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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Congressional approval hits record low

Last week, as lawmakers entered the new legislative session, they were greeted with low expectations for compromise and even lower approval ratings.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 84 percent of Americans object to how the U.S. Congress is performing. Only 13 percent said they approve.

“It’s a deserved beating on the part of the American people,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat in Arizona’s 7th district. “We wasted a whole year, and the American people have a right to be disapproving of the majority of Congress and the majority of people who run Congress.”

According to the poll, 75 percent of Americans disapprove of Republicans in Congress and 62 percent disapprove of Democrats. Polls haven’t shown such widespread discontent since the early 1990s.

“I feel like Americans feel things are taking too much time and not enough progress is being shown,” said James Allen, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and political science senior. “We’re at a point where real change can’t be achieved because of politics.”

Lawmakers’ inability to compromise has made legislative progress impossible, according to Henry Kim, an assistant professor who specializes in legislative politics in the School of Government and Public Policy. In the past, representatives reached across party lines, Kim said. But within the past 12 years, they have become less likely to negotiate.

“A lot of people were, quite literally, elected on the pledge that they would not compromise on their principles,” he said. “In order to compromise, they do have to appear that they are compromising their principles, and if they couldn’t do that two years before the election, well, they certainly aren’t going to be doing it starting now before the election.”

According to Kim, the current ratings are not unprecedented. Approval ratings have fallen below 20 percent at least twice in the past, once during the late 1970s and again in the early 1990s.

In both of these periods, unpopularity caused the reconfiguration of Congress, bringing “new energy” and “new ideas” to the Legislature, Kim said. What makes the past two years unique is that, despite a redistribution of political representation, such innovation and rejuvenation has failed to take place.

“Between 2010 and today, people (in Congress) were much more oppositional, people were much more responsive to the segment of the electorate who believes that ‘compromise’ is a bad word and a betrayal of principle,” Kim said. “So the dysfunction of the previous period is continuing over, despite the fact that things have changed in terms of the party configuration in Congress.”

During this session, the most pressing issue facing Congress appears to be reversing the economic downturn, according to Kim. However, lawmakers do not know how to solve the problem, so they have decided to focus on issues that are somewhat, but not exactly related, like the budget deficit, he said.

According to Grijalva, Congress must compromise on generating revenue, job creation, the tax code and education before it can move forward with other legislative challenges. Investing in education is paramount because today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, he said.

While some students said they pay little attention to what happens in the Legislature, others said they, too, believe that Congress has failed to serve the American people. Christopher Jabczynski, a chemical engineering freshman, said he believes that Americans’ discontent stems from economic distress, which the government has yet to alleviate.

“There’s a dichotomy between what they want to do for the American people and their implementation,” he said.

According to Michael Paparozzi, a sophomore studying Near Eastern studies and linguistics, today’s politicians maintain an attitude of “hyper-partisanship.”

“I’m not particularly optimistic about the near future, put it that way,” he said. “I feel like on both sides they’re divided and they’re not interested in reaching a reasonable solution.”

Still, despite Americans’ call for compromise in general, many would refuse to step down on particular issues, like healthcare or immigration, according to Kim. They expect their elected representatives to defend those principles as well, he said.

“People hate Congress, but people love their congresspeople,” Kim added.

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