Congress frets as its ratings plummet
Poll: Only 12 percent of Americans have much confidence in the legislative branch, a record low.
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This view that voters can at the same time harbor contempt for Congress but also respect for their local congressman has settled into the culture on Capitol Hill.Skip to next paragraph
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"When times are very tough as they are now, people feel upset, and I don't think folks distinguish between the House of Representatives and the Senate," says Rep. Paul Hodes (D) of New Hampshire. "What they see is that Congress isn't helping or that Congress hasn't been able to get it done. [But] my constituents will see that I'm on the right side of the issues they care about."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi links the low ratings to Congress's inability to end the war in Iraq or deliver on promises to lower gas prices. "I think one of the reasons that Congress is at an all-time low in confidence with the American people is that we did not end the war – and these issues that relate to energy," she said at a Monitor breakfast on June 24.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R) of North Carolina, who has often squared off with Mr. Frank, says that he could say "it's a Democrat thing, because it's a Democrat-controlled Congress, but it's really due to the fact that we're not addressing the American people's problems: high gas prices, out-of-control spending, soft economy, and the housing crunch."
"Generally, the American people are sour on our economic outlook and all institutions," he adds. "I tell constituents that I'm fighting the crowd up here as much as I can."
"The public sees us as mired in partisan bickering in the face of persistent problems that remain to be addressed," says freshman Rep. Hank Johnson (D) of Georgia. "Though I disagree with that sentiment, I certainly understand it. But notwithstanding that popular sentiment, the public generally likes their individual representatives. Those who do not have their confidence will not come back."