published Friday, December 27th, 2013

Worst Congress ever, says new poll

People walk near Capitol Hill in Washington.
People walk near Capitol Hill in Washington.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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• Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said it’s no wonder Americans are frustrated.

“In this year alone they have seen the horrors of Obamacare come to life and Senate majority leader Harry Reid refuse to even consider more than two dozen jobs bills that the House passed,” he said.

• Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., said he shares Tennesseans’ many frustrations with Congress.

“Too often the Washington political establishment seems more focused on the next election rather than working on solving the issues confronting our nation. I believe if more members of Congress put the priorities of their constituents before their own political ambitions, we would accomplish much more and regain the trust of the American people,” he said.

• Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he is as upset with this Congress as anybody.

“There is blame to go around, but the main reason for the Senate’s failure is the Democratic majority leader. He has become the obstructionist in chief by setting a record for cutting off amendments, cutting off debate, and making it hard for senators to work together to solve problems. The Senate has become a one-man show orchestrated by the Obama White House. This is disappointing for me. It is tragic for the country,” he said.

A new CNN poll has found that two-thirds of Americans believe the 113th Congress is the worst ever, and 73 percent of respondents say it has been a “do-nothing” body.

“That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young, old — all think this year’s Congress has been the worst they can remember,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

Fewer than 60 bills have been signed into law during the first year of the 113th Congress’s two-year term, according to CNN and other news organizations. If congresspeople don’t pick up the pace — and it’s a safe bet they won’t, since 2014 is an election year — CNN predicts this could be the least-productive Congress in at least 40 years.

The CNN poll resonated Thursday with people who were visiting the Chickamauga Battlefield, which was closed during the first half of October because of the federal government shutdown. The 16-day partial shutdown ensued after House Republicans, led by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, insisted that any spending bill defund “Obamacare,” or the federal Affordable Care Act, which Democrats steadfastly backed.

“I agree [with the poll results] … because they shut the government down,” said Mildred Carter, 83, of Nashville. “We have sent senators and congresspeople to Washington to do our work, and they ought to be doing it.”

Her daughter, Melanie Carter, 53, felt the same way. Her late father, a World War II veteran, would have been distressed by the shutdown, she said.

Her father’s generation “wanted to make America the greatest country in the world,” she said. “They would have never allowed that to have happened. It seems like there’s no pride or patriotism with this group.”

Chickamauga Battlefield visitor Vera Sharp, of Ringgold, Ga., doesn’t think Congress represents average Americans.

“I think they want to be so politically correct that they forget there’s people there that they’re representing,” she said.

The mid-December poll, which questioned more than 1,000 people by telephone, also indicates there’s little optimism for the future.

“Negative attitudes extend to both sides of the aisle: 52 percent believe that the policies of the Democratic leaders in Congress would move the country in the wrong direction; 54 percent say the same about the policies of congressional Republicans,” Holland said.

And 54 percent say the same thing about President Barack Obama’s policies, the poll found.

“Older Americans — who have lived through more Congresses — hold more negative views of the 113th Congress than younger Americans. Republicans, Democrats and independents also agree that this has been the worst session of Congress in their lifetimes,” Holland said.

Not everyone has a dour outlook on Congress. Marion Martin France, 65, stopped by the post office in downtown Chattanooga at the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse wearing red boots and a green knit Christmas tree hat with working lights.

France said she felt Congress is doing the best it can.

“Nobody’s perfect,” she said. “I’m just praying for the Congress and that things will get better for them. I’m not the type to complain.”

Staff writer Jeff LaFave contributed to this report.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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