In a July 30 article discussing a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, Post staff writer Jonathan Weisman wrote that negative congressional approval ratings "have buoyed Republicans as they attack what they call a Democratic 'Post Office Congress' -- unable to accomplish much more than renaming federal buildings" and that "[o]ne GOP tactic is to slap a 'do-nothing' label on Democrats." Weisman went on to quote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claiming that Democrats have "apparently squandered whatever political capital they may have achieved with the American people last November the 7th in a record short period of time." But while Weisman noted that Democrats "have passed half" of their "6 for '06" domestic legislative agenda, he left out the role of Senate Republicans in blocking Democratic initiatives, which they have done at an unprecedented rate -- apparently as part of what Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) has described as an "obstructionist" strategy.
As Media Matters for America noted, a July 20 McClatchy Newspapers article reported: "This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before." McClatchy continued: "Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes." Further, an April 18 Roll Call article quoted Lott acknowledging that the GOP is employing an "obstructionist" strategy in the Senate: "The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. ... For [former Senate Democratic Leader Tom] Daschle (S.D.), it failed. For [then-Senate Minority Leader Harry] Reid, it succeeded, and so far it's working for us."
As Media Matters documented, numerous other media have uncritically reported conservatives' descriptions of the Democratic Congress as "do nothing." For instance, a July 27 Post article failed to note Senate Republicans' obstruction while reporting that "members of Bush's administration have been increasingly vocal in criticizing Congress for enacting little legislation while aggressively pursuing investigations of the administration."
From the July 30 edition of The Washington Post:
In short, the divisions in the nation at large are well reflected in the paralysis on Capitol Hill.
"My feeling is they're not really standing up for the other side of the story. They're caving and not fighting hard enough for what American people really want," said Jessica Lane, 28, a Democrat and registered nurse in Bremerton, Wash. "Maybe my hopes were just a little too high."
Those sentiments have buoyed Republicans as they attack what they call a Democratic "Post Office Congress" -- unable to accomplish much more than renaming federal buildings.
"The approval rating of this Congress is now down to what we believe is the lowest recorded point in polling history, having apparently squandered whatever political capital they may have achieved with the American people last November the 7th in a record short period of time," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
But Republicans have not turned those attacks into significant support. Although 46 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Democrats in Congress are doing, 34 percent say they approve of the congressional Republicans' performance.
"The Republicans don't come out of this a winner," warned Nancy Lukacs, 68, a swing voter in the Dallas suburbs. "The Democrats may come out not the winner we wanted, but they are not the losers that turn us back to the Republicans."
One GOP tactic is to slap a "do-nothing" label on Democrats, who set high expectations for themselves. Of their "6 for '06" agenda of domestic priorities, Democrats have passed half -- an increase in the minimum wage, enactment of new homeland security recommendations and federal funding for stem cell research, which Bush vetoed.
Before the end of the week, Democrats are likely to make good on their promise to tighten rules on congressional ethics and lobbying. The House and Senate plan to pass a significant expansion of the 10-year-old federal health program to insure children of the working poor.
"From security at home, plus the economic pieces of health care, higher education and the minimum wage, we are hitting key domestic economic issues," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).