Congress has had an approval rating hovering in the teens for several years now. That’s not new. But as Washington stumbles into the second week of the shutdown, concern for a dysfunctional government has reached record levels.
Since 2008, the economy and jobs have been the top priorities for the American people — a statistic commonly cited by lawmakers when they’re trying to push for legislation. But now, according to a new Gallup Poll, government dysfunction is the most important problem facing the United States. At 33 percent, this is the highest percentage since the poll was started in 1939.
Other priorities for Americans sit well below this mark, including the economy (19 percent), unemployment (12 percent), the deficit (12 percent), and health care (12 percent).
And this level of concern for the dysfunction in Washington is substantially higher than it was during the last government shutdown in 1996. When Gallup polled Americans then, just 17 percent listed Washington’s problems as the top issue for them. The budget and deficit were still the top issue, at 28 percent.
But will this concern last?
Last month, Syria captured peak interest at 8 percent, but now has fallen back down to 1 percent as the threat of U.S. military action has faded. But this concern for the government could last for several months. In September, 16 percent of Americans thought the dysfunction was the top issue. Now that number doubled. Additionally, approval for Congress is just 1 percentage point higher than record lows.
Americans have lost confidence in their political leaders. With the debt-ceiling deadline just days away, and a possible default imminent, the concern for Washington’s dysfunction could rise — along with deeper concerns for the economic consequences of lawmakers’ inaction.
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."