Abysmal Approval Ratings of Democratic Congress: GOP's Fault?

Given that he called the troop-smearing anti-war Rep. John Murtha "one of the most respected voices on military affairs" last month, it may be wise to take reporter David Herszenhorn's political analysis with a dose of skepticism.

His Wednesday "Congressional Memo," "Muscle Flexing in Senate: G.O.P. Defends Strategy,"showcased another instance of hisrather quirkyjudgment of political issues.

First, Herszenhorn found it distasteful that the minority Republicans are having so much success in blocking Democrat initiatives.

"Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, operates with near-robotic efficiency when it comes to negotiating budget figures in public, consistently refusing to answer questions that would ever commit him to a specific number at the bargaining table.

"So it was more than a little telling when Mr. McConnell laid down his mark in the current budget fight on Tuesday, informing the Capitol Hill press corps that he was ready to offer Democrats a deal, $70 billion in war financing with no strings attached and a total budget identical to President Bush's proposal.

"In other words, the Republicans should get virtually everything they want. And he was not kidding.

"With the president warning repeatedly that he will veto any budget package he dislikes and the Democrats short of the 60 votes they need in the Senate, the Republican minority is in an unusually strong bargaining position - and not just in the budget negotiations that are the top priority in Congress these days."


"In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

For the Democrats, it was a perfect example of why they have taken to calling the G.O.P. the 'grand obstructionist party.' The Democrats send out daily tallies of the number of Republican filibusters, which the Democrats say will set a record.

"It also explains why so little is getting done in Congress right now. With a crush of legislation pending ahead of the Christmas holiday recess, it should be one of the busiest times of the year.

"In addition to holding up a spending deal and setting the terms on the alternative minimum tax, Senate Republicans blocked a major energy bill on Friday. Mr. Reid said Tuesday that he planned to remove a major component that the Republicans opposed in hopes of getting the bill approved.

"The Republicans are not shy about their strategy, which they say is merely exercising the minority's right to filibuster, which has existed since the earliest days of the Senate. Nor are they shy about standing with Mr. Bush, who now threatens almost daily to use his veto to back up the strategy."

After those bits of slant came the strange part:

"But there are also risks. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll found that the stagnation in Congress has made an impression. Just 21 percent of Americans say they have a favorable view of Congress and 64 percent disapprove. And the two parties have been unyielding, calculating that voters will blame the other side.

"For some lawmakers, especially those facing re-election, the danger is palpable."

Herszenhorn then quotes a Republican senator.

So a Democrat-controlled Congress has a historically low favorable rating - and Herszenhorn pins the blame on the minority Republicans? That's some decidedly strange pro-Democrat spin.