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Vilified Congress Shows Few Signs of Ending Gridlock in 2013

July 8, 2013

The budgetary deficit, a loophole-riddled tax code and a Senate revamping of immigration law given little chance in the House.

Laura Litvan

With few signs of ending the gridlock crushing public approval of Congress, U.S. lawmakers return this week to confront a budgetary deficit, a loophole-riddled tax code and a Senate revamping of immigration law given little chance in the House.

Their conflicts don’t stop there. Republicans in the Democratic-controlled Senate may block President Barack Obama’s nominees to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and Labor Department. The Republican-run House may try to revive farm legislation while seeking a piecemeal approach to immigration instead of the broad plan the Senate passed on June 27.

They will approach all this with a 15-percent public approval rating. Even passage of an immigration compromise wouldn’t be enough to uproot the view of a Congress that can’t address the nation’s top challenges, said Michael Dimock, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center in Washington.

"One success in a row is not a pattern," Dimock said. "The real big-ticket items that people want to see action on haven’t happened."

Congressional inaction has slowed Obama’s legislative agenda to a crawl in the first year of his second term, with the prospect of even fewer accomplishments next year before the 2014 midterm congressional elections. Still, lawmakers, not the president, are paying the price in public opinion, according to a Gallup Poll report last month.

50 Percent

So far this year, an average of 50 percent of Americans surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while Congress is averaging 15 percent, according to Gallup. Obama’s ability to appear above the fray of partisan debates gives him a shield from anger over the gridlock, the organization said.

Representative Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, said he sees the measures most likely to pass this year -- farm legislation, a debt-limit increase, an annual bill to reauthorize defense programs and perhaps immigration -- as small items considering that Americans are still struggling in a slow economy. Even less will probably get done next year as midterm elections loom, he said.

"That’s close to the agenda for the rest of the year," Connolly said in an interview. "There’s so much not addressed, in terms of jobs and infrastructure and dealing with sequestration," he said, referring to automatic budget cuts that kicked in earlier this year.

Hispanic Voters

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