What would it take for you to improve your view of Congress?


People in the U.S. regularly have a dim view of Congress, but a new public opinion poll by the Associates Press indicates only 5% of Americans have a positive view of Congress.

“The point of the poll was generally to gauge Americans’ reaction to the shutdown, which was already several days old when the polling began. What the AP found echoes what most other pollsters have found: People blame Republicans,” writes Phillip Bump for The Atlantic.

A deeper look at the poll:

  • 68 percent consider the shutdown to be a “major problem.”
  • Democrats get slightly better ratings on how they’re dealing with the budget than Republicans, but both get terrible marks.
  • 52 percent of respondents said President Obama should cooperate more with Republicans on the shutdown, while 63 percent thought Republicans needed to cooperate more with Obama.
  • But only 15 percent of Tea Party Republicans think Republicans should cooperate with Obama — a group that comprises 40 percent of the party overall.

Today’s Question: What would it take for you to improve your view of Congress?

  • Pearly

    term limits!

    • Hi Pearly, what do you think of the argument that term limits give more power to special interests?

      If every elected representative is relatively green they are going to be less effective in combating the entrenched interests of K Street.

      Others argue that term limits give a representative less of a reason to listen to the voters because they don’t need their vote.

      Any thoughts on those arguments?

      • James

        Valid points – the non-elected people behind the scenes (lobbyists, support staff, administration, political advisors, party officials, etc.) would potentially have even more ability to control the situation. How do we get rid of their influence?

      • Pearly

        Good points but, whats the difference? The new gus screw us and the lifers screw us. At least with a term limit its some one new.

  • PaulJ

    A rational decision support system for voters.

  • Gary F

    Term limits.
    Stop passing laws that get more people addicted to government.
    Quit trying to be like Europe.

    Greece is the word.

  • Nick

    They should stop representing Big Money, and start representing the people.

  • Sue de Nim

    Two things: (1) a different voting system, such as ranked choice voting or non-partisan primaries, and (2) reform of redistricting to eliminate gerrymandering. It will be neither easy nor quick.

  • James

    1. If they followed the constitution and only passed laws that conform to it, the federal government wouldn’t be such a central, all-powerful entity (so we’d have less to be angry about.) The states and the people would have more responsibility for themselves, as the country was designed to function.

    2. Stop spending us into oblivion.

  • James 2 (Formely James 1)

    Where to start?
    1) Elected house leaders. it is bizarre that arguably the most powerful person in the country is unelected (except as a representative.) Neither John Boehner nor Nancy Pelosi would get my vote.
    2) 2 year budget cycles with real rules/penalties to get budgets in place every 2 years.
    3) 3 parties. Coalitions just work better than pure majorities.
    I would argue that our system of government (in Washington) is fundamentally flawed and that in hindsight, our founding fathers should have embraced the parliamentary system.

  • Jim G

    The Republicans in the House and a few Tea Party Senators are responsible for the dysfunction in Congress. The Republicans in the House have adopted governing rules that actually hinder any bipartisanship. They simply must change their rules and start acting as adults with adult responsibilities. In addition, we must reform the gerrymandering which allows the fringe of the fringe right access to the positions of leadership.

    Any institution that can be manipulated into paralysis by 5 % of its membership, as the Tea Party has done, cannot be trusted to govern the country. These Tea Party partisans have come to the Capital to capture it… or if they can’t control how it functions, to incapacitate its institutions. These partisans are not patriots, they are the enemy of every American, and must be opposed with courage, intellect, and integrity. Their cancer is primarily a Republican disease, however its seed has infected the whole of the Congress with a poisonous bile that must be overcome for our country to thrive again.

    • Come on 2014!

      I find it interesting that had the Dems focused on the economy more during Obamas first term, rather than unilaterally forcing the healthcare issue, there wouldn’t have been such an uprising of the masses to replace them with Tea Party supported candidates. It’s cause and effect. Just like when the Dems overran the Reps because of Bush Jr.. Personally I vote for the individual that I feel best supports my viewpoint as do most people that actually pay attention. So why are we at this impasse? The people are responsible for the elected officials we have that are doing what they said they would and were elected to do. I blame the ignorant, spiteful, ideological, masses on both sides for not compromising on picking center leaning candidates. Fix the voter base and you’ve fixed the problem.

      • Jim G

        I agree. We get the representatives we deserve. We’ve elected them. However, gerrymandering unnecessarily tints congressional districts decidedly red or blue. There are only a few seats in the House that are truly in play during any national election. If the voters begin to see the basic unfairness of the current system producing this paralysis in the House and start to mobilize as Minnesota voters did in 2012 on the Marriage Amendment we may have a chance to start to fix this dysfunction. The wild card is money, and the willingness of the richest 1% to buy influence across the land and how the SCOTUS defines their First Amendment right to buy elections versus the all the rights of the rest of the citizenry.

        • Fred Garvin

          Come on–MN “elected” Al Franken for Pete’s sake, and Jesse Ventura.
          The rest of the country laughs.

    • Fred Garvin

      Th Dems in the senate and the criminal in the White House are responsible for the dysfunction of our governement.
      of ocurse, the lefties and a few Reps. bought into his promises to bring people together.

  • ChickenTrain

    1. Immediately and unilaterally revoke Congress’s gold-plated healthcare plans. Let them shop the market like everyone else.

    2. Limit campaigns to 60 days. Any politician found violating said time-frame should face criminal charges.

    3. Public financing of elections.

  • Rich in Duluth

    It would take public financing of campaigns and getting corporate money out of them
    and just as significantly, a change in thinking of the American voter.

    This dysfunction in Congress is not just a problem within Congress. This situation comes about because of the polarization of thinking in this country and a large minority of people who have an irrational fear and dislike of the Federal government. This fear is fed by lots of money from corporations who have a big interest in a weak Federal government.

    When voters send representatives to Congress who have limited agendas, no
    willingness to compromise, an apparent misunderstanding of how Congress is
    intended to work, and ignorance or disregard of what a representative is in Congress to do, they promote dysfunction and do a disservice to themselves.

    The dysfunction supports the interests of big business in that it results in profitable
    wars of “choice”, less regulation and oversight, thus big profits for corporate farms, but salmonella in our food, health insurance companies making big profits by not paying for needed medical services, big banks “selling” debt for a profit of people who can’t afford the debt…I could go on. The more the dysfunction in Congress serves the interests of big business, the more money will be poured into campaigns
    from big business.

  • Duggleass

    There are a few things I would need to change to even begin improving my view of congress.

    1) Make lobbying illegal. This won’t get rid of private money secretly changing hands, but will be start. Instead, give some branch or acronym agency the power to investigate into the investments politicians receive from private interests. Perhaps make a provision to require all monetary transactions of politicians to be transparent. If they buy a hamburger or a condom, we should know about it. I would love to trust them, but we tried that already and we know they can’t be trusted.

    2) Term limits. Having a lack of term limits makes the way for career politicians who are ultimately aiming for role or President or some other high office. Perhaps apply the limits across positions. You can only be a national politician for 10 years. If the 10th year should pass in the middle of the term, you can finish that term and return to the regular population. So 4 years as a senator and 6 years as a congressman will end your political career. 2 years as a senator, 6 as a congressman and 4 as president, so much for re-election. Then perhaps the laws they pass will be more considerate of the population they will be forced to return to.

    3) A change in salary and work hours. I understand they are very stressed and have a million things to consider. They are also very well compensated for that. Give them a 40-50 hour work week with a salary that keeps them closer to their constituents. It’s not a public service when its for personal gain.

    4) I would like to see more than a two party system. Our media and our system as it exists now is in position to resist 3rd 4th 5th parties etc. It is not in their best interest to make multiple parties present themselves on an equal playing field. If it is not in their best interest to make way for additional parties, then perhaps it is then in our best interest to make way.

    This is just where I would start. Congress has been broken a long time. We can’t fix it with a few small fixes.

    • Duggleass

      I find it amazing any post that suggests term limits has multiple down votes. Why the hate for term limits? As if green politicians would be more likely to screw over constituents. With term limits and wage caps, work expectations etc we can take away the self interest career politicians and provide a more in touch political system.

      Take away the incentives that come with getting rich in politics, and you start seeing people who intend to do their best to help rather than do their best to get rich.

      • david

        Because when you get a situation like today, when 1/3rd of the house members are freshman representatives, and 90% of those are from a single party, there’s are not enough cool heads in the room to explain to the wing nuts that this government has 3 branches, all of which are required to get something passed. If they only control one of the three branches, they are only wasting not only everybodies time, but valuable government resourced their constituency is paying for. Instead what we get is a bunch of ideological d-nozzles who would rather stand in the way of progress to stoke their narcissistic personalities then do what’s right for the country.

        • Pearly

          Dont wory the d-nozzles you vote for will have a chance to do the same thing soon enough. Very progressive david!

          • david

            My problem is this whole astroturffed tea party was bought and paid for by the brothers koch, and corporation like unitedhealth, a company whose CEO is something like the tenth highest paid CEO in the nation, and makes something like 1700 times more then his average employee. All the while these groups and their million dollar propaganda machines spread lies and deceived people into voting for their shills. If what they are doing wasn’t so horrific, and sending us down the path to third world status, I might feel bad about my colorful language. But since what we got is a plutocracy of hypocrites I stand behind d-nozzle and will call them much worse to their faces should I get the chance.

          • Fred Garvin

            Astroturf tea party, Kock brothers…evil corporations
            Conspriracy alert!!!

          • david


          • kevins

            Hey Pearl…how’s hunting?

          • Pearly

            No time for hunting yet

      • Sue de Nim

        It’s not just the term limits (which I oppose for the reasons Michael Olson listed). Regarding your first suggestion, you run afoul of the the First Amendment. Like it or not, lobbying is constitutionally protected speech. On your third point, be careful what you wish for; underpaying public officials decreases the likelihood that talented people will seek those offices and increases the temptation to accept graft. Lastly, encouraging third parties won’t happen without some radical reform of our election system, such as RCV or nonpartisan primaries; merely asserting that third parties are a good idea that we citizens should support does not qualify as a practical suggestion.

  • david

    Ungerrymander the districts so primaries are not such wingnutfests. Get corporate money out of elections, and end superPACs. Tax political contributions as income. Pay politicians for actual work done. Every vote missed reduces pay a percentage enough to sting. Never working to pass, sponcer, even be on the subcommittee for any serious legislation (*cough* bachmann) causes a loss of benefits. No pay for politicians during a shutdown, without back pay, but mandatory 60 work weeks until the shutdown is over. Public flogging for corruption (*cough* bachmann).

  • Tina Hegg Teeter

    For a short term boost, I’d say a solution on the budget and the debt ceiling before they are both expired. Also, some individual leadership from each party.

  • david
  • Peatbogjeff

    They would have to introduce legislation ending abortion, which destroys the lives of 1.3 million children every year in America alone.

    How can a country that kills its own children every expect to help keep the world safe?

  • kevins

    I won’t repeat a lot of the suggestions below because I agree with them and they stand on their own merit. I would just add that I believe that we should pay for and build three or four dormitories near the capitol, put both Senators and Reps in them but set specific dates when the buildings will open and close. The officials would need to leave Washington when the dorms are closed, but could come back and do their work when the dorms are open. They could have a nice cafeteria, weight room, lounge with a big TV, and large restroom/shower facilities to use for free. There would be a front desk where they could get their mail, and some security guards to keep lobbyists out. Free land lines and maybe internet if they do well the session before. Group pictures optional.

    • Jim G

      The idea of getting members of Congress, who are essentially strangers to one other to live in a college dormitory, is intriguing. It would force at least a modicum of civility, and rub off some of the self-righteousness of the freshmen legislators. It might even lead to a few late night bipartisan drinking parites. Friendships have been made in the past in just this way. Too bad it fell out of fashion to socialize with your legislative colleagues.

      • kevins


  • Concerned Grandma

    I am somewhat nonplussed by the question, ie, “are you kidding me?” Let me count the ways! it is easy to say, “I want the grownups back”. How to do that? David has good ideas. Fix the gerrymander. Make the Congress put in a full 5 day work-week. I favor Term Limits but would stagger them and make them a bit longer than others might. Perhaps 12 years. I think it takes the first few years just to get up to speed and I do believe in the concept of ‘elder statesmen’. Revisit the Citizens United decision. Then, since tea party candidates are heavily favored by evangelicals, the churches need to start reminding their congregations that the 8th Commandment is not a suggestion. Slander and lies do matter! Factchecking needs to be a part of the entire process and lies need to be exposed for what they are; think ‘death panels’, think birthers. Mandatory remedial civics classes for adults might not be a bad idea (how would that ever happen).

    • Sue de Nim

      You mean the Commandment about bearing false witness? The one Brother Martin of Erfurt explained as, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander or lie about our neighbors, but defend them, speak well of them, and explain their actions in the kindest way”? Yeah, it would be great if people in politics who call themselves Christians would abide by that one. I’m not holding my breath, though.

      For clarity, Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans do indeed call that the 8th (considering the “graven images” clause an elaboration on #1 and recognizing two about coveting), but most other Protestants call it the 9th (considering the ban on graven images #2 and taking the two “covet” prohibitions together as #10).

  • Kim of Woodbury

    I like the dorm idea! It might help them remember that they aren’t there to simply enforce the hardline policies of their party but, more importantly, they’re there to govern. To do so successfully takes a williness to compromise that seems to be absent these days. And there is no way they should have access to their gym and salaries during a government shutdown when their staff doesn’t; maybe making them feel the pain too would help motivate them to solve the problem.

  • fritz

    I like the dorm idea! If we feed them and house them, we shouldn’t have to pay per diems, so it could be presented as a cost saving measure.

    I’d like to see some rules so that they have direct and immediate accountability for their actions (or lack there of!). If you want to shut down government, the FIRST thing that gets cut is pay & benefits for elected officials. I’d also cut the heat or air conditioning to their offices etc. As it stands now, they have no skin in the game, other than the wrath of the electorate & they pretty obviously don’t care about that.

    As far as redistricting goes, we DEFINITELY need to get the politics of of that. A house district should be based on geography. (Geography actually includes stuff like urban/rural etc.) It makes no sense to let the people who have a vested interest in where the lines are, draw the lines. The lines should be drawn by some impartial group.

    As of now, I’d like to see a mechanism in place for “we the people” to throw the bums out and start over when they get this far down such a totally dysfunctional road. Didn’t one of the founding fathers say “A little revolution now and then is good for a country.”?

    • TJeff

      There are no impartial groups. Where the lines are drawn affects every US Citizen. You couldn’t even say the Chinese, Russians or Iranians would be impartial, as what happens in the US Congress affects all the world. I’m not disagreeing with your premise, just the viability of it.

      We, the people, could vote them out – if someone can focus the electorate properly,

      Jefferson’s little revolution comment in larger form:

      And a little more Jefferson, for good measure:
      “[W]hat country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned
      from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?
      Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon
      and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?
      The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

  • JQP

    GPS ankle monitor until
    – all executive branch and judicial appontments are voted on and cleared out of committee AND the floor.
    – all budget items are cleared out of committee and voted on the floor

    Dont’ just get something done, get everything done. Then go home and have your constituents look at what you are really capable of and decide if they want more of that.

    SECOND – get rid of the current model for rerpesentation.
    Eliminate congressional districts.
    – Convert both Senate seats to AT LARGE ballots.
    – Convert half of the House seats in a state to GENERAL AT-LARGE ballots and the other half of the seats to special A-LARGE BAllots based on population type URBAN or RURAL. Suburban will be split by computing the state average density for populated areas and those living in higher density side – are URBAN, those in the lower density areas are RURAL.

  • Fred Garvin

    Congress is doing just fine. The less they do the better our democracy will be.
    So, when may we expect MPR to pose a question about how to improve Barry Obama’s miserable poll ratings?