- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

Self-proclaimed Democrats - disgruntled by the failure of their party’s leaders to keep key campaign promises - pushed Congress’ job-approval rating to an all-time low in a Gallup Poll out Wednesday.

Driven by a staggering 12 percentage point plunge among Democrats, Congress’ approval rating dropped to a record-low 14 percent in July.

“Unless this Congress comes up with an energy policy that makes sense to the American people, it could go down even lower,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat. “I strongly suggest the leadership get us on energy and keep us focused on getting oil prices down. … [Voters] see through the bluster of both sides.”

The survey suggests Congress is taking the brunt of the blame for the country’s economic woes, as President Bush’s approval rating holds steady at about 31 percent, and casts doubt on the prospect of massive Democratic gains in the November elections.

Since taking control of Congress last year, Democrats have been unable to deliver on campaign promises to wean the country off its dependence on foreign oil and end the Iraq war, although they kept pledges to raise the minimum wage, expand benefits for war veterans, extend unemployment insurance and raise automobile fuel-efficiency standards.

“I think people are frustrated in general. They are concerned about the economy. They are concerned about high gas prices. They are worried about the cost of home heating oil come the winter. They feel uncertain about the future,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat.

“The other thing, too, is that there are a lot of liberals who are frustrated the war is still going on,” he said.

Gallup called the rock-bottom rating “extraordinary.” It marked the lowest opinion of Congress in the 34 years that the Princeton, N.J.-based pollsters asked the question and just the sixth time the rating dipped below 20 percent, with four of those below-20 ratings occurring in the past year.

The other low points were a 19 percent rating in March 1992, during the House bank check-kiting scandal, and an 18 percent rating in June 1979, during the oil crisis that caused a spike in gasoline prices and long lines at gas stations.

Capitol Hill Democrats said President Bush’s low popularity and Republicans’ refusal to pass Democratic legislation dragged down Congress’ score.

“It’s always been my experience that Congress follows the low point for a president,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat.

Wednesday’s poll, which registered a five percentage point drop in Congress’ rating from June to July, showed Democrats’ approval fell to 11 percent from 23 percent. Republican and independent voters take on Congress’ performance remained largely unchanged at about 19 percent, the poll showed.

“They want to blame everybody except themselves for the problems we have. … It’s a sad state. It says a whole lot about the lack of leadership by the majority here in Congress. They are not addressing the issues the American people want them to address,” said Ohio Republican.

Gallup pollsters said one reason Congress is losing support while Mr. Bush’s numbers are steady is that the president has retained a core of Republican loyalists who appear ready to stick with him through the end of his term.

They noted that Congress may simply be less able to engender as much political loyalty and typically trails the president in approval ratings. However, the Democrat-led Congress held much less intraparty support than Republican leaders maintained even in 2006.

Sen. Kent Conrad said the poll reflected public outcry against partisan squabbling on Capitol Hill.

“I think there is a call here for Congress to come together, especially on the energy front,” the North Dakota Democrat said. “That’s what it takes. You can see it is very hard to get things done here if you don’t have bipartisan support.”

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