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  Chapter Ten:
 
POLITICS
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  Presidential Vote
  Senate and House
  Women in Congress
  Black Elected Officials
  Social Attitudes

  

 

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POLITICS

Senate and House

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Control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate oscillated between the two major parties.
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In thirty-two of the fifty Congresses elected from 1900 to 1998, Democrats held a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, elected the Speaker, and dominated the committees. The Democrats held their largest majority in the Seventy-fifth Congress (1937–38), with 333 Democrats to 89 Republicans and 13 third-party members. The Democrats ruled the House of Representatives without a break from 1955 to 1995. 

The periods of Republican advantage occurred earlier in the century, from 1901 to 1911 and from 1917 to 1933. The latter period began and ended with majorities of fewer than ten seats. The Republicans held their largest majority, 300 to 132, in 1921. 

Dramatic turnarounds occurred in 1920, when the Republicans gained 64 seats, and in 1932, when the Republicans lost 99 seats. In the postwar election of 1946, the Democrats lost 55 seats, but in the following election, they gained 75. The “Republican Revolution” of 1994 was comparable in scale. The GOP gained 54 seats to take control of the House for the first time in thirty years, and then maintained control in the 1996 and 1998 elections. 

The Democrats held a majority of U.S. Senate seats in twenty-nine of the fifty Congresses elected during the century. As in the House, the largest Democratic majority was achieved in the Seventy-fifth Congress (1937–39), with 75 Democrats to 17 Republicans and 4 third-party Senators. The longest period of Democratic control lasted from 1955 until 1980. 

The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate to ratify a treaty, and the rules of the Senate require a supermajority to close off debate. In more than 80 percent of the century’s Congresses (forty-two of fifty), neither party had a two-thirds majority in the Senate. In eighteen of those Congresses, the majority party had a margin of no more than ten seats. The Senate, by its structure, is more inclined to bipartisan compromise than the House. 

The House elects its own Speaker, but the vice president of the United States presides over the Senate and casts the deciding vote in the case of a tie. In fifteen of the century’s fifty Congresses, the vice president did not belong to the same party as the Senate majority.


Chapter 10 chart 2

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

Norman J. Ornstein, Thomas E. Mann, and Michael J. Malbin, Vital Statistics on Congress: 1999–2000 (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 2000), table 1-19.

 

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