The Issues Explained: Approval ratings for Congress dip as war in Iraq rages on

By Nicholas Ballasy

Multiple polls released this week show the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress’ approval rating well below 30 percent — lower than President Bush’s. Among these polls is a Gallup study released this week by USA Today showing the approval rating for Congress at 20 percent. An “Opinion Dynamics” poll released by Fox News revealed that only 26 percent of respondents approve of the way the U.S. Congress is doing its job.

It has been almost a year since the Democrats took control of the House and the Senate as a result of the 2006 midterm elections. Voters cited their desire for an end to the war in Iraq as the main reason they put the Democrats in power and still, there is no end in sight. The Democrats have tried to accomplish this mandate with several different bills, only one of which (H.R. 1591) reached President Bush for approval. This act included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Bush vetoed H.R. 1591 on May 1.

In order to override a presidential veto, a bill needs a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate. The Democrats control the House by only 33 seats and the Senate by two seats, so they need a good number of Republicans to cross over the aisle and vote with them to end the war. The House of Representatives failed to override the veto for H.R. 1591, so the bill died. All Republicans, with the exception of Ron Paul, voted against the bill along with quite a few Democrats. This is the problem with the Democrats — they are not united.

From day one, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talked about how the Democrats are going to end this war, yet when it comes time to vote, they cannot unite their party on one position. Furthermore, since May, not one of the bills a Democrat has sponsored and/or written related to beginning a withdrawal from Iraq, such as cutting back funding or gradually withdrawing troops, has reached the president’s desk.

When we look at the 2008 presidential candidates on the Democratic side, many of whom are current senators, we see that they all have different plans on how to end the war. The party needs to be united with one plan to create one party image that is easy to identify and then it needs to vote together. This will serve them well not only in Congress but also in the 2008 presidential election, as it will enable voters to have a clear vision of the Democratic party.

The Democratic majority on the Joint Economic Committee announced recently that the cost of the war in Iraq (150,000 troops stationed) and Afghanistan (20,000 troops) so far (2002-2008) is estimated at $1.6 trillion and expected to be $3.5 trillion by 2017. The burden for the cost of the wars will weigh heavily on the backs of current college students, like those of us at Rider, in the future. The American people recognize this and it is only intensifying their desire for the Democrats to at least show they are trying their hardest to begin a withdrawal from Iraq. Granted, the only way to pass a bill by overriding the president’s veto is to get Republicans to vote with the Democrats.

Still, how are they going to do that when they cannot even vote together on a single bill created to end the war? They have to continue to vote together every single time to pass bills to the president’s desk regardless of whether he vetoes them or not. Passing no bills to the president on the war since May has demonstrated that the Democrats’ priority is not to hold the president accountable for some sort of plan to end the war in Iraq.

That being said, the Democratic party has had some successes, such as raising the minimum wage and making college more affordable, but at the end of the day, it seems that until the Democrats take a significant step forward regarding the war, the American people will not recognize any of their other successes. After all, it was their position on the war, not the minimum wage, that propelled the Democrats to victory last November.

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