Robert Reich: Congress’s New Low – OpEd


Gallup has been asking the public the same question for 50 years, since April 1974: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?” 

Since then, public approval of Congress has usually ranged between 30 and 40 percent. (See graph below. The sharp peak in approval occurred just after the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States, as Americans rallied around the flag.)

In the most recent Gallup poll of February 2024, approval of Congress sank to the lowest it’s been in the entire half-century. Only 12 percent of the public now approves of the way Congress is handling its job. 

I’m surprised it’s even that high. 

Ever since the bailout of Wall Street in 2008, public trust in all branches of the U.S. government has sunk to new lows. Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen have further reduced trust.

But Republican control of the House starting in 2022 has brought a new level of congressional dysfunction, revealing the extent to which Trump Republicans are eager to trash government. Trump thrives on chaos and has been the House Republicans’ off-stage coach and cheerleader. 

Early yesterday morning, President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion spending bill into law — narrowly averting a government shutdown and keeping federal agencies going until October. To pass the bill, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson had to rely mainly on Democrats (185 of whom joined 101 Republicans in favor). 

The new funding law contains almost exactly the same spending levels that Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to last May — before McCarthy reversed himself because of a revolt on his right and was still ousted.

Saturday’s funding package also leaves out all of the controversial policies House Republicans included in their own versions of the funding bills. 

In other words, despite all their chaos over the last nine months, House Republicans got exactly nowhere. 

Meanwhile, Marjorie Taylor Greene has started the ball rolling on a process to oust Johnson. “We have to find a new speaker of the House,” she said.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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