There has been a recent effort from Congress — in both Houses — to illustrate the accomplishments of their majority Republican strength in the legislature as it’s been shown so far. There’s the tweet sent out from Senate Republicans listing the accomplishment of 14 bipartisan bills in the last four months — not an entirely fair summation, as the list is mostly subjective and in some cases arguably inaccurate.
The Republican National Committee published its “Republican-Led First 100 Days of Congress,” listing its own set of accomplishments, and comments from senators and representatives have cropped up all over touting the early achievements of the first 100 days with a majority of votes on the Republican side. Why the media sandstorm of accomplishments? One of the biggest promises made on behalf of the GOP during the midterm elections was the idea that a change in favor of a Republican majority would help to break gridlock, something Americans were wholeheartedly frustrated with by that time after government shutdowns and political standoffs.
This sensitivity to the perception surrounding their success or failure to hold to these promises is understandable when one considers some of the polls coming out — especially in light of the presidential elections coming up in 2016. When it comes to midterms, Democrats are historically not strong performers in midterm elections — but presidential elections are a whole other story, and Hillary Clinton is currently doing well in the polls despite a number of scandals and public attacks to her character. The importance of showing a successful follow-through on promises made in the Republican Congress is even greater with these future stakes in mind. And, at least according to the most recent polls, the positive publicity may indeed be badly needed, because approval of Congress hasn’t been increasing despite the best efforts of politicians.
A poll from Gallup taken in early May continues to show strong disapproval across parties — not just from Democrats or Independents. Democrats had the highest congressional job disapproval, but only by a few percentage points, at 80% compared to 77% for independents, and 73% for Republicans. Approval sat at a mere 21% for Republicans, with independents and Democrats tied at 18%.
This is most surprising from Republicans, where an increase in approval would be most expected. But the increase since last year has only been that of 6 percentage points, and the rating isn’t far above where independents and Democrats currently sit. It’s possible that some of the bipartisan work accomplished — and there has indeed been some accomplishments worthy of note even with the adversarial relationship between the legislature and executive.
Approval even within the GOP has not seen expected spikes — possibly because accomplishments can’t discount the measures that have been unsuccessful in passing through Congress. The issue of immigration reform remains an important one that likely won’t see attention until after 2016. There’s the matter of the trade bill, and military force in Iraq and Syria is still a matter that hasn’t been pushed through as of yet. There was also the overstep in sending a letter to Iran during sensitive negotiations between the U.S. over nuclear power.
RealClearPolitics’s average of polls taken in April and May of this year shows only a 15.5% approval and a 75.8% disapproval combining results from The Economist/YouGov, CBS News/NY Times, Associated Press/GtK, and Fox News.
It’s possible that given more time this could change and opinions will improve — and it’s also possible that the divisive place America is in politics could be fueling some of this sentiment almost as much as the legislative results being seen. Mudslinging as its been seen in both the presidency and in Congress has a way of fueling frustration rather than putting the blame off, as often intended. There have also been detractors from genuine legislative accomplishments on the political side of things — for example the delay in confirming Loretta Lynch while trying to pass the anti-human trafficking bill that eventually made its way through to law. While the bill was a success, the delay in confirming Lynch, and the comments surrounding that delay, greatly frustrated some.
It’s also notable that the Republican party isn’t as unified as it once was, meaning that displeasure within the party is also a possible explanation for some of the policies that other members of the party might traditional support. Especially those accomplishments that required a degree of negotiation and compromise with more liberal members of the legislature in order to get them passed. One thing is for sure, in all of this, and that’s that Democrats are certainly not mourning the low approval polls being seen.
More from Politics Cheat Sheet:
- Republicans Prepare for Immigration Battle With This Legislation
- Republican Budget Balances Deficit, But Doesn’t Balance Partisanship
- 2014 Election Guide: Will a GOP Senate Majority Let Congress Work?
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