Tales from the Trail

Congress hits new low in public opinion

USA-HEALTHCARE/PELOSIThe American public’s opinion of Congress has hit a new low, with only 13 percent of adults saying they approve of the job the national legislature is doing.

That’s according to a new Gallup survey, which finds an 83 percent disapproval rating for Congress — the worst the polling organization has seen in more than 30 years of congressional performance tracking.

The ‘good’ news is that Congress’ rating slipped only 1 percentage point  from last time.

For 2010 as whole, Congress’ approval rating averaged 19 percent. That ties the averages for 1979 and 2008, and ranks just 1 percentage point above the 18 percent average for 1992.

G20/Those years were all marked by difficult economic times for the United States.
    
Gallup interviewed 1,019 adults Dec. 10-12 for the survey, as the Democratic-controlled Congress pursued its lame duck agenda before going out of business when a new Republican majority enters the House of Representatives in January.
    
Gallup says people seem more frustrated with the Democratic congressional majority than with President Barack Obama, whose approval rating has been relatively stable at between 44 percent and 46 percent.
    
But the polling organization said congressional popularity could rebound in 2011, if history is any guide.
    
Public approval of Congress jumped 10 percentage points in January 1995, as Republicans took control of the House and Senate for the RTR2EZR0_Comp1-150x150RTXVANS_Comp-150x150first time in 40 years.  Approval jumped even higher — by 14 percentage points — in January 2007 after Democrats seized control of the legislative body.

Jury still out on Republicans, despite election victory – poll

congress1Despite winning control of the House of Representatives and making gains in the Senate, Republicans still have a way to go to truly win the hearts of Americans, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Just 41 percent of respondents said the Republican takeover of the House is a “good thing,” 27 percent said it was a “bad thing,” and 30 percent said it won’t make any difference, the poll found.

Although voters gave President Barack Obama (and his Democrats) a “shellacking” on election day, the public still has a little more faith in the president than in Republican lawmakers, according to the survey results.

White House podium turns time machine for Bill Clinton redux

USA-TAXES/OBAMA-CLINTON

Bill Clinton took the White House press corps on an unexpected journey back in time on Friday afternoon with an impromptu trip to the briefing room podium, where he held forth for half an hour, obviously loving every minute.

The former president didn’t rise to the bait when he was asked whether he enjoyed coming in and offering advice more than running the country. Clinton, like his fellow Democratic President Barack Obama, grappled with crushing losses to Republicans in mid-term congressional elections two years into his presidency.

The two Democratic presidents called the surprise news conference after an Oval Office meeting to discuss Obama’s deal with Republicans, which extends tax cuts for middle-income earners and the wealthiest Americans and includes an extension of unemployment benefits and a cut in payroll taxes. Obama has been lambasted by some congressional Democrats for reaching an agreement that they say concedes far too much to the rival party.

Democrats, Meet Mr. Hobson

RTR1H4KV_Comp-150x150Democrats don’t like President Barack Obama’s tax compromise. They’re disappointed. Some may vote against it. But the package still seems destined to pass.

“If the idea is that this is a take-it-or-leave-it deal, I think the president’s going to realize there are going to be a lot of Democrats who are going to be voting ‘no’,” House Democrat Anthony Weiner tells ABC.

The tough-talking New Yorker, one of Obama’s more ferocious critics on the tax issue, has likened the tax discussion Vice President Joe Biden had with House Democrats on Wednesday to a prison brawl.

Washington Extra – Imagine

To look ahead, sometimes it’s necessary to look back.

OBAMA/In January, President Barack Obama said in an interview with ABC News: “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” At that time, his signature domestic issue, healthcare reform, had been dealt a setback with the election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat long held by the late Edward Kennedy, and some senators were balking at approving Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term.

Bernanke got confirmed in late January and healthcare reform passed in March.

An outsider looking at the current hand-wringing on Capitol Hill over extending tax cuts could be forgiven for thinking the issue is on a razor’s edge, when in fact it is highly likely that Obama’s compromise with the Republicans will pass in some form. Vice President Joe Biden, the president’s arm-twister on this issue, has been up on the Hill talking to reluctant Democrats and in the end will likely have the votes.

“I expect everybody to examine it carefully. When they do, I think they’re going to feel confident that, in fact, this is the right course — while understanding that for the next two years we’re going to have a big debate about taxes and we’re going to have a big debate about the budget and we’re going to have a big debate about deficits,” Obama said.

Washington Extra – Cold shoulder

It’s a chilly day in Washington, and we’re not just talking about the weather.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are giving President Barack Obama the cold shoulder after he blinked first in the stand-off with Republicans over extending tax cuts. USA/

“We will continue discussions with the President and our Caucus in the days ahead,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. (Translation – House Democrats are not on board with this yet.)

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Obama steady, Republicans get higher marks on economy

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating held steady at 45 percent since late October despite last month’s “shellacking” of Democrats in the midterm elections, a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Dec. 2-5 showed.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scored the highest favorability rating on a list of prominent officials and politicians, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a potential Republican presidential contender, and General David Petraeus. USA-TAXES/

At the bottom of the list were conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh with the lowest favorability rating, followed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Rising above politics … in Washington

RTXVGWL_Comp1-150x150President Barack Obama seems to want to rise above politics in the tax debate. Good luck with that.

When Obama announced the White House’s tentative tax deal with congressional Republicans, he said he had agreed to compromise rather than “play politics” at a time when Americans want problems solved.

The president gave every impression of bowing to the verdict that voters delivered on Nov. 2, when they evicted so many Democrats from their lodgings in the House of Representatives and handed the time-share keys to the Republicans.

Washington Extra – Reaching for the stars

Democrats are pulling out the big guns in tax talks. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are meeting with Democratic congressional leaders today to discuss the “progress being made” in negotiations with Republicans. The meetings will give Obama a first-hand account of the lay-of-the-land on Capitol Hill, and perhaps a chance to discuss areas of potential compromise. Of course without Republicans in the room, it will be a one-sided discussion, but may provide some fresh ammo. OBAMA/

Sometimes tackling the big issues in Washington can seem a bit like reaching for the stars. Obama spoke today about America facing a “Sputnik moment” in its quest for economic recovery. When President John F. Kennedy had his “Sputnik moment” a half-century ago, he called for an American to be sent to the moon, and ultimately succeeded. Will Obama’s “Sputnik moment” end just as well? 

Be sure to look at Scot Paltrow’s special report on the depth of questionable signing and notarization practices at Lender Processing Services, a Florida-based firm that handles more than half of the country’s foreclosures. LPS is not a household name, but it is a central player in the so-called robo-signing controversy.

Washington Extra – Chicken and ducks

USA-HEALTHCARE/The wrangling continues over the Bush-era tax cuts. President Barack Obama said he was confident Democrats and Republicans could break the deadlock and reach a deal soon. But with time running out, there is something of a game of chicken being played by the two sides. Each is watching to see who blinks first, and with the economy still struggling, both know the stakes are high.

 

Texas Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling warned of the risks of failure:  “In a lame duck session, a lame duck Congress should not turn our economy into a dead duck economy.”

 

Let’s just hope they don’t duck the issue.

 

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

 

White House memo outlines new anti-leak measures

The White House has set up a special anti-WikiLeaks panel after the embarrassing flood of State Department cables leaked by the website, and its proposals include teams of inspectors who would prowl government agencies looking for ways to tighten security. A four-page draft memo circulated by the White House says President Obama’s national security staff has created an “Interagency Policy Committee for WikiLeaks.”