Congressional Insiders Grade Themselves Poorly, But Still Hope for a Deal
Numerous polls have shown Americans' deep disapproval of the current Congress. The latest National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll shows members of Congress - especially Democrats - aren't feeling so great about themselves either. However, despite giving themselves low grades on the year, the survey also found that members on both sides generally agreed that deals on the payroll-tax holiday and unemployment benefits are likely to be stuck by the Christmas break.
|What grade (A+ through F) would you give the first year of the 112th Congress?|
|Do you think a deal will be reached so that both the payroll tax break and extended jobless benefits are continued in 2012?|
Democratic members were particularly harsh in their assessment of the 112th Congress so far, with many citing an overall lack of accomplishments.
This Congress "got nothing done this year and instilled no confidence that it can next year," said one Democrat. Asked another, "We shook the economy with a manufactured 'debt-ceiling crisis' and threatened government shutdowns, did nothing for jobs, ignored the unemployed, and coddled the top percent. What's to like here?"
Republicans were less severe in their grading, but voiced some of the same complaints. "We just could get things done," said one Republican member. "Neither side could move. Presidential politics began on Day One and will continue until the election. Very frustrating."
Several Democrats singled out a lack of action on jobs as the reason for a failing grade. "Instead of focusing on creating jobs, the tea party took over Congress with a single goal of making President Obama a one-term president," said one Democratic member. "They have failed spectacularly in addressing the No. 1 issue for my constituents."
Said another Democrat, "Well, there were all those jobs bills ... oh, wait."
Still, a few Republicans defended the 112th Congress up to a point. One argued, "This year was a landmark shift from a Congress that spends to a Congress that saves, but the mechanisms to deal with future cuts and revenues remain broken."
Members on both sides blamed the opposing party for this year's lack of Congressional distinction. "Republicans should get an F from the American people," said one Democratic member. "R's did nothing, almost took the government down, and deliberately ignored every opportunity to work with Dems to improve the economy."
"We [in the House] have done everything we've promised, including passing a responsible budget and repealing Obamacare," countered a Republican member. "[Harry] Reid has made the Senate more dysfunctional than ever. He is protecting his colleagues from tough votes and has not shown any willingness to work with Republicans."
Despite their differences, members on both sides largely expect some kind of deal on the payroll-tax holiday and extended jobless benefits to be struck.
Democratic members feel they have the upper hand when it comes to messaging. One Democrat expected a deal because, "The Republicans will not give Democrats an early Christmas present by being so stupid." Another agreed, saying, "Otherwise the GOP is driving a nail in its own coffin."
Republican members leaned heavily on the conditions under which a deal could be made. "It must be paid for and it cannot include any increase in tax rates," said one Republican. "If the Democrats insist on anything that violates those two conditions, no deal can pass the House."
All the Republicans ultimately expected that a deal was in the near-future. "We need to get this done," said one. "[Unemployment insurance] needs reform. Incredible that R's are arguing against a tax cut - what in the world?"
Another Republican opined that yes, a deal would get done, but "it will be a stinker."
One Democratic member had a similarly caustic outlook. "The only real question is how bad everyone looks before the deal is cut."
The National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll is a regular anonymous survey of Democratic and Republican Members of Congress.