And I’ll bet you thought that was impossible, didn’t you?  Congress has been plagued by low approval numbers for decades, although the numbers rose from their post-Watergate gloom during Republican control from 1994-2005, remaining mainly above 40% until the public lost confidence in Congress again.  During Democratic control over the last four years, approvals remained mainly in the historic 20-40% band … until the lame duck session.  Now Gallup shows approval plunging to 13%, and the difference is Democrats:

Americans’ assessment of Congress has hit a new low, with 13% saying they approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The 83% disapproval rating is also the worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance.

The prior low approval rating for Congress was 14% in July 2008 when the United States was dealing with record-high gas prices and the economy was in recession.

The current results are based on a Dec. 10-12 Gallup poll, conducted as Congress is finishing work on an important lame-duck session. The session has been highlighted by the agreement on taxes forged last week by President Obama and Republicans in Congress. The tax deal preserves the 2001 and 2003 income tax rates for all Americans for two years, revises the estate tax, extends unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed for a year, and reduces payroll taxes for American workers. It is expected to pass despite vocal opposition from some lawmakers.

Americans are generally more positive than negative toward the deal, but many Democrats in Congress oppose it.

The drop in approval is directly attributable to a loss in support from Democrats.  Approval ratings from Republicans and independents have declined only slightly over the past two months; Republican approval of Congress declined from 9% to 7%, while indie approval declined from 16% to 13%.  Democratic approval has plummeted from 38% to 16%. It’s the new bipartisanship — everyone hates the lame-duck Congress!

The question is what has triggered the plunge.  Was it Democratic anger at Barack Obama’s tax deal with the GOP, or anger over Democratic obstruction of it?  It could also be the failure of Harry Reid to get the last-minute push on Democratic agenda items, or the attempt to push a lot of wish list items instead of dealing rationally with the budget and tax rates.  The drop could also have resulted from the odd internecine battle between Democrats in Congress and the White House over Reid and Pelosi’s failure to get their work done before the election, or just the existence of the lame-duck session at all.

One thing is certain: no one will be sorry to see this Congress finally grind to a halt.