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Democrats: Bush, GOP blocking top priorities

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Speaker Pelosi says failure to end Iraq war cause of low approval ratings
  • Top House Republican says "political games" reason for stalled bills
  • Democratic leaders: President Bush, Republicans creating obstacles
  • Recent poll finds 22 percent approve of the job Congress is doing
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As they begin to celebrate the first anniversary of winning the 2006 elections, House Democrats on Thursday said they are delivering on their promise to lead the nation in a new direction and blamed President Bush for the failure to achieve their top priorities.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, says Congress is holding the Bush administration accountable.

November 7 will mark a year since Democrats won majorities in both houses of Congress after 12 years of Republican control. The Democrats hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate and lead the House of Representatives 233-202.

"One year ago, the American people entrusted their hopes and their dreams, their aspirations for themselves, for their families and for the future in this 'new-direction' Congress," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. "This new Congress is focused on creating a great America for our children and grandchildren."

Pelosi said the Democratic majority had achieved progress by creating new jobs, making college more affordable and holding the Bush administration accountable. Video Watch as Pelosi touts Democratic accomplishments »

However, Democrats have been unable to implement some of their top priorities, including a new policy for the Iraq war and an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, a federally funded children's health insurance program .

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said those measures were "blocked far too often by a do-nothing president and his Republican accomplices."

"The president has consistently refused to follow Congress' lead to change flawed and failing policies in Iraq," he said.

But House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said "political games" by Democrats are the reason that major legislation isn't passing.

"The American people expect us to resolve our differences," Boehner said. "The political games that are under way on [SCHIP] ... are the kinds of activities that make Americans look up and go, 'Who are these people, and what in the world are they doing?'

"It's no wonder the American people have such low regard for their Congress."

Earlier this week, Bush blasted the Democratic-controlled Congress for having what he called "the worst record in 20 years."

"Congress is not getting its work done," Bush said Tuesday, flanked by members of the Republican House leadership.

"The House of Representatives has wasted valuable time on a constant stream of investigations, and the Senate has wasted valuable time on an endless series of failed votes to pull our troops out of Iraq."

He criticized Congress for not being able to send "a single appropriations bill" to him.

"They haven't seen a bill they could not solve without shoving a tax hike into it," he said.

Bush said Congress is "wasting valuable time" by taking up the children's health insurance bill, which he had vetoed last month.

In response, Hoyer called Bush "the biggest obstacle" to extending health coverage and said his comments on appropriations bills and fiscal responsibility "ring hollow."

"The fact is, this administration has pursued the most fiscally irresponsible policies in American history, turning record surpluses into record deficits and adding more than $3 trillion to the national debt," Hoyer said in a statement.

The public also does not appear satisfied with the job Congress is doing.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released last week shows the approval rating for all members of Congress is at 22 percent, while 75 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job.

"The big issues of the day just don't seem to be being addressed," said Sarah Binder, a political science professor at George Washington University who studies Congress.

"The issues that matter most to people -- the economy, health care, the environment and the larger war in Iraq -- it is so difficult for Congress to move on those issues that I believe the public looks and says, 'Why aren't they doing anything?' "

Democrats can find a bit of a silver lining in the new survey: Approval of congressional Democrats stands at 43 percent, twice that of Congress in general.

The flip side is that Democrats still face a disapproval rating of 51 percent, a figure that has increased 11 percentage points since March.

"The ratings for Congress overall have been mired in the mid- to low 20s for several months, but for most of the year, Americans have had a positive view of the Democrats in Congress," said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

"That's not true any longer -- this poll is the first time we have found majority disapproval for the Democratic leaders' track record since they took control of Congress."

Speaking at a new conference Thursday, Pelosi said Congress' failure to bring an end to the Iraq war was the reason for the low approval ratings.


"I don't approve of Congress because we haven't done anything -- we haven't been effective in ending the war in Iraq," she said, "and if you asked me in a [polling] phone call, as ardent a Democrat as I am, I would disapprove of Congress as well."

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. The survey interviewed 1,212 adult Americans by telephone on October 12-14. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Scott Anderson contributed to this report.

All About Steny HoyerNancy PelosiGeorge W. BushDemocratic Party

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