A newÂ Washington Post-ABC News pollÂ shows a new high â€” 84Â percent of Americans â€” disapproving of the job Congress is doing, with almost two-thirds saying they â€œdisapprove strongly.â€ Just 13 percent of Americans approve of how things are going after the 112th Congressâ€™s first year of action, solidifying an unprecedented level of public disgust that has both sides worried about their positions less than 10 months before voters decide their fates.
It has been nearly four years since even 30Â percent expressed approval of Congress, according to the Post-ABC survey, and support hasnâ€™t recovered from the historic low it reached last fall.
In the face of the public dismay, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are fashioning less far-reaching agendas for the year ahead, in part to avoid the bitter political showdowns of 2011 and also to best position themselves for the fall elections.
Because of reelection politics, the second session for any Congress is traditionally less ambitious than the first because lawmakers are campaigning and therefore generally spend less time in Washington. This yearâ€™s legislative business, however, will take place in the shadow ofÂ $5Â trillion in deficit reductionÂ achieved through tax increases and spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect next Jan.Â 1 . The move was triggered by an unsuccessful effort by a congressional â€œsupercommitteeâ€ last fall to reach a compromise on the federal deficit and expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts.
The expectation is that fiscal issues will again be the central battleground in the presidential and congressional elections. If voters clearly embrace one partyâ€™s position over the otherâ€™s, it could tilt negotiations on a broader tax-and-spending deal in a lame-duck session after the elections or in early 2013.
In the meantime, with the House reconvening on Tuesday and the Senate returning next week, Congress is poised to resume a series of smaller skirmishes on provisions that were temporarily extended into the new year.
Most prominent among them is President Obamaâ€™s proposal to extend a payroll tax holiday for workers through this year, an issue thatÂ hamstrung House RepublicansÂ before the holidays.