In January, the Democrats took over Congress with fanfare and promises. So far, though, not much has been delivered. Congressional Quarterly writes:
Democrats face a legislative traffic jam that threatens to leave the party without a single high-profile domestic victory heading into the Memorial Day recess.
On issues ranging from energy policy to a lobbying overhaul, Democrats acknowledge that they must show as soon as possible that they can govern.
So far, the Democratic Congress has been able to enact a mere 26 laws, 12 of which “changed the name of a federal building, post office or national recreation area.”
The Democrats have one big hope for a major legislative accomplishment in the near future: comprehensive immigration reform, with a guest worker program! It’s hard to imagine why the Republicans would hand the Democrats this victory, especially now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
The Democrats’ inability to get anything done undoubtedly accounts for Congress’s current low standing in the polls. The latest bad news comes from Gallup, which reported earlier today that Congress’s approval rating is down to 29%, compared to 33% for President Bush. The Democrats can take a little comfort, perhaps, from the fact that last year, under the Republicans, congress’s approval rating averaged 25% in Gallup’s surveys. But not much, given that the Dems have achieved their current low status with no help from Mark Foley or the national press. The fact that only 25% of independents currently approve of Congress has to be particularly worrisome.
As I’ve said before, the Democrats will suffer to some degree from a do-nothing image, but the real problem will be if voters conclude that they aren’t really interested in conducting the people’s business through constructive legislation, but rather want to use their majorities mainly to conduct their war against President Bush through endless investigations and other forms of harassment. The current low ratings suggest that this may already be happening.
Not coincidentally, the Senate Judiciary Committee spent the morning attacking the administration’s international terrorist surveillance program (wrongly described by the Associated Press as a “warrantless wiretapping program”), through testimony from former Deputy Attorney General James Comey. This kind of thing promises to keep Congress’s ratings in the deep freeze for some time to come.
PAUL adds: I discuss this matter at the AOL blog.