CQ: Obama's Winning Streak On Hill Unprecedented
In his first year in office, President Obama did better even than legendary arm-twister Lyndon Johnson in winning congressional votes on issues where he took a position, a Congressional Quarterly study finds.
The new CQ study gives Obama a higher mark than any other president since it began scoring presidential success rates in Congress more than five decades ago. And that was in a year where Obama tackled how to deal with Afghanistan, Iraq, an expanding terrorist threat, the economic crisis and battles over health care.
Unprecedented Success Rate
Obama has been no different from his predecessors in that he's always ready to send a firm message to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue as he "urges members of Congress" to come together and act. All presidents demand specific action by Congress — or at least they ask for it. But when you look at the votes of 2009 in which Obama made his preference clear, his success rate was unprecedented, according to John Cranford of Congressional Quarterly.
"His success was 96.7 percent on all the votes where we said he had a clear position in both the House and the Senate. That's an extraordinary number," Cranford says.
The previous high scores were held by Lyndon Johnson in 1965, with 93 percent, and Dwight Eisenhower, who scored 89 percent in 1953. Cranford notes that George W. Bush's score hit the high 80s in 2001, the year of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. But Obama surpassed them all, Cranford says.
On roll-call votes where the president had a clear position, what percentage of the time did Congress support the president's position?
He Picked His Battles
A major reason for Obama's record high score this year: Democrats took away a significant number of seats from Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, resulting in big majorities in the House and Senate for the president's party.
But Sarah Binder, a congressional analyst at the Brookings Institution, says there's another key reason he scored so well. She says he only took an official position on issues that were really important to him — those that he knew he had a very good chance of winning. He picked his battles carefully.
"He can do that because he's been in the Senate, his staff has been in the House and he understands the process here. They are consummate congressional insiders in understanding how this works," Binder says.
Part Two: Party Unity
CQ: 2009 Was The Most Partisan Year Ever Jan. 11, 2010