Can Congress be getting healthier? | Rich Elfers

The approval rating for Congress is staying at 11 percent, but there’s hope the logjam is beginning to break. This revelation is according to a Bipartisan Policy Center report recently published by Francine Kiefer entitled, “Congress May Be Getting ‘Healthier,’ A New Study Finds,” in the April 20 edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Now that Republicans have controlled both Houses of Congress since January, the goals of both House Speaker Boehner and Senate majority leader McConnell have been, “to return to the regular order.”  That seems to be happening.

Sen. Bob Corker has been able to push a bill through the Senate that will give Congress some input on the Iranian nuclear deal, which President Obama had earlier vowed to veto. He changed his mind when he saw that it would not stymie his negotiations and might actually help put pressure on the Iranians.

The Republicans have also given up on destroying Obamacare, since a decision about its future is before the Supreme Court. If the High Court rules it invalid, that will put the Republicans in the difficult position of dealing with 20 million recently insured Americans who would suddenly be without medical coverage, with presidential and Congressional elections coming up in 2016.

In addition, the issue of the national debt has been quietly retired. For years the Republicans have railed against the debt. No more. On April 15, Senate Republicans voted to raise the national debt by $150 billion to provide for what is called the “Doc Fix” for physicians who were about to see reductions in Medicare payments.

The vote was 92-8 in favor in the Senate. The eight voting against the expansion of the national debt were all Republicans. The House has already passed the bill and it is expected to go before the president for his signature soon.

On April 21, the Senate also broke the long wait for new Attorney General nominee, Loretta Lynch, by making a deal to vote for her confirmation five months after Obama nominated her in November 2014. Her wait for a confirmation vote was the longest since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. This is ironic since the current Attorney General, Eric Holder, is despised only slightly less than Obama. It would seem that Republicans would want to get rid of him as quickly as possible. But that was not the case.

According to Kiefer, part of the reason Congress is working better is that senators can now debate and make amendments on the floors of the House and Senate more easily. Being limited on these issues angered many senators and representatives and helped increase gridlock and animosity between the parties.

That is in part due to Mitch McConnell becoming the new Senate majority leader. As Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin.”

Since the Republicans control both houses now, they need to show they can govern the country in the light of the 2016 elections. Maybe the 11 percent rating can be improved, just like Obama’s has been. He’s now at 48 percent, the highest he has been in a long time.

The Republican victory in both houses may actually help end the dysfunction in Washington.  Be watching to see if the partisan logjam continues to break up in weeks and months to come. It would certainly be a relief on Main Street.