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Congress’ Approval Rating Near Record Low


The U.S. Capitol Dome, currently under restoration, and the Capitol Christmas Tree are seen illuminated during evening hours Dec. 11, 2014. Just 202 bills became law over the past two years, according to congressional data. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The U.S. Capitol Dome, currently under restoration, and the Capitol Christmas Tree are seen illuminated during evening hours Dec. 11, 2014. Just 202 bills became law over the past two years, according to congressional data. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The 113th United States Congress ended its work just before the winter holidays. Over the past two years, Congress approved just 202 laws. That was the smallest number passed in 42 years.

Only 15 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of Congress. President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party lost control of the U.S. Senate in midterm elections in November. Now, the Republican Party controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Some observers say they expect even more disputes between Congress and the president this year.

President Obama and others were happy at the lighting of the White House Christmas tree in December. But nearby, in the Capitol building, legislators were fighting one another over a spending bill. Many Democrats were angry about part of a Republican-supported measure that they said helps large banks. Nancy Pelosi is the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.

“And that’s why I was so really heartbroken. I don’t think I’ve ever said that word on the floor of the House -- ‘heartbroken’ -- to see the taint that was placed on this valuable appropriations bill from on high.”

Republican and Democratic lawmakers also disagree about immigration. The Republicans said President Obama had misused his powers when he stopped the expulsion of about four million undocumented immigrants.

John Boehner is a Republican, and the Speaker of the House.

“We’ve also made clear that early on we’ll make a direct challenge to the president’s unilateral actions on immigration. And you can expect that challenge to the president to include real action on border security.”

But political observer Stuart Rothenberg says many Republicans have trouble agreeing on how to change the country’s immigration policy.

“Half the party, or, or, or kind of a significant part of the party, wants a comprehensive solution, understands we can’t be deporting millions of people, breaking up families, that we just can’t turn the clock back. But a huge chunk of the Republican Party says ‘people are here illegally, that’s all we need to know, make 'em leave.’”

In congressional elections in November, Republicans won control of the Senate and strengthened their control of the House. But Mr. Rothenberg says that does not mean Republicans will be able to reach all of their goals.

“While we had an election that presumably was a rebuke to the president, I don’t think he really sees it that way. And while we had an election that puts Republicans in charge, it’s not clear that as a party there is a single voice coming out of the GOP.”

But other observers say the Republicans will be able to come together. William Howell is a political scientist at the University of Chicago. He says Republicans want to show American voters that they were right to put them in power.

“They need to demonstrate their ability to effectively govern, that they can’t strictly and solely be an obstructionist force in American politics."

This story was reported by VOA Congressional Correspondent Cindy Saine in Washington. Christopher Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow edited the story.

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