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Its approval rating at new low, Congress plows ahead on immigration, taxes

The approval rating for Congress has never been lower, a poll shows. Might that change as the 'the broken branch' of government makes bipartisan headway on vexing issues of immigration and tax reform? 

By Staff writer / June 14, 2013

Sen. Max Baucus speaks at a Monitor Breakfast for reporters, in Washington, D.C., Friday.

Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor

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Congress’s approval rating has never been lower, but the “broken branch” of government that Americans love to hate is progressing toward a sweeping reform of both immigration law and the federal tax code that, if they actually cross the finish line, could help unstick Washington gridlock via this simple lesson: Bipartisanship pays.

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Exhibit A for the case that Congress actually works, at least on some issues? President Obama isn’t being compelled to pound the bully pulpit. 

Congress’s approval rating has tanked to a historic low of 10 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. Mr. Obama’s approval rating stands nearly five times that figure, at 46 percent.

Despite that approval gap, the president is lying fairly low on immigration reform and tax reform, giving key lawmakers space to try to advance legislation on two of America's most vexing and contentious issues.

The Obama administration has not “slammed the door on [tax reform], and I think at this particular stage it may be appropriate to see ‘What can the committees do? Is this real or not?’ ” said Rep. Dave Camp (R) of Michigan, the top tax reformer in the House, at a breakfast for reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor on Friday.

Nodding toward his tax reform co-conspirator, Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, next to him at the breakfast table, Representative Camp said, “Obviously, we’re both committed to working very hard to make this reality because we can’t afford to wait.”

During the last overhaul of the US tax code in 1986, President Ronald Reagan was out front stumping for the plan. But Obama’s lower-profile tack sits just fine with Camp and Senator Baucus, who in coming months plan a bipartisan roadshow to press the argument for tax reform beyond Washington, D.C.

Because the president has his hands off the reins, lawmakers feel they can lean in to tough policy issues with minimal political impingement. Bipartisan groups in both chambers are churning out policy options. The two tax-writing chairmen, Camp of the House Ways and Means Committee and Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee, are meeting regularly with rank-and-file members to try to ascertain where compromise might be found. Baucus, in fact, has met with all 99 other senators to talk taxes.

A long-standing split remains between Democrats, who want more tax revenue, and Republicans, who want the lowest tax rates possible. But Camp and Baucus are hoping that the work to craft better tax policy will, in the end, light the way to compromise on the overarching matter of revenues and rates.

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