Published March 1974 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Congress' Rating in the Polls A number of commentators have been making much of the fact that Congress' rating in a recent poll was lower than that of the President. Why does the public appear to hold Congress in such poor esteem? One reason has to do with Watergate. President Nixon's foes demand his impeachment. His supporters vigorously oppose it. Congress, in the middle, is charged on the one hand by many with being "out to get" the President, and it is denounced on the other by many more for not "getting" him. Caught on the horns of this dilemma, Congress could hardly expect to win much praise from a polarized public. Another reason is that this is an election year. Some members of the House and Senate, illogical though it may seem, campaign by running against Congress. They seem to find it to their advantage to run Congress down. Still another reason is that Congress, when compared with a Chief Executive, is a veritable Tower of Babel. An Administration can s p e a k with the once voice of a President; Congress speaks with 535 disparate voices. A President can preempt prime-time television on three networks and have access to most front pages in the land to gain the attention of the public. Members of the Senate and House often have difficulty making their voices heard outside their own constituencies. The substantive record of the 93rd Congress is much better than the image in the polls suggests. As I pointed out in a recent column, the present Congress has many impressive accomplishments to its credit. They include the comprehensive energy bill (which the President vetoed), and good and needed legislation in the fields of health, education, the economy, election reform, social security, war powers, crime, and national defense to name only a few. Many of America's institutions are under fire at this point. Government is not alone in being criticized. The public is asking questions about our country's communications media, its business and industrial corporations, and many other aspects of U.S. life. All this can be healthful, and the end result can be beneficial. But only if citizens seek to ascertain facts, and to make objective judgments upon them, rather than upon subjective and emotional appraisals.