Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Bad Rap

The 110th Congress went into Summer Recess with an 18% approval rating. An overwhelming number of Americans apparently believe the GOP members of Congress who have called this session the "Do Nothing Congress." Yet, a closer look at the past seven months would belie that assertion, as noted in an opinion piece in today's NY Times.

JUST before Congress adjourned for its August recess, Democrats engaged in a flurry of legislative activity, while Republicans complained about a “do-nothing” Congress’s meager policy accomplishments. Deep partisan differences, narrow majorities and a Republican in the White House have frustrated Democratic ambitions and fueled a toxic atmosphere in both chambers of Congress. The public’s low approval ratings reflect broad discontent with the direction of the country but also displeasure with Congress for failing to reverse course on Iraq and for continuing the bitter partisan warfare. ...

Still, the Democratic Congress’s legislative harvest this year has been bountiful compared with that of its Republican counterpart in 1995. Back then, the Republicans’ Contract With America was stymied by opposition from the Senate and the president. The new Congress has enacted a far-reaching lobbying and ethics reform bill, an increase in the minimum wage, recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, foreign investment rules and a competitiveness package, and has embedded a number of major initiatives and new priorities in continuing and supplemental spending bills. Democrats also made headway on energy, children’s health insurance, college student loans, Head Start, drug safety and a farm bill — though much of this awaits action in the Senate or in conference and faces a possible veto.

During the first seven months of 1995, Congressional oversight of the executive branch increased modestly in the Senate but not at all in the House. But this year Congress, especially the House, has intensified its oversight, following years of inattention and deference by its Republican predecessor.
[Emphasis added]

There have been failures, some of them disasterous, such as the recent FISA law "update," but this Congress has accomplished quite a bit so far, probably because it has been in session many more days than its predecessors. Then why the "do-nothing" label?

As the op-ed piece notes, Congress has done nothing to stop the carnage in Iraq, the issue that matters most to Americans. I think, however, there's more to it. The press hasn't done the Democratic led Congress any favors, focusing more on the political rancor than on the accomplishments. And the Democrats haven't helped their cause by promising to do things if elected and then failing to follow through with the dramatic proposals they promised, such as cleaning up the ethical failures of the last Congress.

Still, if you look carefully at the graphic accompanying the article (which has to be enlarged to read, and therefor too big to include here), the differences between the first seven months in 1995 and the first seven months in 2007 are pretty dramatic.

If nothing else, the first seven months have been a pretty good start. I just hope the next seventeen are as productive.

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6 Comments:

Blogger chidy said...

i'm sorry to be such a whiny naysayer, but i'm not impressed. the ethics reform was pretty weak in fact, and it certainly hasn't stopped the flow of money in the beltway. nor am i impressed with implementing the 911 recs- hello, the greatest cause of terrorism is our continued presence in iraq.

not taking it out on you diane, it's good some people can remain positive.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Soullite said...

I;d imagine some of that disapproval is specifically with republicans in congress, while some of it is dissatisfaction with congress among the Democratic party voters. They were elected to end the war and institute ethical reforms. They didn't do anything but engage in political theater on the first issue, and on the second that basically did nothing. There reforms were too pathetically weak to even scratch the surface of the massive corruption in our system.

To go the extra mile, they passed a FISA bill that has convinced a non-trivial amount of voters that there is essentially no difference between the political parties. It's a big mistake to think that the large percentages of Americans who do not approve of congress don't know the truth. It's entirely likely that they know the truth, and that you're looking at the facts with a partisan desire to paint the Democrats as behaving better than they have been.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Donald Douglas said...

What the graph shows is that the Democrats' real achievement is oversight, oversight, oversight!

Let's investigate the administration rather than achieve substantive legislation! Where are the landmark achievement under Pelosi and Reid? They've done jack, and Mann's article shows it.

Twist it all you like - it's not the media that's messed things up, it's Democratic incompetence itself.

Burkean Reflections

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think for many voters, working long hours, minding children, maintaining hourse and yards, plus trying to have some recreation and time as families, getting quality information in this nation is not easy. It's actually very difficult and time consuming.

If people don't have time for reading blogs, the area which seems to do the best fact checking on the MCM* and which also aggregates important news, if those people depend on the MCM and their local newspapers, maybe a weekly news magazine--they're in the land of fog facts, propaganda, misleading information, lack of context, and Magical Ellipses which enable a "news" source to shift and shape anyone's statements.

When the MCM tends to parrot the Republican PR and talking points, to host mostly Republican spokespoeple and politicians, and to be cheerleaders for the administration (with a few exception), news consumers in this country have to practice some of the skills well-honed by Soviet citizens in decades past: Reading between the lines, discounting both good and bad official information sources, and, actually, just shutting out the news and going with their impressions.

Unfortunately, impressions can be manipulated. See MCM lies about Dem presidential candidates (dailyhowler.com is fabulous for that). See Swift Boating--and MCM enalbing of outright lies.

The Democratic Congress, with its slender majority in each house, with LieberDems in both houses, a Senate minority which will do everything in its power to stall and defeat legislation, plus a president who will do the same plus veto--has actuallydone pretty well, actually accomplished some good things.

Their errors are glaring and egregious--and mostly caused by fear of an administration which lies and does anything it can to achieve its ends while working full time to destroy the Dems.

We need to chide and punish as appropriate, while cheering on and supporting every good thing the Dems do. I'm not sure how to do this the best way, alas.

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
jawbone

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, given what lack of oversight has given us, having it back is extremely welcome to me.

And BushBoy can ignore subpoenas, tell his people to not appear even to take the Fifth or claim executive privilege, but he can't veto investigations. And his stonewalling does create impressions among voters.

Again, with a larger majority in the Senate, it would be hard for the 'Thugs to filibuster--a word they never use, of course--and the Dems should be using whenever they speak about legislating. Name tactics and name names, name the offending party--the one which cried crocodile tears about any Dems threatening to filibuster.

Then, get either a Dem president or a veto-proof majorigy. Either takes work--given the gerrymandering of so many House districts, getting a Dem president might be easier.

Meanwhile, begin working for one citizen of voting age, one vote for president--get rid of the electoral college. Something needs to be done immediately to fight against the California 'Thug attempt to change the electoral college vote rules.
jawbone

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think many of us are tired of seeing and hearing how the Republicans are all powerful, able to keep Democrats in check no matter what. It was one thing when they controlled the House, Senate and Presidency and had the majority of public opinion in their favor, but what's the excuse now? You can't blame everything on them continually, at some point you've got to stop being so soft and start acting like you're not a punching bag for the GOP. There will always be excuses, but the Democrats in power now seem content to sit around and just use them instead of getting through them. While I despise the criminals in the Republican party, the DNC could learn from their determination and coordinating abilities. It seems the Democratic party leaders are always coming up short.

12:26 PM  

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