Now that the first 100 days of a GOP majority in Congress have passed, Republican members of both the House and Senate are eager to tout their accomplishments — or at least avoid any criticism that a fully red Congress hasn’t cut away at the dissatisfaction so firmly felt prior to the 2014 midterm elections.
However, this, according to RealClearPolitics’ average of congressional job approval polls from The Economist/YouGov, CBS News/NY Times, AP/GtK, and Fox News, is the unfortunate truth of the matter.
Congressional job approval has failed to significantly increase, most recently listed at 15.5% approval and 75.9% disapproval compared to the end of November, when approval was at 12.5% and disapproval was at 79.6%. There has been some fluctuation before and after that, but the fact remains that public sentiment has improved little with the political shift.
The tweeted report from the Senate Republican Conference reads as follows:
— Senate Republicans (@Senate_GOPs) May 7, 2015
A number of the accomplishments listed are dubious to the point of being nearly laughable. Let’s take a look at how some of them break down, giving credit where it’s due, not to mention a strong dose of reality where it’s needed.
1. The Iran bill
Let’s start out with a partial success for the Senate: the Iran bill. True, it hasn’t yet made it through the House, and true, like any truly bipartisan compromise, there are people on both sides of the aisle who dislike it, but that only proves it truly is a compromise.
The agreement is that Congress will be given the opportunity to review the deal with Iran once made, but that no requirements will be placed on President Barack Obama’s diplomatic efforts, leaving him free to negotiate without additional pressures.
The bill did see bipartisan support, as well as an agreement from the president not to veto it, and was put together by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Whether the bill was a success politically is another question, but in terms of cooperative effort from both Democrats and Republicans, Senate Republicans deserve some credit here.
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization bill deserves credit for what it accomplished even more so, with two-party support, not to mention presidential support. So does the Clay Hunt Veterans Act. But other items are considerably more questionable.
2. The anti-human trafficking bill
Let’s move on to something else: the anti-human trafficking bill. On the one hand, the bill was a success in what it accomplished in the way of preventing and protecting victims of human trafficking, and the assistance offered to them.
It had support from the Obama administration, as well as Republicans in Congress. On the other hand, passing the bill took an inordinate amount of time, and it was offered as an excuse for the long-delayed confirmation of Obama’s appointed Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.
“An effort to fight back against human trafficking in our country is, without question, no place for gridlock and dysfunction,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), according to U.S. News. “It certainly shouldn’t have taken this long, but I’m pleased that we were able to work together.”
3. Keystone XL Pipeline bill
Given that the Keystone Pipeline bill was quickly vetoed with a succinct and unsurprising letter to Congress from the president — as promised — any degree of bipartisan effort present clearly didn’t extend to government as a whole, and more importantly, it really serves as an example of time wasted on a pre-determined outcome.
4. Senate GOP accomplishments
On the list of Senate GOP accomplishments noted in the tweet from John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, half of its items are purely subjective. Basically, someone punched out a couple of November campaign slogan promises and pasted them onto the tweet, with “Get Washington Working Again” and “Make Sure Americans’ Voices Are Heard.”
5. The budget and roll call votes
The budget is clearly listed as a GOP accomplishment, because all 46 members of the Democratic caucus voted against it — and truthfully, even within the GOP, there were some questions regarding the budget. Some hawkish members were displeased with a number of the decisions not to cut certain areas, while others likely recognized that there would be difficult to implement cuts.
While the budget managed to avoid a shutdown, this in itself doesn’t make for an accomplishment. And finally, roll call votes, while notable, don’t necessarily mean a more productive or effective and influential run in the Senate. Votes do not translate to positive results.