Since announc­ing the Amer­i­can Jobs Act, Pres­i­dent Obama has taken a more com­bat­ive stance toward Con­gress. Through the first two and a half years of his first term, the Pres­i­dent has tried to work with Con­gress, attempt­ing to cajole them and nego­ti­ate with them, push where he could, back off when nec­es­sary, in his attempt to get the best deals he could for the Amer­i­can people.

Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion, on issue after issue, has been unyield­ing, absolute, and inflex­i­ble. Since the Repub­li­cans took over the House, this has been espe­cially appar­ent. Repub­li­cans will not allow any­thing to be enacted that is sup­ported by the White House.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s response has been to take off the gloves. No more Mis­ter Nice Guy. The era of try­ing to nego­ti­ate with a brick wall is over. Rather than try to work with peo­ple whose only objec­tive is to defeat him next year, the Pres­i­dent is act­ing on his own to help Amer­ica recover from the Great Reces­sion. His strat­egy is work­ing, and Repub­li­cans are play­ing right into his hands.

On Tues­day, the Pres­i­dent announced a plan to make more mort­gages afford­able for more home­own­ers whose home val­ues have fallen below what they owe. On Wednes­day, he announced changes to the fed­eral stu­dent loan pro­gram, which will make it eas­ier for mil­lions of Amer­i­can stu­dents to go to col­lege, and to pay off their loans after­ward. The Pres­i­dent is mak­ing an end run around an unco­op­er­a­tive and hos­tile Republican-​​controlled Congress.

Republican-​​controlled Con­gress”? Don’t the Democ­rats con­trol the Senate?

No. The Democ­rats have a major­ity in the Sen­ate. That is dif­fer­ent from “con­trol”. Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors have decided they can, and should, fil­i­buster every­thing, and pre­vent the pas­sage — even the con­sid­er­a­tion — of any bill they choose. Not that they need to, since the Repub­li­can major­ity in the House will allow noth­ing use­ful to pass there, either. Repub­li­cans con­trol Con­gress with an iron fist and hob­nailed boots, and they’re quite proud of it. It is silly to pre­tend otherwise.

The lat­est New York Times/​CBS poll puts Con­gres­sional approval at nine per­cent. (You read that right. Nine per­cent.) This is hardly sur­pris­ing; Amer­ica is still suf­fer­ing from the after­ef­fects of the worst reces­sion since the 1930s, and Con­gress does exactly noth­ing, because Mitch McConnell has vowed to deny Pres­i­dent Obama a sec­ond term. He hopes the pub­lic will blame the Pres­i­dent for the inaction.

The Super­com­mit­tee

Mean­while, the Demo­c­ra­tic mem­bers of the deficit super­com­mit­tee have pro­posed a plan to reduce the deficit by a stun­ning three tril­lion dol­lars. Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee rejected the plan, because (you guessed it) the plan includes tax increases for the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans. As far as the will­ing­ness of the Democ­rats to com­pro­mise, the plan also includes hun­dreds of bil­lions in cuts to Medicare, some­thing that Repub­li­cans have been push­ing for. But intran­si­gent Repub­li­cans refuse to com­pro­mise on any of their demands. They want their whole agenda, and noth­ing but.

These Repub­li­can games will not improve the public’s view of Con­gress, par­tic­u­larly if the com­mit­tee remains dead­locked, and the sched­uled mas­sive auto­matic cuts kick in, to both domes­tic and mil­i­tary spend­ing. Remem­ber, the debt ceil­ing agree­ment that sched­uled those cuts and cre­ated the super­com­mit­tee was rushed into law in a mat­ter of days. Con­gress can as quickly rush through another bill nul­li­fy­ing those cuts. Here’s a dis­cus­sion ques­tion — Is that what they will do? Or will Repub­li­cans play their hostage-​​taking card again, and insist on these economy-​​killing cuts unless their super­com­mit­tee demands are met in full?

Whichever course Con­gress takes on a dead­lock — cav­ing to Repub­li­can hostage demands, or accept­ing dra­con­ian cuts, or repeal­ing the absurd agree­ment the Repub­li­cans forced in their ginned-​​up debt ceil­ing cri­sis — none of these paths will help improve the image of Congress.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four term...

Role model?

So Pres­i­dent Obama has decided to make Con­gress the issue, to run for reëlec­tion against the destruc­tively insane Republican-​​controlled leg­is­la­ture, and to do what he can to improve the econ­omy by exec­u­tive order — as did both Franklin Roo­sevelt and Harry Truman.

This may be work­ing, both as a way to help Amer­ica and a a counter to the insan­ity on the right. Even as the Con­gres­sional approval rat­ing has fallen to a sin­gle digit, Pres­i­dent Obama’s approval has edged up. In the last Gallup track­ing poll, he has improved from his Octo­ber 6 low of 53 per­cent dis­ap­prove /​ 39 per­cent approve, to the cur­rent 50 per­cent dis­ap­prove, 43 per­cent approve — clearly not great, but a seven-​​point improve­ment in the spread, out­side the mar­gin of error, and def­i­nitely going in the right direction.

Over the next days and weeks, pos­si­bly even months, expect to see the Pres­i­dent con­tin­u­ing to use exec­u­tive orders to improve the lives of every­day Amer­i­cans, the econ­omy of Amer­ica, and his own chances for reëlec­tion. You can also expect to see Repub­li­cans help­ing him, by con­tin­u­ing to oppose any action that will be good for the econ­omy or good for the nation.