WASHINGTON – In the eyes of the public, Congress is doing even worse than the president.
Public satisfaction with the job lawmakers are doing has fallen 11 points since May, to 24 percent, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. That’s lower than for President Bush, who hasn’t fared well lately, either.
Bush has been taking heat over the Iraq war, his decision to spare a former top vice presidential aide from going to prison and his desire for an overhaul of immigration laws that critics said would give a free pass to illegal immigrants. His job approval rating in the AP-Ipsos survey remained virtually unchanged at 33 percent.
The 24 percent approval rating for Congress matched its previous low, which came in June 2006, five months before Democrats won control of the House and Senate due to public discontent with the job Republicans were doing.
Just two months ago, 35 percent of the public approved of Congress’ work.
Poll respondents from both political parties say they’re tired of the fighting between Congress and the White House, and want the two branches of government to work together on such issues as education, health care and the Iraq war.
“They don’t approve of anything he does,” Theresa Holsten, 55, a Republican and unemployed resident of Lawton, Okla., said of Congress. “He can’t do anything right, according to what some people say. It irritates the living daylights out of me.”
Tammy Lambirth, 42, a data researcher from San Antonio, disapproves of “all the fighting that they do all the time.”
The latest tussle involves Bush’s refusal to hand over documents and let former White House aides answer questions from the Democrat-controlled Congress about the firing of U.S. attorneys. The dispute could end up in federal court.
“The Republicans are just stonewalling everything, and the Democrats are just not stepping up and making them do what they need to do, especially about Iraq,” said Lambirth, a Democrat. “They need to make our troops get out of Iraq.”
While the public’s approval of Congress has dropped 11 points since May, the percentage of Democrats who are turning up their noses at Congress – like Lambirth – nearly doubled. Among Republicans, though, not so much.
Approval among Democrats fell 21 points, from 48 percent in May to 27 percent.
It remained low among Republicans, at 20 percent, and has not changed significantly in the past two months.
Democrats won control of Congress on the strength of their promises to end the Iraq war, but so far have failed to do it. Bush vetoed one spending bill that included a deadline for ending the war, and Democrats don’t have the votes to override him.
An increase in the federal minimum wage became law, but much of the Democratic agenda has cleared the House only to become bottled up in the Senate, where the party has a much narrower working majority.
Democrats need to be mindful of the public’s satisfaction with Congress’ productivity, especially as the party campaigns to win back the White House in elections next year, said political science professor Kenneth Sherrill.
“If you manage to persuade a very large number of voters, including an increasing percentage of people who associate with your own party, that you’re not capable of governing, you’re in real trouble,” said Sherrill, who teaches at Hunter College in New York City. “That is not a good message to send.”