The Washington Times is out today with an article on how far Americans’ approval of Congress has fallen – and how a Joint Committee could institute significant reforms to restore the balance of power between the Legislative and Executive branches. Leaning heavily on research commissioned by the Congressional Institute that was conducted by The Winston Group, the article says:

“For the first time in memory, more Americans disapprove than approve of the job their own members of Congress are doing, according to a new poll of 1,000 registered voters. … It used to be that voters registered low regard for the job Congress in general was doing but thought the individuals representing their congressional districts in the House were performing OK.

… “The new national poll by The Winston Group of 1,000 Republicans, Democrats and independents found 43 percent turning thumbs down to their own congressional representatives and only 33 percent giving a thumbs up. The same poll in 2006 found the reverse, with a hefty 58 percent approving and only 33 percent disapproving of their man or woman in Congress.”

The Winston Group looked at both Congress’ overall approval and the approval rate of Members and delved into the reasons behind the drop for each. They found that Republicans feel congressional ineffectiveness comes from a lack of accountability and lawmakers not acting in peoples’ best interest. Democrats, meanwhile, feel Congress too often blocks the President’s efforts out of partisanship. Voters are also concerned that Congress isn’t exerting its own congressional authority and is ceding too much power to the White House and federal agencies. More from the article:

“Despite reform spearheaded decades ago by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congress has not been able to retrieve the constitutionally intended power it has for decades been surrendering to what observers long have complained of as the ‘imperial’ presidency. It’s only getting more imperial and less what the republic’s founders had in mind, said Congressional Institute President Mark Strand.

The solution, as presented in the article, is a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. Such a Joint Committee – which has been a project of the Congressional Institute and others concerned with Congress’ trajectory – could take up reform ideas and push through meaningful changes to the institution. For example, according to former Institute Chairman Michael Johnson, “if Congress adopted budgets, enacted appropriations and conducted oversight of federal programs, public trust in government would improve …”

“The Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress can fix what’s broken, but it has to do so in a disciplined, performance-based, bipartisan and bicameral process that is open to public scrutiny,” Mr. Johnson said. “The [J]oint [C]ommittee will be a means of accomplishing that goal, and maybe the only one.”

Read the full article here.

Read the full Congressional Institute-Winston Group report here.