The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

John Boehner getting bad reviews on ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

By a better than 2-to-1 margin, registered voters disapprove rather than approve of House Speaker John Boehner’s performance during the fiscal cliff talks, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll -- a negative rating due in large part to the lack of uniform support for him among Republicans.

In contrast, Democrats overwhelmingly approve of the way President Obama is handling negotiations, even as registered voters split evenly on how the incumbent is handling the matter.

While Obama is buoyed on the question by a high, 79 percent approval rating from Democrats, Boehner is saddled with a basically even verdict from GOP voters (39 percent approve, 37 percent disapprove) thanks to divisions within the congressional delegation he leads.

Boehner has struggled to maintain party discipline among the most conservative congressional Republicans, many who rode the tea party wave into office in 2010. But in the poll, Boehner is weakest in the ideological middle. Nearly half of “very conservative” Republicans and independents (49 percent) approve of how Boehner is handling the negotiations, but that number drops to 35 percent among those who are “somewhat conservative” and further still -- to 23 percent -- among self-described "moderates."

Boehner’s relatively weak ratings comes at the heart of a month-long battle over Bush-era tax cuts on income over $250,000, an area of clear advantage for the president. Exit polling in November showed six in 10 voters support tax rate hikes on income above $250,000 (or all income levels), a stance has contributed to Republicans’ difficult position.

A separate Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll released last week found 53 percent of Americans said Republicans would be mostly to blame should the negotiations fail, compared to 27 percent who said the same of the Democrats and Obama.

In the new Post-ABC poll, a slim majority of independent voters disapprove of each of the two principals in the budget negotiations. For Obama, it’s a narrow 42 percent approval to 51 percent disapproval among political independents; Boehner is in slightly worse territory, even as he's more of an unknown, with 24 percent approving and 53 percent disapproving.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Dec. 5 to 9 among a random national sample of 1,018 adults, including users of both conventional and mobile phones. The margin of sampling error for the full results and the sample of 861 registered voters are both 4 percentage points. Click here for full question wording and interactive results.

Snyder signs 'right to work' in Michigan: As expected, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) on Tuesday signed two "right to work" bills into law, making it so public and private sector employees can't be forced to pay union dues as a requirement of employment.

Democrats continued to decry the Michigan GOP and Snyder, who had months earlier indicated he wouldn't sign such legislation. Thousands continued to protest outside the state capital in Lansing on Tuesday.

"In no way whatsoever will that move Michigan’s working families forward, and Governor Snyder knows that," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. "Today’s actions by Governor Snyder and his Republican allies are diametrically opposed to (economic) progress, and quite simply, they are an affront to Michigan workers and a cynical attempt to take middle-class families backward.”

Republicans said the bill is a win for economic freedom, pointing to the symbolism of the home of auto industry and the United Autoworkers Union going "right to work."

“This is really a message to every other state that is a closed union shop, that if you do it here you can do it everywhere else,” said Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

It's not clear what kind of recourse unions and Democrats have, as the bill is not subject to a referendum. But they are currently evaluating their options.


The White House has reportedly agreed to overhauling the corporate tax code in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations.

Jimmy Carter favors legalizing marijuana.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says rumors that he might be the next U.S. attorney general have been "invented."

Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.'s (D-Ill.) wife, Chicago Alderwoman Sandi Jackson, will not run for his seat in the coming special election.


"Romney campaign’s TV ad strategies criticized in election postmortems" -- Tom Hamburger, Washington Post

"Obama, Boehner trade ‘fiscal cliff’ proposals but appear no closer to a deal" -- Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane, Washington Post

"As Fiscal Talks Heat Up, Questions on Whether Boehner Can Get the Votes" -- Jackie Calmes and Jonathan Weisman, New York Times

"Unlikely Backers in a Battle Over Taxes" -- Nelson D. Schwartz and Jonathan Weisman, New York Times