New U.S. Congress may have old look after election

Sat Nov 3, 2012 5:10am GMT

By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress fell to new depths of public disapproval in the past two years, yet no big shake-up of the Senate or House of Representatives is expected in Tuesday's general election.

With days remaining before the vote, Democrats were expected to fend off what is seen as a fading Republican challenge for control of the Senate, with a 50-50 tie also a possibility.

The most likely victor is the status quo, with neither Democrats nor Republicans on track to win the super-majority necessary to quickly advance legislation, leaving each party capable of blocking almost anything they please.

Coupled with a House of Representatives that is expected to stay in Republican hands, the Congress to be sworn in next January to grapple with daunting budget and tax controversies may look an awful lot like the current, deeply divided legislature.

Whether it has any more success carrying out its basic responsibilities is an open question. Scholars of Congress generally regard the current version as one of least productive - and most destructive - in modern history.

It has failed to complete its most fundamental task of appropriating money to run the government, except on a temporary basis. The showdown in 2011 over the debt ceiling between Republicans and Democrats resulted in a downgrading of the U.S. government's creditworthiness.

In return, the public has disapproved of Congress at record levels, with the lowest rating of 10 percent coming in August, according to a Gallup poll.

Democrats have held the majority in the Senate since 2007.   Continued...

A woman walks past the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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