Why isn't Congress stressed over its low approval rating?

Congress divided
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(CBS News) WASHINGTON -- This 113th Congress is on track to become the least productive in history, so what better way for them to mark that than by taking off the rest of the summer without finding a way to fund the government come September.

If you're keeping score at home, Congress' approval rating is now 17 percent. If you ever wondered why members don't find this embarrassing, there are several reasons.

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Congress has passed just 23 laws this year, including one to name a bridge and another to promote fishing in Tennessee's Cumberland River.

The glacial pace on Capitol Hill may annoy Americans, but here's the irony: Fifty percent still think their own member is doing a good job.

Chaffetz: My job is to "put some brakes" on administration's policies
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

"It's my job is to represent the people of Utah to Washington, not Washington to Utah," said Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Chaffetz won 76 percent of the vote in his House district last year.

One poll found that Republicans get more blame for the gridlock and are considered more extreme than their Democratic counterparts. Chaffetz said he's not worried about that.

"Oh you can't worry about that day in and day out," he said. "That's not necessarily new news."

Congress has grown more partisan, partly because congressional districts are getting more partisan -- packed with either Democratic or Republican voters.

CBS News
CBS News

A map of Illinois' 18 districts before and after 2011, for example, shows when the party in power -- in this case, Democrats -- redrew the district boundaries in their favor.

Those lopsided districts leave lawmakers more beholden to their own party's voters, with less incentive to reach across the aisle.

Pete Gallego, a new Democratic member from Texas, is still getting used to that unusual dynamic.

"If you walk in every day and you tell your spouse, 'I don't care what your opinion is because we're going to do it my way because I'm always right,' then your marriage doesn't last very long -- it's not much of a marriage," he said.

One could say this political marriage is really on the rocks; not only does Congress have enormous trouble tackling urgent challenges like jobs and immigration, but they are struggling to perform basic duties like funding the government, which needs to get done next month.

  • Nancy Cordes
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.