Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why isn't President Obama...

...as effective as LBJ in passing legislation through Congress?

After all, Johnson created Medicare and Medicaid and was able to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act. Obama, on the other hand, couldn't even get a watered-down bill for background checks passed even though it had the support of 90 percent of the public.

So what gives? Can't the president just knock a few heads together and get his way?

Well, for starters, the Eighty-ninth Congress, which met during the third and fourth years of LBJ's presidency, had Democratic super-majorities in both houses. While the Senate had 68 Democrats, the House had an eye-popping 295! Not only was it the last time either party had a two-thirds majority in the Senate, but also the largest House majority held by either party since 1936.

Oh, and the Republican Party? It was led by Everett Dirksen of Illinois in the Senate and by Gerald Ford of Michigan (remember him?) in the House, two moderates. In fact, the GOP was dominated by moderates back then. (And they were still smarting from the Goldwater debacle in 1964.)

So while LBJ may have been good at playing hardball, it sure helped to have more than enough votes to begin with.

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