How the New President Will Work With Congress
In recent history, many times, the political party of the president has not been accompanied by the same political party that controls congress.This creates a problem for the Presidents, because they are not able to enact policies that were promised to the American public while running for office. In the 2000 election, the American people have seen events that have never happened before in history. In fact, this election is making history, and it will be hard for the new president to get out of the spot light that this election has brought to the two candidates. Not only has the presidential election been close, but in addition the Senate seats and House of Representatives seats have been up for grabs. The senate is split fifty-fifty for the first time in history and the house is lead by Republicans, but only by nine seats. This is going to make it difficult for bills proposed by the president to become law.The President, whether it is George W. Bush Jr. or Al Gore, will face difficulties in office that no other president has encountered prior to this election. Either candidate will have trouble working with Congress because the House and Senate are split very closely between the Democratic and Republican parties. This will make every topic hotly debated with such a small majority. Tax cuts and Social Security are examples of issues that are going to be closely debated.
The intention of the founders of our nation was to make congress a more powerful body than the executive branch. The founders wanted a strong legislature, however there was a shift in power to the executive branch at the start of the twentieth century. The president gained much power during this time, due to World War One and Two, and the Cold War. During times of crisis, the head of state is looked upon to lead the nation. But this not what the founders wanted in the long run for the nation. “The constitutional framers would undoubtedly be disturbed by the shift to the presidentially centered government that characterizes the modern era”(Rimmerman). Since the end of the cold war the power has began to shift back towards congress.
During President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two years in office, the government was not divided. Democrats controlled both branches of government. Roosevelt had proven what could happen if the president and congress are controlled by the same party. Even though it was a time of crisis, Roosevelt’s first one hundred days were monumental. He passed bills, such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and developed agencies with ease because of the time period such as the Great Depression and the fact that the Democratic party controlled both the presidency and Congress. What Roosevelt did with the presidency and congress went along with what he had planned to do to help the nation recover from the Great Depression. The luxury of having a president and Congress controlled by the same party, is one that Gore would not obtain and for Bush the majority is so small it is like having no majority. If the president is George W Bush Jr, which it probably will be, he will have a small majority to work with in the house. If Al Gore becomes president, he will not have the majority, however the vote will still be close.
In history, the American public has seen that a presidency which is won by a blowout, or a large margin, is more likely to have success as opposed to an election won by a small majority.”Some Presidents claim that a landslide election gives them a mandate, by which they mean that the electorate approved the programs offered in the campaign and that congress ought therefore go along”(Ginsberg). This was seen in FDR’s 1932 victory. When a president wins by a large majority, the public seems to support him more. This election, which is in great divide, will leave Americans bitter and at odds with the president if their candidate does not win. This will mean that the president must work even harder to use all of his power to work along with congress and not against them. “Members of the house and senate read the election returns with an eye toward determining the level of public support for the president and his agenda”(Strahan). Even without a landslide victory, the presidency still maintains a lot of power that sometimes never gets utilized. The success of probable President Bush will depend on how he exercises that power.
Bush in his campaign promised large tax-cuts and reforming social security. This will be easier said than done. Bush proposed a 1.3 trillion dollar tax-cut and to privatize social security giving a large portion to big business. Bush though is going to encounter some problems in trying to pass these proposals by congress. “With Congress evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, neither the tax cut nor Mr. Bush’s plan for partially privatizing Social Security will be an easy sell”(Davis).
When the president and Congress are of the same political party, they have a high percentage of winning roll-call votes on bills. However, with a divided government, the percentage is much lower. This has occurred, especially in recent years. For example, in the first term of presidency, Bill Clinton had an approval rating in congress in the range of eighty-six percent. When the Congress became divided in 1994, and Republicans gained control of the House and Senate the approval rating drop to thirty-five percent. That is a significant change in approval percentage, and it is because a president can accomplish more when supported by Congress.
A tool that the president can use when he does not agree with a bill proposed by congress is what is called the presidential veto. The founders of the constitution would be shocked by they amount of power that presidents now have. “In the early nineteenth century it was commonly believed that the president should not exercise the veto to express policy preferences. The president’s primary responsibility was to faithfully execute the laws passed by congress”(Rimmerman 236). The president can veto any bill proposed by the house or the senate. The president who exercised the use of the veto was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He used an unprecedented six hundred thirty five presidential vetoes against congress. With congress divided as evenly as it is, it is going to be difficult for the new president to influence congress.This is one reason that a president will use his veto against congressional bills. On the other hand, the presidential veto is not final. The president can have his veto overturned by congress with a two-thirds vote making the bill law. The only veto that congress can not overturn is a pocket veto which a bill that is brought before the president to sign with in ten days of the end of his presidency.
The senate, however, has a tool to combat the veto. This tool is called a filibuster. A filibuster is a “a tactic used by members of the Senate to prevent action on legislation they oppose by continuously holding the floor and speaking until the majority backs down”(Ginsberg). A senator can debate for as long as he wants, so that any action of legislation that party opposes does not get through and the majority backs down. With the senate split fifty-fifty it will be difficult for either party to stop the other from using them because to stop a filibuster one needs sixty votes or three-fifths vote. Even though filibusters have not been used often, the threat of a filibuster usually scares the opposition, which is the desired effect for by that party.
The president, which will most likely be George Bush Jr, is going to have difficulties passing legislation through congress with such a small majority of republicans controlling the majority. It is also going to be difficult to gain Democratic votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In recent years more citizens have been voting independent, rather than staying with one party. This is not the same with in congress though. Party loyalties have grown in the last couple of decades in the Senate and the House of Representatives, which in turn means that more Senators and congressmen vote the same as their party.
It is also going to be hard for the George Bush to have confidence in the people to do what he wants to do as president. “This will be the most tenuous new presidency in over a century. Not only did a plurality of Americans nationwide vote for Mr. Bush’s opponent, but the Bush victory was due to a flawed ballot system. And since the election, Mr. Bush is not to be confused with a confident, comfortable, secure man ready to lead the country”(Hunt).The future victor of the two thousand presidential election will not win this election by a large majority, therefore indicating that the people are ambivalent about who will be a better leader for the nation. Bush will face challenges that will test this divided country. With the two parties so polarized, it is going to be difficult for Bush to pass any bills without making compromises with the Democrats.