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Approval Mirrors Prospect of Accord

Poll: 9 Percent of Public In Congress’ Corner

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Kathy Hochul said lawmakers have an obligation "to use all of our resources, pull together, start treating each other like human beings on both sides of the aisle and do what the people want us to do."

Despite hitting a new low in its approval rating, Members of Congress are still far apart on doing anything that might change people’s opinion of the institution.

Congress moved into uncharted territory this week, when only 9 percent of Americans said they approve of the job Congress is doing, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted Oct. 19-24.

The poll results come in the wake of a series of high-profile disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over how to help the economy that have resulted in little legislative output. The poll also showed that since Republicans took control of the House in January, overall Congressional disapproval ratings have spiked by 22 points.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) wasn’t surprised, given the state of the economy and high level of unemployment — 9.1 percent in September.

“That can only be our families and staff,” Kyl, a member of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, jokingly said of the 9 percent rating.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), also a deficit panel member, said he believes the rating could improve as Congress works to address the economy.

“It can be turned around by showing the country this place can provide adult leadership after all,” Kerry said.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he understood voters’ frustration with Congress.

“If I were asked the question, I would certainly disapprove of Congress.”

Waxman blamed Republicans, who control the House and “essentially run the Senate because of the 60-vote requirement.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said it’s frustrating, but he believes constituents’ views will ultimately be the true measure.

“We will each be individually judged on our work for our constituents, and that is what I believe, at the end of the day, it will be about.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said he is looking to the members of the super committee to change the abysmal perception of Congress. He said that although he is optimistic, the results could go either way.

“What we need is the nation to come together and compromise and not everyone go to their respective corners and not play,” he said. “I remain optimistic about the super committee because I know people on that committee on both sides of the aisle understand the enormous responsibility and legacy that they will have with this committee. It’s a shining moment for this Congress. Or not.”

The bipartisan, bicameral group has been charged with identifying at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years by the end of November. Failure by the panel to act would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts that most lawmakers want to avoid.

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