Split Congresses

Opposition Congresses Vs Split Congresses: Which Performs Better?

America is about enter a new period of an opposition Congress in both houses, something that been quite common in the past 70 years since World War II.

Harry Truman had an opposition Congress in 1947-48, and despite his “do nothing Congress’ attack on them in 1948, they actually accomplished a lot, just not all that Truman preferred, an example being the anti labor Taft Hartley Act.

Dwight D. Eisenhower had an opposition Congress in 1955-1961, but a lot was accomplished, including two Civil Rights laws in 1957 and 1960, and the National Defense Education Act in 1958.

Richard Nixon had an opposition Congress in his time in office from 1969-1974, but despite conflict and Watergate, actually accomplished a lot in domestic affairs by cooperation, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Gerald Ford had an opposition Congress in his time in office from 1974-1977, and although no major legislation was passed, got along quite well with the opposition party.

Ronald Reagan had an opposition Congress in 1987-1989, and while his last two years were declining years of performance amidst the Iran Contra Scandal, he still got along quite well with the opposition party, including when the House of Representatives remained Democratic during his first six years, and Social Security was reformed by bipartisan agreement.

George H. W. Bush had an opposition Congress in his time in office from 1989-1993, but was able to move ahead on the Americans With Disabilities Act, and made a deal on a tax increase with the opposition party.

Bill Clinton had an opposition Congress in his time in office from 1995-2001, after the first two years having his party in control, and while there was plenty of turmoil and drama, they actually came to agreement on balancing the budget in his last years, and working together on welfare reform.

George W. Bush had an opposition Congress in his last two years in office from 2007-2009, and despite a lot of conflict, gained support on a bailout of banks and other financial institutions during the Great Recession.

One will notice most times that the Republicans were in the White House, and the Democrats were in control of Congress when we had opposition Congresses, and that they were a lot more cooperative in general. The point was that at least most things that had to be done, and some others as well, were accomplished!

The split Congress of 2011-2015 has seen just about total stalemate, gridlock, and failure to accomplish anything, with a GOP House and a Democratic Senate. The four other Congresses in this situation, had also much more difficulty to gain new legislation, but those five from 1911-1913 under William Howard Taft, 1931-1933 under Herbert Hoover, and 1981-1987 under Ronald Reagan still accomplished more, due to the fact that the House was Democratic, and the Senate was Republican, the opposite of the last four years.

So when we have a Democratic Congress, or a split Congress with a Democratic House, historically, things get done; while when we have a Republican Congress, or a split Congress with a Republican House, the ability to get things done is far worse!

So the prognosis for Democratic President Barack Obama and a Republican Congress, led by a party much further to the right than earlier Republicans, to accomplish much in 2015-2016, is gloomy

The Worst Possible Scenario: A Republican House And Democratic Senate!

History has taught us that the worst possible scenario in Congress is a Republican House of Representatives and Democratic Senate.

Since 2011, we have had this scenario, and it has been a total disaster as the GOP has made it impossible to deal with the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The last time we had such a scenario is a century and a half earlier in 1859-1861, when James Buchanan was President, and the GOP was a new party, and anarchy and chaos reigned in the nation’s capital.

When we have had a Democratic House and Republican Senate as under William Howard Taft (1911-1913), Herbert Hoover (1931-1933), and Ronald Reagan (1981-1987), all Republican Presidents, some progress and cooperation has been possible.

Notice that when Buchanan was in office, and Obama now, it was Democratic Presidents facing an impossible situation with a party dedicated to no cooperation at all on anything!

While the Republican Party of the 1850s was more to be admired for principles, the fact is that Republican control of the lower House has led to stalemate and gridlock.

One could argue that even if the GOP won the Senate, it would not change things much, as the requirement for a 60 vote majority to invoke cloture and overcome a filibuster makes the Senate always a problem in any situation, but the power of the purse in the House makes that chamber MORE important to control.

So for Obama’s last two years, control of the House, which brought about more productivity in 2009-2010 than any modern Congress, and was under Democratic control, is more urgent than control of the US Senate.

And when the opposition party has controlled both houses of Congress, as has occurred a lot in recent history, much more gets done than in a split Congress.

These are the facts of Congressional history, like it or not!