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Making Congress work

Congress has never been very popular, but its public image is currently at a historic low. Recent approval ratings for the first branch of government range from only 9 to 13 percent, depending on whom you ask, and frustration is coming from both sides of the political aisle. Fifty-five percent of Americans found both parties equally culpable for the failed supercommittee, and yet members continue to blame each other’s party as the biggest problem. As a body, Congress is more polarized than ever. Last year, the most conservative Democrat produced an overall voting record slightly to the left of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate. And the overlap between the parties in the House in 2010 was less than in any previous index.

Can we fix Congress, and if so, how? To try to answer this question, Need to Know’s Jeff Greenfield sits down in Washington, D.C. with Norman Ornstein, author and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; Mickey Edwards, the former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma; and Congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee.


Watch more segments from this week’s episode.


  • Tameekas

    who da heck wants a job? we needs mo welfare raises for us wit no baby daddy

  • Anonymous

    This is the best footage I have seen regarding the mess that Congress is, and what needs to happen to make some necessary changes. I applaud PBS and the panel of really passionate and intelligent people.

  • jan

    I guess I’m less trusting than I used to be.  I want to see the plan before I either agree or oppose.  I find it interesting and rather ironic that Gingrich, who engineered the complete break between democrats and republicans, is not only running for president but the current leader.  Perhaps that’s another symptom of how extreme the republican party has become?  I don’t know.  I still don’t have any answers.

  • jan

    One other thought to consider while we’re getting all misty eyed over middle of the road/centrist/status quo positions.  If you stand in the middle of the road, sooner or later you’re going to get run over.  The center of the grade scale is a C which was not normally anything to get excited over in my house.  It seems to me the thing to do is sort through the positions you see as outside the norm, decide if they’re “A’s” or “F’s” and see if they can be adapted to fit and advance society.  “F’s” such as “trickle down” and “drown the government in a bathtub” should be abandoned as the failures that they are, not turned over to PR departments for recycling and re-messaging. 

  • MinerSam

    As a Media Trained minutia level student of POLICY VS.PHONY  destructive, Lie filled Game of Politis & its Resulting  dumming down of America (almost 24 hour/11 year observer of Reality over C-SPAN1,2,3 & the Financial Networks versus the day by day Misreporting, Disreporting,lack
    of accurate reporting and the repetition bold faced and out of context lies throughout our Cabon monoxide filled information pipelines) that has left us with an electorate — that is busy with their lives and not psychic at a severe disadvantage — Sorry to disagree with solutions of your guests (whom I believe were 2 Republicans & 1 right leaning Democrat, as well as with the commenter at the end!

    (1) LOCAL CONTRIBUTIONS ONLY:With Rush Limbaugh & Glenn Beck gleaning up to 20 million listeners a day, and The fox Republicans Organ & Lie Machine with its 1000% more viewers than their competitotors, while Local news “readers” view or listen to the above in their spare time This woulds leave Jim’s district’s Republican Competitors at an OBVIOUS ADVANTAGE!

    2) ONLINE CONTRIBUTIONS FROM INDIVIDUALS: As someone who has been using The Internet since 1981 I remind you that this is just an IF garbage IN. THEN Garbage OUT device
    and what I worry about — no end — is the degree to which people believe everythig they read
    and that the Republicans have been Microtargetting Single Issue Groups who are Isolated in
    their Separate Silos. But the idea that a Voter has to access the Online System to have a
    voice OR EVEN AFFORD to contribute will determine their representation IS A SET UP against
    Elders, Hispanic Citizens, and Aftican American Democratic voters OUT OF THE GATE.

    3) As for the idea that OUR Representatives from all over the country Should not meet and work
    together In OUR Capital as part of OUR GOVERNMENT I think is silly. A 2 people at the root of
    their Division who were not mentioned were A) Karl Rove B) Dick Cheeney whose office in the
    Senate used to be known as the Torture Chamber (before Abu Greb was known about) These 2 used to come to the Wells of Congress and BLACKMAIL Republicans not to come to any agreements with their Democratic Opponents or else the Party would not support them come
    election day!

    And while the commentor’s representatives must not spend time in his district (Bachman didn’t
    even celebrate her victory in her own district) Each and every Representative in Washington that
    I know spends plenty of time talking to constituants. Particularly the Democrats!

    And those who equate Democrats with Republicans, or wonder why they don’t agree are not connecting the dots.

    A) Every day of the week the Republican Gas&Oil Party of LIES working hard for Predatory Standards for Corporations and represent the financial interests of 3 million And after wracking
    up 87% of debt, Destroying the Agencies of Goverment we PAY to protect our interests almost EVERY we’ve endured is the direct result of the implementation of Republican Ideologyt! Then
    after sucking our economy Dry and kicking is off the cliff have has the audacity to blame the
    Democrats for it. They are so radically ruthless and extreme right wing that everyone else looks
    left wing to them. But just because The Beltway Media repeats their Talking Point Out of Context
    and Bald Faced Lies on every station and as if fact does not make it so.  And during a time
    when Confidence is critical to the economy they dare to inject just the opposite.

    B) Democrats fight for We The People as: Employees, Customers, Shareholders, Students,
    elders, Soldiers, Small Business, Middle & Working Classes And those among the rich who
    know that the American Middle Class is the Largest Customer of the Capitalist world, and that
    together we fall.

    So when Democrats do not vote to Privatize Social Security & Medicare with the Republicans
    THIS IS NOT THE SAME as when The Republicans don’t vote with the Democrats to Extend say
    Unemployment Insurance — WHICH HAS A 174% Stimulative effect because it keep those people
    they Buy from Employed — While only 9% of The Bush Tax Cuts for the rich went into US JOBS!! 
    The Rest went in search of “Yield” and in the process drove up the cost of such things as manufacturing in American by pushing up The Price of Oil From futures $28 a Barrel $146 before settling near $100.And so much more!

    As they saying would go: “It;s not just GWB or “Washington” it’s the Republicans stupid!

    A Lifetime Fact Based Independant who has not voted Republican since I began paying attention
    to FACT VERSUS IMAGE! Sure hope Republicans are not in charge of your system!

  • Artful1designer

    The concept of a virtual congress is one of the best ideas that has come along. It really makes sense and is doable.

  • Mairlyn Kukachka

    We would have such a much better system, were all the Congress people like these three men.  Let’s hear it for publicly funded elections, small donors, elected officials who truly desire the good of the people and posses the inclination and ability to work together.

  • JDO

    Futile attempts at fixing a broken government with a band aid. The only thing going to change the system is abolishing the corporate strangle hold on society and cooperatizing/democratizing everything. Please start talking about that NOW. 

  • Alright4u2

    Let’s look at who is killing about 100,000 jobs as we speak. It is Obama and his belief in the Al Gore BS. That pipeline offers about 100,000 decent jobs. Yet Obama’s political beliefs are opposed to the pipeline. Now take the shale oil jobs in NY his EPA shut down. Then look at Wyoming, parts of PA and many more states, and; your the Republicans drove up the cost of oil is BS. Obama and pals are not issuing drilling permits. We have our own oil in Alaska, but; you leftists tell us a moose or bambi will die if we drill. Well camels are all over the mid east. This anti corporation BS is an excuse for not working. Those OWS types were offered over 400 jobs in NY alone. One smart woman took a job. It was a darn good job. I grew up in a generation that expected men to work and provide. Today I see so many lazy males doing nothing while the woman busts her fanny.

    Get a job and quit whining. There are plenty of us older folks who need work done around a house. Hell, paint, hang ceiling fans, wash and stain decks, etc. make your own job.