Limping into the Break

As Congress limps into the July 4th break with its lowest approval ratings in history, a broken appropriations process bedeviled by allegations of corruption, an energy bill that Mike Burgess rightfully called a "lethargy bill," a failed attempt to reform our immigration laws and a lack of progress on ethics reform, most Americans have to wonder why they gave the reins to the Democrats.

The new Democratic majority has proven itself adept at breaking promises, entangling itself in knots and angering not only Republican partisans, but its own base.

What does it have to show for its efforts? A minimum wage increase that was stuck onto a war spending bill. Incredibly, it was the Democratic leaders who stuck that provision into the bill, causing their own top presidential candidates to vote against it. So, on their top accomplishment, their standard-bearers voted no. 

My sources tell me that the relationship between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is so poisonous that they barely talk to each other. On big vote after big vote, Hoyer has sided with the majority of the House, while Pelosi has sided with the majority of her party. That doesn’t bode well for the long-term prospects of this leadership team.

Pelosi’s woes have increased with the unfolding scandal surrounding her closest confidant, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). Roll Call has reported that Murtha has been the author of millions of dollars in shadow earmarks to shadow companies. When the taxpayers learn more about this scheme, they will hit the roof.

Congressional Democrats are likely to do little on the tax front this year, with the possible exception of sharply increasing taxes on private equity firms. It is very unlikely that they will do anything to keep tax cuts in place that expire in 2010, insuring that the largest tax increase in history will proceed uninterrupted should the Democrats keep control of the Congress.

All in all, it has been a tough six months for the new majority in the Congress, despite its high hopes and extravagant promises. Low approval ratings, internal divisions, bad ideas and ongoing corruption have conspired to put the Democrats on the defensive. They limp into the July 4th break, facing an angry electorate and a fractured base.