How Low Can Congress Go?

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • A 40 YEAR LOW: Approval of Congress is at a new low in 40 years of polling, Americans' approval of their own representative in Washington is underwater for the first time and a record number of registered voters are inclined to look for someone new in 2014 - all signs of a powerful, palpable public antipathy following the budget spat that shut down much of the government for 16 days, ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER writes. Among other results in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, a near-record 78 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the federal government works, with downright anger at a new high in polls since 1992. Criticism over the shutdown is focused on the Republicans, now at their greatest unpopularity in data since 1984. But the Democrats are damaged too.
  • OBAMA VS. THE HILL: President Obama has a virtually dead-even job approval rating, 48-49 percent, is essentially the same now as it was a month ago, before the shutdown. Compare that to Congress: Twelve percent approve of its job performance, while 85 percent disapprove, its worst rating in ABC/Post polls since 1989 and Gallup polls before then dating to 1974. Seven in 10 disapprove "strongly" in this poll, up 17 percentage points just since July - including 21- and 18-point jumps in strong disapproval in two centrist groups, independents and moderates.
  • THE INCUMBENT REJECTION PROGRAM?: Just 43 percent in the new ABC-Washington Post poll approve even of their own Congress member, while 47 percent disapprove - record low approval and the first underwater result to this question in ABC/Post polls back 24 years, according to ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER. Another result may deepen the chill for current office-holders: Only 25 percent of registered voters now say they're inclined to re-elect their representative in Congress; 66 percent are inclined to look around for someone else - the highest level of anti-incumbency in ABC/Post polls since 1989. The Republicans may be at particular risk; just 32 percent of Americans express a favorable view of the party, vs. 63 percent unfavorable - their worst rating, as noted, in at least 29 years. The Democrats, by contrast, manage about an even split in this basic measure of popularity.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Imagine a world where the shutdown never happened, and the debt limit was never approached. We'd now be three weeks into constant coverage of a flawed website that might be part of a flawed broader health-insurance marketplace - if only the administration would release real details of who's signing up and how. Secret government contracts would be handed out to anonymous techies to rush fixes into the system. The Obama White House would be hard-pressed to guarantee that everything would be working in time for the Jan. 1 start of the individual mandate. If, in that context, Republicans were pushing a year-long delay to the individual mandate, now we're talking about some tough votes for Democrats. Sen. Marco Rubio is making that push now, and he may make some progress. But - recalling that Rubio joined Sen. Ted Cruz and the tea party in pressing the de-fund strategy that led to the shutdown - this is what picking moments is all about. For opponents of the Obama health care law, the events of the last few weeks have made the fight harder, when it should have been a whole lot easier.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: No one would be surprised if Sen. Ted Cruz feels a little battered and bruised after the last month on Capitol Hill. But, by all accounts, the Texas Republican seems to be dusting himself off and hopping right back on the political horse, holding a series of "Welcome Home" events this week in his home state - as if he were a conquering hero. "I don't work for the party bosses in Washington. I work for 26 million Texans," Cruz said at one such rally in Houston last night, according to CNN. And, at another event over the weekend in San Antonio, Cruz also lit into senior Republican lawmakers for opposing him: "You don't win a fight when your own team is firing cannons at the people who are standing up and leading," he told the Texas Federation of Republican Women on Saturday, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Cruz is moving right along to his 2016 presidential ambitions with a major speech to the Iowa GOP on Friday and another Hawkeye State rite of passage - a pheasant hunt with Rep. Steve King - planned for this weekend.


SEBELIUS TO TESTIFY ON OBAMACARE COMPUTER GLITCHES NEXT WEEK. Under intense pressure from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius intends to testify before a Congressional committee next Wednesday about the problem-plagued health care rollout. The announcement was made in a press release from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where the hearing will be held, according to ABC's ALEX LAZAR and MARY BRUCE. "As the administration continues to withhold important details and enrollment figures, I hope Secretary Sebelius is ready to give answers and finally live up to the president's celebrated claims of transparency," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the committee Chair, was quoted as saying in the press release. House Republicans asked Sebelius to testify at a hearing this Thursday before the same committee, but she declined citing "a scheduling conflict." Sebelius has come under increasing fire as the Obama administration scrambles to fix the technical problems with the new online insurance marketplace. Several Republican lawmakers have called for her to resign, and there has been a bipartisan yearning for her to testify in front of Congress on's flawed infrastructure.

ANALYSIS: SHUTDOWN HELPING BUILD A 2014 WAVE. The wave is building, ABC's RICK KLEIN notes. How it crests - and who it winds up washing away - will determine who controls Congress after next year. That's the unmistakable takeaway in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll. The government shutdown made everyone look bad, but particularly Republicans, whose efforts to starve the new health care law of funding amounted to an all-in bet that went bust. It's created an opening for Democrats where no one thought one would exist in 2014. More than a year before the midterm congressional elections, the shutdown fallout is creating an environment - and a messaging opportunity - for Democrats to take advantage of. The defining characteristic of the coming wave, like others before it, is anger. A third of those polled describe themselves as "angry," and they're among nearly eight in 10 who say they're dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working. The math remains difficult for Democrats, who will be challenged just to put enough seats in play to have a plausible shot at regaining the House majority. Anger could cut against all incumbents, and the Democratic lead in the so-called generic ballot for congressional races is only 8 points in this poll. We live in an era of "wave" elections: 2006, 2008 and 2010 all fit the categorization. The year 2014 wasn't supposed to be in that conversation. But the pieces are starting to fall into place.

TED CRUZ HAS YET TO PROVE HIMSELF, U.S. CHAMBER CHIEF SAYS. Sen. Ted Cruz has yet to prove himself capable of achieving much in the U.S. Senate, the leader of one of the most powerful business trade groups in the country said yesterday, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. "My view is, he hasn't got the votes to do what he needs to do," U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue said at a Christian Science Monitor event in Washington. "Then what does history show: then after a while he'll start talking to people about how to get done what he wants to get done instead of telling everybody how he's going to get it done." The Chamber, which has put millions of dollars behind its support of many Republicans in the House and the Senate, has long dismissed the push to try to undo President Obama's health care law, preferring to focus on fixing parts that they believe are unworkable. Donohue said plainly "there's no way you're going to get rid of that bill." Cruz has only been in Washington for 10 months and Donohue indicated that the Texas senator doesn't have much of a relationship with the chamber. "I don't know Senator Cruz. And we're all getting to watch him," Donohue said. "I sort of think about him as a tennis player. If you're going to rush the net all the time, you better have a lot of motion to the left and the right and he hasn't proved that to me yet."

-RESPONSE FROM TEAM TED: Cruz's office did not respond directly to Donohue's comments but reiterated the Senator's commitment to defunding Obamacare. "Sen. Cruz will always work to defend the interests of the Texans who elected him to the Senate and who stand behind his effort to bring relief to all Americans from Obamacare," said Cruz spokesman Catherine Frazier.


JEB BUSH: OBAMA SHOULD SPEND MORE TIME ON THE GOLF COURSE…WITH BOEHNER. Could Washington's dysfunction be solved by golfing? Former Florida governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush says it might just do the trick. In an interview with "Politics Confidential," Bush recommended that President Obama could break though the current political logjam by golfing with Speaker of the House John Boehner. "It would be good for our country if political leaders actually took that to heart," Bush said. "I'd like Barack Obama, who seems to be an avid golfer, to quietly invite John Boehner out to hit them up." Obama and Boehner did play one round of golf together in 2011, but the pair have not played together again since then. Personal interaction between political rivals, Bush said, is a missing ingredient in the current political landscape - and one that has been historically significant. "Read the books about the times of Kennedy and Nixon and Johnson and Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Bush and Carter, and you'll find that there was a lot more engagement and a lot more trust that was built up, because there was this personal interaction," he said. "That's what's gone in Washington, D.C. No one trusts one another."


-"DEMOCRATS REACH OUT TO BUSINESS AFTER SHUTDOWN," by the Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook. "Two leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Monday sent a letter to business leaders reminding them that House Democrats last week voted unanimously for legislation to raise the debt limit and avert potential default while a majority of House Republicans voted against it. Many in the business community had urged Congress to avoid a shutdown and potential default because of its unsettling impact on the economy and the business climate. The letter is being sent to over 1,000 business leaders, the DCCC said. The Democrats' letter noted that in last week's 285-144 House vote to pass the bill - which lifted the debt limit through Feb. 7 and reopened the government after a 16-day shutdown - two-thirds of House Republicans voted against it. Although House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and his senior leadership lieutenants voted for the bill, its 144 opponents included House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R. Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party's campaign arm."


PLANNED PARENTHOOD'S POLITICAL ARM LAUNCHES NEW AD IN VIRGINIA. Planned Parenthood Votes, the political arm of the abortion rights and women's health group, Planned Parenthood, has released a new ad in the Virginia governor's race hitting Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli. The ad's narrator notes that "three hundred thousand women report being raped in America every year," and asserts: "Ken Cuccinelli would put his extreme policies ahead of their needs. He'd force a survivor of rape or incest in Virginia to carry a pregnancy caused by her attacker. He even opposes the emergency contraception they need to prevent pregnancy." Planned Parenthood Votes says the new ad is part of a $1 million dollar television and radio ad buy that kicked off earlier this month in the Richmond and Norfolk media markets. WATCH:


@jamiedupree: The number of people with a job increased 133,000 in September after falling 115 thousand in August

@Goldfarb: Unemployment by education: No HS (10.3%), HS (7.6%), Some college or assoc. degree (6%), Bachelor's or more (3.7%)

@kakukowski: The Last Time The Labor Force Participation Rate Was This Low Was August Of 1978

@RichardHaass: prospects for Geneva 2 talks on #Syria betw poor & dismal given gap betw gov & opposition, divides within opposition

@brianjameswalsh: Major damage done to the Republican Party over the shutdown but hey at least Heritage Action raised a ton of money off it.