As Republicans and Democrats begin jockeying for position ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, the American public isn't impressed with how they are getting along, issuing just 9 percent approval for the current Congress in the latest Gallup poll, Congress' worst mark ever.
"The government shutdown in October clearly didn't help Congress' image, and it appears that the impact of that incident may linger, given the record-low approval this month," said Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief in a memo accompanying the poll results released Tuesday. "This no doubt reflects the rancorous partisanship and bickering that characterized the shutdown -the top reasons given by those who disapprove of Congress."
Charlie Cook, a political analyst, said Americans are sick of the failure of both parties to work together - a shirking of their responsibility to govern - and that means trouble for all in the 2014 mid-term elections.
"Any Democrat looking at Obama's numbers is likely to get depressed, just as any Republican looking at the GOP's numbers will feel morose," he wrote Friday in the National Journal.
The tension between the ability to get a House majority elected and then effectively govern was put on display Friday by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who serves as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Walden said his Republican colleagues were elected to both block the agenda of President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, but also to govern.
"Some of our members who came in the 2010 wave, remember, are kind of the equal-opposite reaction to an overpowered government that was spending like there was no tomorrow," he said at an event with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "And these members are reflecting a view in the country that is strongly, passionately held – that if we don't get control of deficit spending soon, all will be lost."
Walden also said that Republicans, as the majority party in the House, also needed to work to govern the country effectively.
"We're a center-right majority and we have to be able to govern and we need people who come here to fight as hard and tenaciously and thoughtfully as possible," he said. "But at the end of the day we still have the responsibility to govern."
That doesn't – according to Walden – mean offering alternatives to policies they have railed against, like the president's health care law, though.
"Our members are very capable and competent at talking about alternatives that we would offer for a patient-centered health care delivery system, but it doesn't do us much good to put that up on the floor in a comprehensive way when you know that, let's be honest, the Senate's not going to take it up, the president's not going to go along with that," Walden said.
Despite that assertion, the House has seen fit to hold dozens of votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act and incurring Democratic criticism for political posturing.