Today in the Morning Line:
- Just two presidents in the last 50 years have not experienced a Congress fully controlled by the opposition party
- 16 of the 24 times the opposition party has fully controlled Congress have been in just the last 70 years.
- This new normal means compromise is necessary to overcome gridlock.
The new normal: Out with the Democrats and in with the Republicans. For the first time in his six years in the White House, President Barack Obama will not enjoy a majority in either house of Congress. The Republican Party, after walloping Democrats back in November’s midterm elections, will hold 54 seats in the Senate and 246 in the House of Representatives. The GOP hasn’t held that many seats in Congress since 1929, the first year of Herbert Hoover’s presidency.
President Obama is not alone. Every president in the last 50 years, save Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson, has experienced at least one session of Congress in which the opposing party controlled both chambers of Congress. In total, 16 presidents have been in this position.
In U.S. history, the president’s party has been in the minority in both houses during only 24 of the 114 sessions of Congress. But 16 of those sessions came in the last 70 years, after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. In other words, it is now par for the course for a modern-day president to have to compromise with the other party to get much of anything done in Washington.
The change is significant. At the beginning of FDR’s second term, Democrats held 410 seats, meaning more than 75 percent of Congress. That was the high point for the Democratic Party, but over the next 70 years, there was a steady decline in the size of majorities for both parties. On average, over the past 20 years, the party in charge of a chamber in Congress has only controlled around 50 to 55 percent of the seats in Congress, making the likelihood of legislation passing slimmer and slimmer.
Some presidents have have handled this power split better than others. President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, when both the Senate and the House of Representatives were controlled by Democrats. But he quickly had to readjust his strategy two years later when the GOP took control of both chambers in what is known as the Republican Revolution. Clinton worked with the Republican Congress over the next six years and, according to the Pew Research Center, was able to sign more “substantive” pieces of legislation into law than Obama achieved during his first six years. Of course, with huge majorities in his first two years, Obama passed healthcare reform, something Clinton was never able to do.
But even those presidents like George W. Bush and Obama, whose party controlled at least one chamber of Congress for their first six years, struggled to play well with Capitol Hill and cut deals. LBJ is held up as a great legislative president, but he was also fortunate to have his party in control of both the Senate and House throughout his entire presidency, and by wide margins. The bottom line is that absent huge majorities, compromise is necessary to overcome gridlock.
McConnell — Bipartisanship is up to Obama: By the way, newly minted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agrees. But in an op-ed Wednesday, he puts the ball in President Obama’s court, saying he’s the one who needs to compromise. “[B]oth parties need to make divided government work. This is where President Obama really comes in. His recent actions, including threatening to veto a bipartisan jobs project like the Keystone XL pipeline within minutes of the new Congress being sworn in, have been anything but productive. The President himself has noted that the American people are counting on him to work with the Congress they elected to get things accomplished. … [B]ipartisan progress can only be achieved if President Obama is interested in it. … The president’s supporters are pressing for militancy, not compromise. But they need to understand that democracy isn’t about what you can get away with, it’s about what you can achieve together.”
Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1800, future President Millard Fillmore was born. Fillmore is one of the few presidents who was never elected to the office. Who were the others? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to KG (@SoIrrelevant) for guessing Monday’s trivia: Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering a peace deal between Japan and Russia. Which presidents have also earned this prize? The answer: 3- Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson.
John Boehner was elected to a third term as speaker with 216 votes in the House. Twenty-five Republicans voted against him.
Following the attempted rebellion against Boehner, the Speaker quickly revoked two of the mutineers’ assignments on the House Rules Committee.
Boehner’s office is out with a video that is a big, well-produced biographical piece on Boehner’s upbringing. It’s the kind of video that would fuel speculation on what he’s up to — thinking about retiring… or running for president. If it were Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, or Jeb Bush, this would be undoubtedly a pre-presidential video to build favorables. But the likelihood that Boehner would run for president is pretty much zero, so you do the math.
Initial reports as of Wednesday morning said 12 people were killed in a shooting at the offices of a French satirical magazine.
The White House announced Tuesday that President Obama will veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill, if it makes its way to his desk.
Mexican President Peña Nieto praised Mr. Obama for his executive action on immigration, which kept millions of immigrants from being deported, during a meeting at the White House Tuesday.
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday, after he was found guilty on corruption charges last fall. His sentence will begin in early February. McDonnell will be the first governor in Virginia’s 226 year history to go to prison.
Jeb Bush unveiled his leadership PAC, “Right to Rise,” and a super PAC of the same name Tuesday.
Bush’s entrance into the race is putting pressure on other candidates to get in early. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has reportedly moved up his timetable for making a public decision to the end of January.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise is still facing fallout from the news about a speech he gave to a white supremacist group, but that’s not stopping him from raising money.
Among the rules changes that passed the House Tuesday was one on so-called dynamic scoring — a change long sought by Republicans that would require a bill’s economic effects to be included in its cost to the Treasury.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is ready to rumble: round two. The New York Democrat is bringing her sexual assault in the military fight back for the new session of Congress.
Local candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire are already benefiting from the super PAC spending of potential 2016 candidates.
There’s a 0.00005 percent chance Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is going to run for president in 2016, according to Hickenlooper himself.
Former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who became known for her “I’m not a witch campaign ad,” is being sued.
Vice President Joe Biden stole the show at the swearing-in ceremonies of the 114th Congress, wooing grandmothers, taking selfies and slapping senators on the back in between administering oaths. NewsHour pulled together some of the best moments.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 6, 2015
— Joseph Morton (@MortonOWH) January 6, 2015
Harry Reid working from home today, days after bone-breaking fall. Here is the picture: pic.twitter.com/0qe88A3jBC
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) January 6, 2015
Boehner begins his 3rd term, naturally, by crying and being extremely tan.
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlakeWP) January 6, 2015
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 6, 2015
Shaheen brought the family dog for her swearing in pic.twitter.com/HYBENJkTCb
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2015
— Jeremy Art (@cspanJeremy) January 6, 2015
Seventy years ago this very day, Barbara Pierce of Rye, NY made me the happiest, and luckiest, man on earth. pic.twitter.com/rgZqpL9XfE
— George Bush (@GeorgeHWBush) January 6, 2015
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