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Monday, July 06, 2009

Votes Mostly Go Obama’s Way

By Rachel Bloom and John Cranford, CQ Staff
As his presidency approaches the half-year mark, Barack Obama is on pace to be the most successful Oval Office occupant in more than half a century when measured by his ability to get Congress to vote his way — even though he shows signs of carefully picking his fights on Capitol Hill.
Almost without exception, presidents start strong in their contests with lawmakers, and their success rates falter over time. Typically, presidents win most often in their first or second years in office on House and Senate roll call votes in which they take a clear position.
So far, Obama has taken clear positions on relatively few floor votes — 26 in the House and 37 in the Senate, including 20 votes to confirm his nominees. Still, his success score of 95.2 percent, if it continues for the rest of the year, would be the highest for any president since Congressional Quarterly began this measurement in 1953. That’s true not only for the first year of a presidency, but also for any year.
The following are a few statistics about Obama’s success on floor votes held through the start of the July Fourth recess and the degree to which lawmakers are voting with him.
• Obama has secured victories on 24 of the 26 House votes where he’s staked out a clear position in advance and 36 of 37 votes in the Senate. One of his two House defeats came on a meaningless vote two days after he took office to block continuation of the $700 billion financial bailout effort begun in September.
The other was two weeks ago on passage of the defense authorization bill for fiscal 2010, which Obama has threatened to veto because it would continue building F-22 fighter jets, which he wants to cancel, and require an alternative engine design for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an addition he doesn’t think is necessary. His lone Senate defeat came in May, when the chamber voted against closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
• If Obama’s success rate holds, he’ll surpass Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, who has the record with 93.1 percent in 1965, his second full year in office. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower has the second-highest success rate, 89.2 percent in 1953, his first year. By contrast, Democrat Bill Clinton — who started strong with 86.4 percent success rates his first two years — has the lowest one-year success score of the past half-century, 36.2 percent in 1995, the year the Republicans took control of Congress.
• Democrats in both chambers are far more supportive of Obama than they have been for a president of either party in half a century. Senate Democrats are voting with him 92 percent of the time on average, and House Democrats are supporting him 89 percent of the time.
• Senate and House Republicans aren’t consistent with each other in their support for Obama. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that members of the House GOP are voting with Obama just 36 percent of the time — compared with their average support score of 39 percent for Clinton in his first year and 42 percent for Democrat Jimmy Carter in his first year. But Senate Republicans have so far supported Obama 56 percent of the time. That’s the second-highest Senate GOP support score for any Democratic president — just shy of the 60 percent they gave Clinton in 1997. LinkHere


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