When Congress concludes its legislative business and the August recess begins, lawmakers will likely trade tough exchanges on the chamber floor with hard questions from worried constituents back home. Guest Scholar William Frenzel says voters are concerned about the economy and they want their legislators to know it.
Concerns About the Economy
“I think the constituents are not going to be a happy experience for the Congress, either. They will not get the sharp objections that they have gotten in the first half of the year to health care, because I think that has died down. People can’t see, yet, what that is doing to them or for them. So those complaints will be less. But they will hear a good deal about deficits and debt, and they will probably hear more than that about jobs. Those complaints are much harder to answer than to explain some very complicated health care bill, because nobody has very many good ideas that haven’t been tried, and the ones that have been tried have not been very successful in this (sort of) limited recovery that we have. So I think they are going to come back from the recess after Labor Day and be kind of nervous and skittish, and I think it is going to continue to be very hard for Congress to reach compromises and joint decisions.”
Strengthening Support Back Home
“The members who are in difficulty know they are in difficulty. The 60 or 70 target races are well known to all of the members. I don’t think any members are going to willingly commit suicide, and they’re not going to go out and try to offend their constituencies, but if you’re a Democrat you’re going to vote like a Democrat, [and] if you’re a Republican (I think) they’re going to continue to vote mostly like Republicans. Those in the swing districts in both parties are going to have difficulty. It looks as though the Republicans are going to do better in this election, and it is a national mood election of being against the Congress. Congress polled last week from 11% to 20% depending on which poll you look at. That’s a historic low. When you’re in disrepute like that, members of Congress in both parties are going to lose.”
[On the politics of climate impacts in the U.S.] The political alignment around climate impacts is almost the exact opposite of the political alignment around emissions control.
[On the geographic distribution of climate impacts in the U.S.] The damages to the Republican-electing congressional districts is almost double what it is for the Democratic-voting districts.
[On Brookings research on climate impacts and human health] When you look at the out years, all of these factors have an impact on what people care about, but the really dominant effect is mortality. Literally, there’ll be climate change killing people.