Here’s a fun game: What will the approval level of Congress look like this year?
Americans don’t like Congress. That’s nothing new. But in recent years, polling for the legislative body has been at historic lows. What will this week’s ratings look like? Single digits? Teens? Twenties?!
So, Gallup released its first reading of Congress’ job approval of 2014 on Tuesday. As of Jan. 8, when this poll concluded, 13 percent of Americans approve of the jobs those senators and representatives are doing. This is unchanged from December and up from the all-time low of 9 percent. Nine percent! That’s only 7 percent more than the number of Americans who looked at a picture of NBC’s Brian Williams and thought it was Joe Biden.
Congress is currently debating giving unemployment insurance for people out of work for over 26 weeks. It’s unclear whether this widely popular policy will pass, however. The extension’s failure could lower members’ rating. But it’s at least as likely to remain the same, considering the apathy Americans feel toward their elected officials.
Or Congress could have a come-to-_____ moment, pass comprehensive immigration reform, increase the minimum wage, pass a farm bill, put new limits on surveillance, add a bipartisan jobs plan, and get to long-needed tax reform — all in an election year. The people would rejoice at this new sense of compromise and seeming maturity from the adults in Washington. We could see numbers like from 2009 where Congress’ approval rating was at 39 percent.
But likely, it won’t. In fact, many of these actions could anger more people, and the approval rating could go down.
Let’s get realistic for a moment, however. The House will only be in session for around 90 days until November’s midterm elections. Yes, Congress will probably do less this year than it did in 2013. And last year, they didn’t do much.
So, where will the approval rating for Congress go this year? Let’s wait and see.
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Paul Ryan told CNN today he's "not ready" to back Donald Trump at this time. "I'm not there right now," he said. Ryan said Trump needs to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of. And we've got a ways to go from here to there."
In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin gives Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the longread treatment. The scourge of corrupt New York pols, bad actors on Wall Street, and New York gang members, Bharara learned at the foot of Chuck Schumer, the famously limelight-hogging senator whom he served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. No surprise then, that after President Obama appointed him, Bharara "brought a media-friendly approach to what has historically been a closed and guarded institution. In professional background, Bharara resembles his predecessors; in style, he’s very different. His personality reflects his dual life in New York’s political and legal firmament. A longtime prosecutor, he sometimes acts like a budding pol; his rhetoric leans more toward the wisecrack than toward the jeremiad. He expresses himself in the orderly paragraphs of a former high-school debater, but with deft comic timing and a gift for shtick."
President Obama has announced another round of commutations of prison sentences. Most of the 58 individuals named are incarcerated for possessions with intent to distribute controlled substances. The prisoners will be released between later this year and 2018.
The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"