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Democrats Blame GOP for Record

When Democrats returned to power in the House six months ago, the new majority promised greater bipartisanship, but in recent weeks the only thing Democratic leaders have been looking to share with the GOP is blame.

As the nascent majority seeks to tout its accomplishments in the first half of the year, Democrats have also turned to blaming the Senate’s Republican minority for slowing progress of major initiatives — from stalled lobbying reform to enacting recommendations made by the 9/11 commission — that Democrats promised in the previous campaign cycle.

“It’s becoming clear to people where the obstacle is,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Tuesday. “People are frustrated that Congress hasn’t made more significant changes.”

Although recent national polls, including a Newsweek study conducted June 18-19 by Princeton Survey Research Associates, put Congressional approval ratings at a dismal 25 percent, Democrats remain adamant that those figures are skewed, in large part the result of the Senate’s failure to move legislation passed by the House.

While House Democrats have conveyed 240 public bills to the Senate in their initial six months, Senate Republicans have objected to nearly every major legislative effort raised in their own chamber.

“The Senate is trying to move ahead on legislation as well, but very frankly, the obstructionism in the Senate has prevented the Senate from moving as quickly as it wanted to on the bills that we put forward,” Hoyer said at a press conference last week. “As a result, I think the American public — on Iraq, on [ethics and lobbying] reform, and on substantive completion of work — is frustrated by the Congress at this point in time.

“But we are working very hard to accomplish all three of those objectives and we will continue to do so, and I think, frankly, the American public will see that, and we will restore their confidence in the legislative body,” Hoyer added.

House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said Tuesday, “It’s a source of frustration on the part of the public, demonstrated by the fact that they voted for change. … People don’t make the distinction between the House and the Senate.”

But a spokesman for the Senate Republican Conference dismissed complaints from House Democrats as an attempt to skirt responsibility.

“Last time I checked their Democratic colleagues were in charge of the Senate. It’s laughable to say that they bear no responsibility for the problems of getting things through and low poll numbers,” Conference spokesman Ryan Loskarn said.

“They spent several months screaming at each other about the supplemental and about Iraq, and then they spent weeks screaming at each other about the Energy bill, showing some deep divisions within their own Caucuses in the House and the Senate, and perhaps they ought to take a look in the mirror before they start blaming Republicans for their problems,” Loskarn said.

Democrats also have been swift to place guilt on the White House for the low ratings, citing the Iraq War, and in particular President Bush’s veto in May of an Iraq spending bill that contained timelines designed to end the conflict.

“We can’t just say, and it’s a real reason: ‘Well, we can pass whatever we can in the House, but they need 60 votes in the Senate, and the president has to sign it,’” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a speech to the liberal Campaign for America’s Future annual Take Back America conference last week. “Those are facts. Those are obstacles, but they cannot be insurmountable.”

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) echoed that statement Wednesday, asserting that the poll numbers on Congress in general are weighted down by a “sense of disappointment” over progress on issues including the continuation of the Iraq War.

“American people voted for change,” said Emanuel, who appeared along with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) at an event aimed at highlighting Senate Republicans’ ongoing objections in their chamber.

“It’s time to shine the light of day on people who are dragging their feet,” Stabenow said. After presenting a short video featuring clips of recent GOP objections on the chamber’s floor, she added: “What we hear every day on the floor of the U.S. Senate is ‘I object, I object, I object.’”

While Democrats used similar tactics during their tenure in the Senate minority, Stabenow asserted that the then-minority objected to far fewer bills, comparing the use of cloture votes four times during the 109th Congress with the 13 instances in which the Democrats have employed it this year.

“What they’re trying to do is simply run [out] the clock,” she said.

Democrats assert that surveys including party identification, such as an ABC News/Washington Post poll released in early June, show voters are more disgruntled with the minority party than their own. That survey, for example, found Democrats with only a 44 percent approval rating, but Republicans ranked even lower at 36 percent.

“It’s not the Democrats who are blocking changes in Iraq, it’s the president and the Republicans in Congress,” Van Hollen said. “They are providing plenty of ammunition. It’s up to us to make use of it.”