Political Animal


November 07, 2011 8:00 AM Boehner defends Congress’ efficacy

By Steve Benen

When national surveys are released showing Congress’ approval rating dropping to depths unseen since the advent of modern polling, the first thought is to marvel at the public’s revulsion towards the institution. The second thought asks, “Wait, Congress has an approval rating above zero? Who are these strange people who are still satisfied with Capitol Hill?”

Yesterday, we heard from one of those rare Americans who believes Congress not only works, but is worthy of a defense. It happened to be House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Boehner … defended Congress against its low approval rating of 9 percent. “The Congress has never been popular with the American people,” he said.

“The founders gave us a committee of 535 people. Frankly, it was designed not to work. My job is to make it work. And it is working,” he added.

I can understanding Boehner looking at the branch with some institutional pride, but to say Congress is “working” — and to deliver the line with a straight face — is to ignore reality.

Not only have we never seen a Congress with such a low approval rating, we’ve also never seen a Congress quite this dysfunctional. A year after massive Republican gains in the 2010 midterms, what do lawmakers have to show for themselves? Five resignations, zero jobs bills, two near-shutdowns (with a third looming), a debt-ceiling fiasco, no major legislative accomplishments, and the first-ever downgrade of U.S. debt, attributed almost entirely to the antics of Boehner’s Republican caucus.

A couple of months ago, after Congress passed a temporary extension that avoided a government shutdown, I wrote, “At this point, the political world is relieved when federal policymakers struggle to just barely complete the most basic tasks. We’ve set the bar for success so low, avoiding shutdowns is somehow deemed an accomplishment. Also note, this isn’t going to get better — as the election season draws closer, it’s going to get worse.”

I still think that’s true. Passing meaningful legislation is currently a pipe dream, if not literally laughable. The very best we can hope for from Congress is that lawmakers manage to keep the government up and running, without (deliberately or accidentally) making conditions worse.

If Boehner sees this as evidence of a legislative branch that’s “working,” he’s either living in a dream world or his standards are badly in need of revision.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Adam on November 07, 2011 8:03 AM:

    It is working relative to his objectives, which is for it not to work.

  • Danp on November 07, 2011 8:06 AM:

    Passing meaningful legislation is currently a pipe dream, if not literally laughable.

    So are you suggesting Boehner should title his autobiography "Tears of a Clown"?

  • c u n d gulag on November 07, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Look, I'm fine with serial killers and child rapist-murderers getting someone to defend them.

    But I draw the line at defending this Congress. Particularly the House.

    To see anything this foul and full of vermin, you'd have to look for a Roach Motel in the section of the meat processing plant where they deal with feces.

  • walt on November 07, 2011 8:09 AM:

    We can imagine what kind of legislation would pass an optimally-functioning right-wing Congress: tax cuts, life-is-sacred-until-birth motions, motto affirmations, Jesus love, tax cuts, Boy Scout affirmations, fetus affirmations, tax cuts, anti-flag desecration protections, SS & Medicare cuts.

    We live in a banana republic where the legislative chambers are expected to do what the junta wants. Bread and circuses. Bread for the rich, circuses for the observers.

  • matt w on November 07, 2011 8:09 AM:

    Demonstration #284632 that a political party that's always blathering about the Founders doesn't understand the first thing about them: Does Boehner really think that the Founders designed Congress to have 535 people in it? The first House had only 65 representatives, which I had to look up, but a moment's thought would've told him that there weren't 100 Senators to start with.

    Also, they didn't envision political parties at all, let alone the sort of partisan sabotage of the country that Boehner engages in.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 07, 2011 8:09 AM:

    All I saw all day yesterday on the MSM (with no pushback)was that clip of that ingenuous lying sack of shit defending the 1% saying all people should be treated equally and to do otherwise is "class warfare". This on the heels of the news that wall Street has had is best profits ever in the last 3 years , better than 8 years of little boots handing out some 20 billion in bonuses.

    I give up

  • DAY on November 07, 2011 8:11 AM:

    "DESIGNED not to work? "
    What a curious view of history. . .

  • Grumpy on November 07, 2011 8:22 AM:

    "The founders gave us a committee of 535 people. Frankly, it was designed not to work."

    Boehner's not the only one to interpret the principle of checks & balances as enshrining gridlock. But the founders gave us a "more perfect union" than the Articles of Confederation, which really didn't work.

  • ComradeAnon on November 07, 2011 8:28 AM:

    The only explanation HAS to be the Kochs told him to f%ck it up so bad that they can come in and get Congress for a song.

  • martin on November 07, 2011 8:34 AM:

    “Wait, Congress has an approval rating above zero? Who are these strange people who are still satisfied with Capitol Hill?”

    Well, discounting most of their friends and relatives, I'd guess the people who make gobs of money off of the Congress dysfuntionality. And the really serious Obama haters.

  • Ladyhawke on November 07, 2011 8:40 AM:

    When the REPUBLICAN PARTY won the majority in the House of Representatives during the 2010 midterms they said we're going to have a relentless focus on creating jobs." They set up a "work" schedule of two weeks on and one week off. In over 300 days, they have done absolutely nothing to create jobs.


    2012 House calendar keeps GOP two-weeks on, one-week off plan



    Republican Job Creation??


  • golack on November 07, 2011 9:21 AM:

    They've stymied Obama--so it's working very well for them...

  • PhaedrusOnBass on November 07, 2011 9:34 AM:

    Do you get the feeling that Boehner is talking to Harry Mudd's robots?

    "The next thing I say to you will be true
    The last thing I said was false."
    - Devo, "Enough Said"

    - PonB

  • hwrqwe on November 07, 2011 9:37 AM:

    If you are seeking an older rich man or a younger beautiful girl who can give you real love, I want to tell you a nice place ------Age'Mingle.com ------.a nice place for seeking age le ss love. Feel comfortable with the possibility of starting an age-gap relationship in a community where people think just like you. Leave behind the embarrassment and annoyance of "everything to everyone" dating sites. It is a focused community that goes beyond dating. With blogs, chat, instant messaging, and many other social networking features, seeks to evolve the concept of meeting people online.

  • Mike on November 07, 2011 9:58 AM:

    Boehner's goals for this session are:
    1. Do not increase taxes on the top earners
    2. Do not increase spending
    3. Cripple the Obama presidency.

    Based on these goals, Congress is indeed working.

    Sadly, 91% of the American public does not share his goals.

  • zandru on November 07, 2011 10:08 AM:

    "The founders gave us a committee of 535 people."

    Yes, Boner and his folks really know them some Constitution. "The Founders"™ gave us a two-house Congress, with 26 Senators (two per state, increasing as needed over time) and one Representative for every 30,000 people (increasing as needed over time), with an initial assignment of 65 Representatives. 535? One committee? Where does he get this stuff?

    At the Constitutionally-defined rate of representation, the House would currently have something like 1,000 members. So at some point during the 20th century, the total number of Representatives was frozen at a maximum of 435. However, each new State will continue to receive its two Senators upon admission.

    "ntrolh Socialist" - Good name for a third party.

  • Grumpy on November 07, 2011 10:15 AM:

    "One committee? Where does he get this stuff?"

    I assume he meant "committee" in the sense of "a group of people that don't work well together." Your point about the original rate of representation is well taken, though the exact number was probably not Boehner's main point.

    The fact that the guy in charge of running the House thinks that the goal of Congress is to not run at all, that's troubling.

  • Tigershark on November 07, 2011 11:05 AM:

    zandru beat me to it. The founders did not set up a Congress of 535 members.

  • jjm on November 07, 2011 11:15 AM:

    He said it with a straight face?

  • Zorro on November 07, 2011 12:08 PM:

    Well, to paraphrase Stephen Colbert, if the government that governs best is the one that governs least, then this Congress has been the BEST CONGRESS EVER!

    Oh- the CAPTCHA for this one is "nanciate and." And, I absolutely agree that Nancy (Pelosi) eats John Boehner's lunch as Speaker of the House.


  • ottercliff on November 07, 2011 1:04 PM:

    Wait. You forgot to mention that Boehner's father owned a bar and he comes from a family of twelve. Doesn't that make everything OK?

  • thebewilderness on November 07, 2011 2:34 PM:

    He really does show his dysfunctions every time he speaks.
    If it doesn't work it is the founders fault and it really does work because it was designed not to work so it is working just fine.

  • Weary on November 07, 2011 4:15 PM:

    Ohio needs to eject that pickled brain nitwit! If he and his Republicans spent more time on job creation and less time on drinking and snorting coke in their offices, America would be in better off! But I guess, that's asking too much from the "traitor party"!

  • Anon on November 07, 2011 8:22 PM:

    If it was designed not to work and it's working, wouldn't that mean it's not working?