Busy Doing Nothing

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 4 2011 10:09 AM

Busy Doing Nothing

My new piece is about how the GOP Congress is succeeding by not doing very much . Compare it to the insurgent Congresses of 1995 and 2007 and it's barely trying to pass bills -- ie, pass things that will get to the president's desk and become law. There are no "70 percent issues" like Newt Gingrich fought on. A month in, the only Republican agenda item that might pass is 1099 reform.

This year, Republicans have kicked things off with repeal bills. There are no bold new ideas. There is just dismantling of Democratic ideas. And the result of this, so far, has been resilient Republican popularity. At the end of January, a Gallup poll gave Republicans their first favorable approval ratings since 2005, when their Bush-era slide began. Since the election, Rasmussen Reports polls have put the number of Americans identifying as Republicans close to the number of Americans who identify as Democrats. I asked Scott Rasmussen why this was.

"The Republicans are helped by low expectations," said Rasmussen. "Hardly anybody expects them to actually cut spending. The GOP is also helped by the fact that Democrats still control the White House and the Senate. You cite the lack of legislative accomplishment. Remember, by a 3-to-1 margin, voters believe that no matter how bad something is, Congress can always make it worse. That's true regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge. Lack of action may be a plus in some eyes."

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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