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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Surprise! Obama Owns Congress

If you follow politics somewhat impressionistically, you’d probably think that Barack Obama has had a terrible time getting anything through Congress. After all, Republicans hate him, “centrist” Democrats are perpetually off the reservation, it takes 60 votes to get anything through the Senate, and the President’s too genteel to crack heads.
That’s why it’s of interest that Rachel Bloom and John Cranford have published a study showing that Obama’s early success rate with legislative positions he has taken is the highest of any president since CQ started measuring this in 1953.
Specifically, the White House has taken a clear position on 26 votes in the House and 37 in the Senate (the higher Senate number mainly being the product of 20 confirmation votes). The House has voted with him 24 times and the Senate 36 times, for a combined success rate of 95%.
LBJ’s success rate (albeit over his first full year) was 93% in what is generally considered one of the most productive congressional sessions in history, and Eisenhower came in at 89%.
Obama’s lost one meaningless symbolic vote two days after he took office, so he’s really lost two: the famous Senate vote on Gitmo in May, and the House defense authorization vote in June.
Sure, there’s a long time to go this year, with Senate action on climate change and House-Senate action on health care still to happen. But the picture so often painted of Obama as the helpless victim of a fractious Congress is not really accurate so far.

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