According to the latest Gallup poll, 80 percent of Americans disapprove of the performance of Congress, which has just embarked upon a five-week recess. Fifteen percent of Americans approve of Congress’ performance, according to Gallup, while 5 percent have no opinion on the matter.
When only 15 percent of the people think you’re doing your job representing them in Washington, walking away from that job for a month can’t make things worse, can it?
But it’s not like there are no important issues on Washington’s agenda for those few weeks.
To cite just two, there is the controversial immigration crisis on our southern border, and there are real fears that the nation’s infrastructure — roads, bridges and underground pipes of various kinds — may be in danger of crumbling.
But to some on Capitol Hill, resolving these issues appears to be of far less importance than punishing President Barack Obama for his penchant for issuing executive orders, a tactic he resorts to with sufficient frequency to enrage his critics.
“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing,” the president explained at the end of June. “America cannot wait forever for them to act.”
Therefore, Obama continued, “I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
And late last week, for all the darts they’ve aimed at the president, the House leadership — unable to craft corrective legislation on its own – called on Obama to do the job.
“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” the GOP leadership declared, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”
This was said even though many House Republicans are predisposed to portray this president — a Democrat — as a power-grabber who is dangerously indifferent to the provisions of the Constitution.
Their evidence: Obama has issued 182 executive orders since moving into the Oval Office six years ago. That’s proof, the more vocal Republicans would have us believe, that this president is virtually out of control.
The problem for Obama’s critics, however, is that they haven’t done their homework.
Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been researching the whole business of presidential executive orders and concluded that “there is no single metric you can point to and say ‘this president has executed more unilateral actions than other presidents.’”
But, Mayer cautioned, “Obama has done nothing exceptional in terms of unilateral actions, compared to other presidents.”
In fact, President George W. Bush issued 291 executive orders. Ronald Reagan signed 381 of them. Richard Nixon’s total was 346.
And yet, among his more feverish critics, there has even been talk of impeaching Obama. And while that drastic step has yet to gain traction, House Republicans have chosen to file a lawsuit against the president.
By the way, when Americans think of impeachment, they think of Nixon and President Bill Clinton but neither of these situations had anything to do with their executive order activity
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas spoke for many of his fellow Democrats when he recently spoke on CNN’s State Of The Union program.
“This president has offered fewer executive actions than almost any other president preceding his presidency in recent history,” the El Paso congressman stated, and the facts support his contention.
It just may be that the American public recognizes these facts and wonders why Congress doesn’t respond to them in a more logical manner.
Perhaps that’s the best explanation for the 15 percent approval rating.