the 113th’s early agenda along with equally thorny debates on giving the government authority to borrow more money and the looming potential for a government shutdown on March 27.

Obama has said he won’t be drawn into bargaining sessions over borrowing authority. Republicans have said they want to see cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs or they won’t allow the debt ceiling to be raised.

Is it any surprise that this level of dysfunction has sent the Congress’ approval rating over a cliff of its own?  Fewer than 20 percent of Americans approved of the job the 112th Congress did last year and that was before the fiscal cliff debacle.

According to Gallup, the approval rating was somewhere around 18 percent in December. That actually seems kind of high, given the high level of partisanship and the low level of productivity on Capitol Hill.

Being on the front lines of congressional activity, as we have been for so long, does lead to a level of cynicism, for which we apologize. But while we certainly hope we are wrong, the 113th appears on course to be another epic failure.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at

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