Measured in ‘quail crap’ or voter approval, Congressional respect is at all-time low

“The reputation of Congress is lower than quail crap.” — Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo.

Well, that particular index advanced by Wyoming’s colorful former senator wasn’t among those mentioned by our own Sen. Michael Bennet last week. But it might as well have been on the charts Bennet used when he talked about the standing of Congress these days.

Congress, you will recall, is the body which expects us to celebrate along with its members whenever they manage such momentous achievements as keeping the lights on in government offices for another couple of weeks. Or the one, now that a Thanksgiving deadline is approaching, hoisting warning flags that a “super committee” may not reach agreement on deficit reduction measures and may instead want to relax some requirements.

Is it any wonder that, according to Bennet, approval ratings for Congress are now lower than those for the IRS or even BP at the height of the Gulf oil disaster?

Bennet pegs the current approval rating of Congress at 9 percent. That, he says, compares to a 40 percent rating for the IRS, 16 percent for BP as crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, 15 percent for Paris Hilton, and 11 percent for the idea of the U.S. becoming communist. At 9 percent, Congress ties with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez but edges out Fidel Castro by four points.

Quail crap, Simpson’s preferred measurement, presumably would garner at least a 10 percent rating.

The “catastrophic” fall in congressional approval ratings, according to Bennet, comes because the American public thinks Congress is not only failing to make things better but also failing to meet the expectation that “at a minimum, they would like to see us prevent matters from getting worse.”

“There is not a mayor in Colorado who would threaten the credit rating of their community for politics,” he says, “not a one, not a Democrat, not a Republican, not a Tea Party Republican, not a one.”

“Somehow, here,” Bennet complained, “we get to color outside the lines.”

I was trying to stay inside the lines in our nation’s capitol last week. Those would be the red and green and orange and other colors delineating routes on the Metro, Washington’s mass transit system. A handful of us from Colorado were shuttling between various White House, congressional and agency offices discussing energy development issues.

It provided, during nearly a dozen meetings over a couple of days, some insight into why those approval ratings cited by Bennet might be both accurate and occasionally unfair.

We learned, for example, that although the Departments of Interior and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Bureau of Land Management and others all share some responsibility for how energy development occurs, it’d be a rare occasion when representatives from those agencies all sat down in one room to hash things out. Instead, they exchange the kind of formal comments that tend to get short shrift in a complicated process.

From one agency rep, we got the condescending equivalent of “There, there, children, don’t you worry. We’ll be taking good care of you.”

That didn’t happen in visits to the offices of Sens. Bennet and Udall and Rep. Scott Tipton. Though we didn’t always hear what we would have liked to have heard, in each case, those we visited with were engaged in our issues and offered help and advice.

That’ll likely be a sharp contrast to a hearing scheduled Friday by the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. On the agenda is the PIONEER Act (Protecting Investment in Oil Shale, the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy and Resource Security).

In his bill, subcommittee Chairman Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, attempts to cut off efforts now under way to review rules for oil shale development by forcing continued reliance of Bush-era regulations. Lamborn also talks about accelerating development that companies now researching oil shale processes say is still 10 years in the future and cites a potential resource still more accurately measured in tons of rock rather than recoverable fuel “a critically important component of the nation’s transportation fuel sector.”

Paris Hilton would be proud.

Jim Spehar suspects his own approval rating could very well be in the Fidel Castro-Paris Hilton range. Your approval, or disapproval, is welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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