Those uncompromising Democrats

And what Congress have you been watching?

Published October 30, 2007 11:32AM (EDT)

An actual paragraph from an actual story in this morning's Washington Post:

"For most of the year, congressional Democrats have been uncompromising on issues including the Iraq war and expanded health insurance for poor children, believing that public opinion favored them and that Republicans would break with President Bush. But the GOP held firm and Congress's approval ratings plummeted."


Congressional Democrats have been uncompromising on Iraq? Well, maybe, so long as you don't count the time they approved $120 billion in funding for Iraq and Afghanistan without any timeline for withdrawal attached when they could have stood firm in the face of the president's veto.

Congressional Democrats have been uncompromising on the State Children's Health Insurance Program? Well, right, except for that time when House Democrats passed a $50 billion SCHIP expansion bill and then joined with Senate Democrats in agreeing to a smaller, $35 billion expansion to gain Republican support.

Believing that public opinion favored them? It wasn't exactly a leap of faith. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken at the end of September, 55 percent of Americans said Congress has not gone "far enough" in opposing the war in Iraq; only 35 percent said Congress has gone "too far." On children's healthcare, the poll found 72 percent of Americans in favor of the $35 billion Congress passed. A CNN/Opinion Research poll taken this month had 61 percent of Americans saying they wanted Congress to override Bush's veto of the healthcare bill.

The GOP held firm? It's true that, when push comes to shove -- which is to say, when their votes could actually make a difference -- congressional Republicans generally have stuck with the president on Iraq. But on SCHIP, a lot of Republicans have, in fact, broken with Bush. Eighteen Senate Republicans joined Democrats in approving the $35 billion compromise bill the president vetoed, and 44 House Republicans joined Democrats in voting, unsuccessfully, to override that veto.

Congress' approval ratings plummeted? It's true that Congress' approval numbers are down, but that's only half of the story: As the Post itself discovered when it broke down the question in late September, Americans actually have a more favorable view of congressional Democrats than they do of congressional Republicans: Thirty-eight percent approve of the job Democrats are doing in Congress, while only 28 percent approve of the GOP's performance.

So let's just say we have some doubts about the Post's premise. The paper's conclusion? Sadly, it's probably dead-on: Congressional Democrats may begin finding new ways to compromise with the GOP, the paper says, as they conclude that "the need to show they can govern" outweighs "the fear that too much compromise will anger their liberal base."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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