U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., predicts the New Year will bring more partisanship to Congress as the presidential election heats up. Last year, Congress faced a possible government shutdown and a contentious debate to extend the payroll tax cuts among several other partisan debates. For most of the year the Republican-controlled House clashed with the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House until deadlines forced compromises.
Yarmuth says political polarization has become worse since he worked in Washington 30 years ago and took office six years ago, and the current policy conflicts will grow.
“Philosophically, this is as bad as I’ve ever seen it. And maybe that’s not a bad thing that the parties are pretty clearly defined by philosophy. But it doesn’t help compromise. And when I worked in the Senate back in the 70s, you had liberals and conservatives in both parties. You could always find someone in the other party to work with so partisanship was not nearly the factor it is now,” he says.
Polling numbers show Congress’s approval ratings are at an all-time low of 11 percent. President Obama, however, saw his approval rating improve over the past month to 47 percent.
The presidential race and control for Congress will overshadow most legislative issues and it is expected little will be accomplished in Washington this year.
Gridlock couldn’t come at a worse time for the country, Yarmuth says, adding the federal government has a role to play in making sure the economy does not fall back into a recession and the congressional gridlock couldn’t come at a worse time.
“We absolutely have to do something on the infrastructure scene, we’ve got literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects that have to be done and could create a lot of jobs. So I look at it primarily as an opportunity that may be missed to make some important strides forward for the country,” he says.