February 22nd, 2010
01:23 PM ET
12 years ago

Is gridlocked Congress broken?

Washington (CNN) - Two months into the new year, Congress is at a standstill, stuck in party-line votes, heated debates and electoral politics.

And there's no indication that will change before mid-term elections in November, political observers say: Democrats are afraid to take chances on anything that might alienate voters, and Republicans can stand pat and hope the anti-incumbent mood brewing in the country will help weaken Democrats' control of Congress.

"The problem is the combination of highly ideologically polarizing political parties operating at sort of near parity," said Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.

With many members of Congress in tough re-election fights this year - and bitter fighting between the two parties - key legislative items such as health care and climate change go nowhere, said Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor.

"Worried members of Congress are often distracted by their opponents' campaigns," he said. "They start thinking of every tough vote they must cast as a potential campaign commercial to be used against them."

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Filed under: Congress
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. chill

    The Republic Party is flat out banking on failure and have the votes to see to it that it happens. Throwing out the year's worth of work on the healtcare reform bill is one of the stupidest ideas I've heard. After a year, what more is there to talk about? You want to amend the bill to get support- fine. You want to include some more Republican ideas- that's okay too. But if they haven't formulated a Republican bill by this time, the fact is that they don't intend to. The best strategy for the Dems would be to support a national exchange (across state lines) and put a cap on lawsuits. That's about all they got. Compromise is giving some and getting some, not pouting in the corner when you don't get your way on everything. These guys apparently never attended kindergarten.

    February 22, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. MatthewDetroit

    Congress is Not Broken.

    Congress may be shady, dirty, and elitist, but it is not broken.

    It is RIGHT for each side or individual to stand up for what they believe in. It is not obstructionist it is simply standing strong and should be respected.

    In the case of Reid, Pelosi, and Barack, it is their job to make compromises occur. If they were strong and good leaders they would accomplish this.

    If the bills were not so so extreme and to the left the bills would get passed. What we need is a more centrist approach.

    Funny the only things the two parties ever agree on is spending. They each put in their pet projects and then a spending bill is passed. A bad bill but it passes.

    It is almost better in Washington when they dont cooperate. At least the spending bills dont pass then.


    The Goverment takes in 2.2 Trillion per year and we have 65 Trillion of unfunded entitlement... UNFUNDED.... STOP SPENDING what we dont have and stop now.

    February 22, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. citizen - you better BELIEVE it !

    TERM LIMITS – THIS IS THE ANSWER. This is the answer to ALL our govenermental problems. Look how well it works when we make a mistake in electing the president we don't like! When He doesn't get the JOB done to "OUR" satisfaction. This is HOW WE FIX CONGRESS and SENATE. TERM LIMITS NOW
    NOVEMBER is coming. Pink slip time. Wear PINK to the polls, and VOTE accordingly. REMEMBER ----- PINK SLIP---- NOVEMBER ---- VOTE – TERM LIMITS
    If the government won't institute TERM LIMITS – WE THE PEOPLE can and SHOULD VOTE ACCORDINGLY. Remember OUR VOTES put "THEM" in and OUR VOTES will get "THEM" out. TERM LIMITS one way or the other !

    February 22, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Avg Guy in Red State Kansas

    If one needs to ask that question, then the answer is a resounding "YES"! So, here's another question:

    Why on earth do we put up with these people? Obviously, they have no shame, nor do they have the courage to do the people's business. Collectively, their vision of the future extends only as far as the next election.

    Last question: Do we the people have the testicular fortitude to change things? Short answer: Probably not.

    February 22, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. Angry Vet

    The Democratic leadership should force the GOP to filibuster every aspect of the Senate's work. Require all 41 of the GOP membership to be there just to prevent passing any legislation. After a while that will get old and then work can resume. Force the public dispaly of their recalcitarnce and the public will see the meaning of the party of No.

    February 22, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  6. Mitt Romney for President

    Not broken, yet. It is important that there is compromise and working together. Having two parties allows the country to make changes that don't drastically 'transform America'.

    (Although it appeared that democrats tried unsuccessfully to hijack American in 2009, and were luckily stopped by their own party.)

    February 22, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. John

    Stop using the mantra "Broken Government." Our Politics is broken. Our government is run better than it has been for years. Our politics is the most toxic since the civil war.

    February 22, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. Mike in MN

    Congress is currently in grid lock, but it is not broken, it is working as our founding fathers intended to prevent a minority form imposing their will on a majority.
    A voter mandate is only a mandate as long as the party in power is doing the will of the majority of the people.
    In 2008 voters provided a mandate to the Democrats who have since betrayed it.
    As it stands now a clear majority of voters are opposed to what the Democrats have been doing and intend to do. Poll after poll after poll shows a majortiy of voters have voted NO on the stimulus, auto bailouts, cap and trade, out of control spending and health care reform.
    Obama and the liberal/progresive Democrats have no voter mandate to go forward with their agenda. And the current grid lock protects the will of the majority of the people from the minority liberal/progressive Democrat leadership.
    Until Obama and the Democrats start writing bills a majority of voters support, they have no mandate and should be shut down. Democrats are not going to let Republicans write any bills so it is up to the Democrats to decide if they move to the right or insist on staying with their current agenda.

    February 22, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Dumb question

    In a word: yes.

    This is a system that rewards obstruction of operations at all levels of government through perks and jobs with K-Street. The american people living in congressional districts are NOT the real constituency for any elected individual.

    Who is the constituency? K-Street is the answer. All those long hard hours you think that your elected rep is working is not done on your behalf. Instead, it is done to keep that elected rep employed. How is that done? Through financial contributions. Who are the biggest contributors? America's corporations. Therefore, who benefits the most by the work of our congresspeople?

    You guessed it: American corporations!

    All you free market apologists out there I have a challenge for you. Tell me to my face, while keeping a straight face yourself, that privatizing social security is in the best interest of this country's citizenry. Tell me, again with a straight face, that the free market should regulate the operation of the stock markets and our country's financial institutions. Tell me, once again with a straight face, that America's banks and financial institutions care about consumer protections.

    If you can tell me any of these things with a straight face, I would respond that you are either incredibly stupid, gullible, or have been asleep for the last 10 years or more.

    February 22, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    I think if Obama and the DNC and RNC had not started out all hard-core, we might have gotten to someplace of compromise.

    But Obama came in on a rush of "he will change everything"! Of course he expected the force of his supporters would cause his enemies to just roll over. And the huge over-expectation he set up almost assured a gridlock situation.

    Thanks Obama. (and the RNC idiots too)

    Support a new party!

    February 22, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. gt

    reid amd pelosi must go ...there the problem,,,, to far out of the main stream...

    February 22, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. Gil Oberdas

    Today we start the change in Credit Card lending that the Democrats pushed through Congress despite the republicans support for lending and banking interests. Hopefully, the Party of No will soon open their eyes to the needs of the citizens!

    February 22, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Vince

    This is just a sad reflection of the sports-mentality of American culture which has seeped into most other areas: win at all costs, us vs. them, compete don't cooperate. Little do people here know that the handshake is stronger than the fist!

    February 22, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. Brandon

    Yes, it is broken on both side. I believe in the current administration, and am still on track for voting for Pres. Obama in 2012. But yes, both R and D incumbents need to be voted out.

    February 22, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  15. terry,va.

    Congress is broken because we don't have leaders. Obummie couldn't run a one car funeral. Love or hate GW Bush, he could get things done. Look at all the bills that got passed when he was in. Some in a dumbocrap congress. So why can't you get it done Obummie and dumbocraps? Answer....leadership.

    February 22, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. WHAT???????????

    Worried members of Congress are often distracted by their opponents' campaigns,"

    They all need to stop worrying about their opponents campaign, and start doing "the peoples business". After all, "the people" decide who goes and who stays...this year, they all need to go!!!!!!!!!

    February 22, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. ghostwriter

    Yes, congress is gridlocked. Has been for years. All this partisan bickering needs to end. I don't believe in voting for someone or something just because they have a D or R next to them.

    If someone has a good idea, I will listen to them. If not, I will not. This almost strictly partisan voting is almost as bad as folks looking to protect their jobs instead of doing their jobs. Crist, if nothing else, at least stood up for what he thought was right regarding the stimulus. We need more public servants and less politicians.

    February 22, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Carl R. Remoney

    The biggest problem with the federal government is that the US sadly elected a marxist for president and the congress, however well-intentioned they might be, are torn between supporting their party which is supporting the marxist or supporting the people who elected them. When a true American patriot is back in the white house, congress will shed most of its confusion. Adding to the situation is the socialist /progressive Pelosi and the idiot
    Reid who are controlling the congressional agenda. How the devil did this country get into such a sorry state? (Bush's fault????Again????)

    February 22, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    I think we all know that the senate is broken. As for leadership, both Mitch (Ronald McDonald) McConnell and John (Howdy Doody) Boehner are a couple of cards short of working with a full deck.

    February 22, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  20. RayNV

    Yes, congress is broken and will remain so until we vote all of the old gaurd out and start with new blood. Also the only way to fix the problem permanently is to place term linits on all members of congress and stop giving them a federal pension. Them we will see who really wants to serve the American people not the special interest.

    February 22, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. Annie, Atlanta

    Of course it's broken – especially the Senate. When you have bills that benefit real people being watered down or completely cast aside in favor of large corporations, you bet that's broken. Our Senators are becoming wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate America, and the Supreme Court just gave those corporations carte blanche. I say we figure out which ones are owned, and throw them out.

    February 22, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  22. jules sand-perkins

    Congress is functioning perfectly, the way it was designed to do.
    Naïve bloggers think we elect a President and all follow his plans, but the system is actually that we elect politicians and keep them
    following OUR wishes by threat of removal from office by several methods.
    What is happening in Congress is the perfect functioning of the best political system yet devised: we elected an administration that is going against the will of the MAJORITY, and members of Congress, responding to voters, are blocking the President's agenda.
    Nothing is "broken" at all. It's working perfectly, thank you. God's in his heaven, All's right with the world.

    February 22, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. jj

    Only with hijacked media by right wing with this kind of headline!

    February 22, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Try my technique of voting against incumbents until we get a Congress of newbies who are so politically unsophisticated that they cannot engage in the usual uselessness.

    February 22, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Ken in NC

    One could claim the car isn't broken simply because the engine will not start but if it will not perform as it was designed to do then it is broken.

    February 22, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
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