Divided Government

December 22, 1954

A document from the CQ Researcher archives:

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Divided Government
Divided Control in Previous Administrations
Cooperation or Conflict with New Congress
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Divided Government

When the 84th Congress convenes on Jan. 5, President Eisenhower will face the difficult task of conducting the business of government with the Executive and Legislative branches under divided political control. Midway in his administration, the President finds himself confronted with a Senate and House of Representatives led by the opposition party, and with a serious rift in the ranks of his own party. In the remaining two years of his current term, moreover, he will have to contend with burdensome foreign and domestic problems in a political atmosphere pervaded by approach of the presidential election contest of 1956.

Nine other Presidents since the Civil War have had to deal with Congresses in which the political opposition controlled at least one house; four of them had such opposition in both houses. Although their experiences varied widely, they all encountered formidable difficulties.

Democratic Recapture of the Legislative Branch

Control of the 84th Congress was captured by the Democrats on Nov. 2 only by the narrowest of margins. In the Senate the Democrats made a net gain of one seat, which gave them a total of 48, as against the Republicans' 47 seats, and put them in position to organize the Senate with the aid of Sen. Morse (Ind., Ore.).1 Democratic control of the House was won by a wider margin—232 Democrats to 203 Republicans, or a Democratic majority of 29 seats.2

The Democratic gains and Republican losses in November represented a shift of party strength that was less than normal for non-presidential elections. Over the last 50 years, the net loss of the party in power in mid-term contests has averaged about 40 House seats and four Senate seats, The net Republican loss this year was 16 seats in the House and one in the Senate. Since the end of the war, however, the political balance in the national legislature has been so close that control of Congress has changed hands four times with only relatively narrow fluctuations in the party line-ups.

The mid-term election of 1950 reduced the number of Senate seats held by Democrats from 54 to 48. No party since then has held more than one-half of the 96 seats in the upper chamber; net loss or gain of a single seat has sufficed to shift control from the Democrats to the Republicans and now back to the Democrats. With party strength almost evenly divided, the Democrats could lose control of the Senate in the next two years as a result of deaths and replacements3 Five Democratic and four Republican senators died during the 83rd Congress, and replacements added one seat to the Republican representation. A deadlock in the Senate could be produced during the 84th Congress by loss of one Democratic seat.

Despite the tenuousness of their hold in the upper house, the Democrats at the outset of the new Congress will hold the leadership of both chambers and designate chairmen of the committees that will shape legislation at the coming session. Sen. Johnson (Tex.) is slated to take over as Senate Majority Leader from Sen. Knowland (Cal.), while Sen. Sparkman (Ala.) is in line for the chairmanship of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. On the House side, Rep. Rayburn (Tex.) will return to the speakership, which he held from 1940 through 1946 and from 1949 through 1952, and Rep. McCormack (Mass.) again will become Majority Floor Leader.

Coalition of Re Publican-Democratic Moderates

In terms of political power, the shift in the control of Congress will not alter the fundamental divisions which have cut across party lines in recent years. The balance of power in both houses will be in the hands of the moderate Republican-Southern Democratic coalition that dominated the national legislature during most of the Roosevelt and Truman years in the White House. Major measures on the Eisenhower program, especially in the areas of national defense and foreign policy, will depend on coalition support. And the importance of the coalition is likely to increase during the 1955 session as a result of internal cleavages in both parties.

On the Democratic side, the northern liberal wing of the party gained two Senate seats by the election of Patrick V. McNamara (Mich.) and Richard L. Neuberger (Ore.), who unseated veteran Republicans Ferguson and Cordon in their respective states. The victory of Joseph C. O'Mahoney (Wyo.), who returns to the Senate after an absence of two years, is another liberal gain. New Deal-Fair Deal Democrats who held their Senate seats last November include Douglas (Ill.), Humphrey (Minn.), Murray (Mont.), Green (R. I), and Neely (W. Va.).

The preponderance of Democratic strength in the new Congress, as in the last, remains with the southern wing and the moderates from border and western states. The membership of the new Senate includes all of the conservative Democrats from the South who were candidates for reelection: Eastland (Miss.), Ellender (La.), Ervin (N. C.), Johnson (Tex.), Robertson (Va,), and Russell (Ga.). The regular Democratic organization in South Carolina was upset by the surprise write-in victory of former Governor J. Strom Thurmond, the 1948 States' Rights nominee for President, but Thurmond's election (to succeed Sen. May-bank, who died on Sept. 1) was the only substantial gain made by the right-wing faction. Moderate Democratic liberals from southern, border, and western states were strengthened by the return to the Senate of former Vice President Barkley (Ky.) and by the re-election of Kefauver (Term.), McClellan (Ark.), and Sparkman (Ala.).

On the Republican side, the cleavage between moderate pro-Eisenhower forces and the more conservative elements of the party has persisted despite G.O.P. efforts to restore party harmony during the 1954 campaign. In appealing to the electorate to return a Republican Congress, President Eisenhower gave blanket support to all G.O.P. candidates without regard to individual voting records. Of the 14 Republicans elected to the Senate, at least five have records indicating general support of the President's middle-of-the-road program: Case (N. J.), who won a close victory notwithstanding Old Guard opposition in his own party, Allott (Col.), Cotton (N. H.), Saltonstall (Mass.), and Smith (Me.). On the other hand, a number of the 14 senators have voted in the past against some of the key items in the Eisenhower program.

Continuing Split in Ranks of Republican Party

A possibility that the division in Republican ranks will widen has been raised by three major developments since the 1954 election. The McCarthy censure debate, culminating on Dec. 2 in a 67-to-22 vote to condemn the conduct of the junior senator from Wisconsin, not only split the Republicans in the Senate but also marked off the pro- and anti-Eisenhower wings more sharply than had any previous domestic issue. A division over the President's stand on vital foreign policy issues also was emphasized during the special session. And the stand taken by Senate Republican Leader Knowland on both the McCarthy censure and the administration's foreign policy appeared to leave the Eisenhower wing with uncertain leadership in the upper house.

The final vote on the censure resolution found the Republicans evenly divided, with 22 voting to condemn McCarthy and 22 against, while the Democrats and Independent Wayne Morse lined up solidly in support of the amended resolution.4 Including two Republicans paired against the resolution—Bricker (Ohio) and Capehart (Ind.)—the actual count was 24 against censure, or a majority of the Republican senators recorded.5 Know-land's decision to vote against censure aligned the Majority Leader with the predominantly right-wing faction that stood with McCarthy—an alignment that had political implications extending beyond the immediate controversy.

President Eisenhower remained aloof during the McCarthy debate, but two days after the final vote he publicly congratulated Sen. Watkins (R., Utah), chairman of the select committee that recommended censure, for a “very splendid job.” At the same time, the President sought to avoid an open break with Sen. Knowland while making it clear that he did not agree with the Majority Leader's concepts of party responsibility or with Knowland's views on basic issues of foreign policy.

Republican Differences Over Foreign Policy

Foreign policy differences accentuated the cleavage between the two wings of the Republican party even more sharply than domestic controversies. Over a period of months Knowland had been criticizing the Eisenhower administration's conduct of foreign relations and advocating a “get tough” policy toward Red China and Soviet Russia. Since he took over the Republican Senate leadership after Sen. Taft's death in July 1953, Knowland had persistently called for stronger measures to combat Communist aggression in Asia and demanded increased military support for Nationalist China. In addition, he had advocated direct intervention in Indo-China, urged the President to break diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and challenged the administration's concept of “peaceful coexistence” with the Communist world.6 On Nov. 15 Knowland asked for a full review of the whole course of American foreign policy by the appropriate committees of Congress; on Nov. 28 he proposed a U. S. naval blockade of the China mainland unless Red China released 11 American war prisoners sentenced by the Communist government on charges of spying.

Such a direct challenge to the President's leadership in foreign affairs raised grave questions not merely for the Republican party but for the future of bipartisan foreign policy as well. President Eisenhower reasserted his own convictions regarding both party and national responsibility on Dec. 2, when he cautioned Knowland about emotional talk of a naval blockade and made it clear that he would not be pushed into a course of action involving “an act of war.”7 The President stood squarely behind Secretary of State Dulles, who on Nov. 29 had ruled out a blockade as a means of exerting pressure on Red China, at least until all peaceful methods had been exhausted.

Some political observers saw in Knowland's actions a deliberate move to merge the “get tough” foreign policy group with the pro-McCarthy faction in a new alignment critical of the President's leadership on several leading issues. The two groups had not been identical, but Know-land's stand with the McCarthy elements in the censure vote brought them closer together than at any previous time. The 24 Republicans who declared themselves against censure included most, if not all, of the persistent Eisenhower critics on foreign policy and few of the President's staunch supporters.

However, the two groups did not hang together for long; on Dec. 7 Sen. McCarthy delivered a furious personal attack on the President, accusing him of “a shrinking show of weakness” in dealing with Communism at home and abroad. So violent was McCarthy's attack that a number of senators who had voted against censure rallied to the defense of the President. Sen. Mundt (R., N. D.), who had counseled McCarthy against delivering his blast,8 told the Wisconsin Republican to “simmer down and cool off.” Sen. Knowland denied that the administration had been “soft on the issue of Communism” and tacitly rebuked McCarthy for his intemperate language. Later, on Dec. 11, the Senate Republican Leader called for party unity on the Eisenhower legislative program.

The President himself declined to comment directly on the McCarthy statement or to speculate on its political implications. At his news conference on Dec. 8, as on many previous occasions, Eisenhower said that he did not engage in personal vituperation. He did not ignore the cleavage in the Republican party, but reaffirmed his belief that the great mass of the American people wanted “progressive moderates” handling their business. Republican National Chairman Hall said the next day that McCarthy's attack on Eisenhower would strengthen, rather than weaken, party unity.

Despite Republican efforts to minimize differences within the party, many commentators speculated on the political consequences of the internal cleavage. To some the split suggested a potential third-party movement; to others it seemed like the beginning of a right-wing bid to capture control of the G.O.P. before the 1956 election, Arthur Krock, writing in The New York Times of Dec. 4, likened the division in Republican ranks to the historic split of 1912 between the regular Republicans led by William Howard Taft and the Bull Moose Progressives led by Theodore Roosevelt—a split that assured the election of Woodrow Wilson on the Democratic ticket.

The conditions which produced that earlier division in the Republican ranks differed in many respects from those prevailing today. Yet the record of previous administrations which had to deal with a Congress controlled by the political opposition throws light on some of the troubles which the present administration is likely to have in the next two years.

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Divided Control in Previous Administrations

Divided control of government, has not been an unusual political phenomenon under the American system of checks and balances. Since the founding of the republic, more than one-half of the Presidents have been confronted by opposition control of at least one branch of the Congress.” Nine men who have occupied the White House since the Civil War faced a Senate or House controlled by the opposition party in one or more Congresses, but only four of those nine predecessors of President Eisenhower had to cope with opposition control of both houses in the same Congress.

Before the turn of the century, in the two decades from Grant's second term to Cleveland's second term, divided control was almost a normal political condition. In eight of the 11 Congresses between 1875 and 1897, the opposition party controlled one or both houses of the national legislature.

Post-Civil War Instances of Divided Control

It has been an axiom of American politics that when the President is of one party and the Congress of another, the result is stalemate and obstruction. According to the general rule, divided control leads to frustration for the President and futility in Congress. But there have been notable exceptions to the rule, even in the years after the Civil War when extreme partisanship generated bitter political feuds that led more often than not to periods of strife and turmoil.

Four Republican Presidents—Grant, Hayes, Arthur, Harrison—and one Democrat, Cleveland, encountered formidable difficulties in their relations with hostile Congresses. The political prestige of Grant was irreparably damaged when the Democrats gained control of the House in 1875 and launched a series of investigations disclosing widespread fraud, corruption, and misrule. Rutherford E. Hayes, Republican President who took over with a Democratic House and lost control of the Senate as well in 1879, was under constant harassment from his political foes in Congress. Hayes vetoed numerous appropriation bills passed by Congress with riders obnoxious to the White House. Nevertheless, Hayes was moderately successful in obtaining9 constructive legislation, including a major refunding of the national debt.

The Republican administrations of Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison were characterized by indecisive tariff battles, bitter patronage quarrels, and pork-barrel appropriations. Both Presidents had more than their share of frustrations, and neither was able to transact much serious business with opposition Congresses.

Grover Cleveland had to deal with a Republican Senate throughout his first term, and with a solidly Republican Congress during the last two years of his second term. Despite Republican opposition to tariff reform in his first term, Cleveland managed to win approval for much of his legislative program, including the Interstate Commerce Act, extension of postal services, and steps to improve the condition of Indians. At the outset of his second term in 1893, however, Cleveland had trouble carrying his liberal reforms through even a Democratic Congress, and his final two years in office, with a Republican Senate and House, were virtually barren of significant accomplishment.

Taft's Troubles and Republican Squabble of 1912

Taft was the first President in this century to face opposition control in either house of Congress. But Taft's conflicts with the Democrats, who captured control of the House in the mid-term election of 1910, were overshadowed by the deep division within his own party. In his first two years in the White House, Taft had remained aloof during a bitter tariff battle in Congress between the Old Guard, dominated by Nelson Aldrich, Boies Penrose and Henry Cabot Lodge, and the western progressives led by the elder LaFollette and Beveridge. The Republican split widened when Taft bowed to the ultra-conservatives and signed the high tariff Payne-Aldrich bill, which the progressives had denounced as a betrayal of the Republican platform. The result of Taft's effort to achieve party harmony by placating the right wing was to widen the split with the progressives.

An open break developed early in 1911, when the Progresssive Republican League was launched by the western insurgents with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt. The progressives attempted to capture the regular Republican National Convention in 1912, but their delegates were “steam-rollered” by the Taft-controlled National Committee and the President was renominated. The insurgents held their own Progressive Party convention six weeks later and nominated Roosevelt by acclamation. In the 1912 election, Roosevelt's popular vote exceeded Taft's, but the Republican split gave the election to Wilson and resulted in return of a Democratic Congress.10

Republican Senate's Clash with Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson's battle with an opposition Senate over ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, which had the Covenant of the League of Nations embedded in it, was perhaps the most memorable Executive-Legislative conflict in American history. The conflict had its beginnings in a period of national emergency when the United States was still at war. It followed a mid-term change of party control in Congress and involved, not the usual domestic disputes, but fundamental issues of foreign policy.

President Wilson had asked the country to return a Democratic Congress in the mid-term election of 1918, but his plea was rejected by the voters, who gave the Republicans control of both Senate and House.11 Wilson's partisan appeal in wartime afforded Republican leaders an opportunity to launch an early attack on the President's whole peace program, which they denounced as too lenient even before the armistice had been signed. The opposition gained momentum in the Senate during Wilson's absence at the Paris peace conference in the winter and spring of 1919.

The President's Republican opponents in Congress lined up a formidable combination of Old Guard conservatives and western progressive isolationists. The former were led by Lodge (Mass.), Knox (Pa.), Brandegee (Conn.), McCormick (III.), and other right-wing stalwarts, who attacked anticipated provisions of the treaty and covenant as a dangerous invasion of the sovereignty of the United States. The western isolationists, headed by Borah (Ida.), LaFollette (Wis.), and Hiram Johnson (Cal.), declared that many proposed articles of the League covenant would embroil the United States in future foreign wars.

When President Wilson finally sent the treaty to the Senate after his return from Paris in July, the Republican leaders immediately demanded sweeping reservations and amendments as the price of ratification. Wilson stubbornly insisted that the treaty be ratified as it stood; he tried to bend the Foreign Relations Committee to his will and, failing, carried the issue to the country. The President was in Colorado in September on a nation-wide speaking tour when he had a stroke and was rushed back to Washington.

With Wilson virtually incapacitated at the White House, Lodge reported the treaty from the Foreign Relations Committee with four major reservations to the League covenant and 45 amendments to other treaty articles. The amendments were rejected by the Senate, but the list of reservations was swelled to a total of 14. In the end, even with the reservations, the treaty failed to obtain the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification. Only one Republican and 37 Democrats voted to ratify without reservations of any kind; 47 Republicans and seven Democrats held out for some kind of restrictions.12

Hoover's Experience with an Opposition House

Herbert Hoover was elected President in 1928 with an overwhelmingly Republican Congress, but he had to contend with a Democratic House of Representatives during his last two years in office. The mid-term election in 1930, a year after the stock market crash, reduced the Republican majority from 16 seats to one in the Senate and from 104 to six in the House. But deaths of Republican members, in the long interval between the election and the convening of the 72nd Congress in December 1931, enabled the Democrats to organize the House with John N. Garner of Texas in the Speaker's chair.

During the first session of the 72nd Congress, Hoover sought and won enactment of measures creating the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and authorizing the Federal Reserve System to ease bank credit. But the Democrats were not satisfied with those anti-depression steps. Under Garner's leadership they pushed through the House a gigantic public works bill, which gained enough Republican support in the Senate to send it to the White House. Hoover promptly vetoed the bill, which he termed a pork-barrel measure in the guise of relief. The pressure for relief was so strong, however, that a compromise bill was finally enacted and signed by the President.

Relations between the White House and Congress remained strained throughout Hoover's last two years in office; the President was provoked by what he regarded as lunatic bills and Democratic harassment. The Democrats asked Hoover to call an international conference to reduce “excessive” tariff rates, but they made no attempt to enact legislation which would cut existing tariffs. Rep. Patman (D., Tex.) moved to impeach Secretary of the Treasury Mellon on the basis of a 1789 statute prohibiting any person directly or indirectly interested in business or commerce from holding the Treasury post.13

Despite such attacks and despite political bickering over taxation and appropriation bills, several important measures were enacted by the 72nd Congress. The constitutional amendment to abolish “lame-duck” sessions of Congress, sponsored by Sen. Norris (R., Neb.) and accepted by the Senate in previous Congresses, finally won House approval as well. A proposal to repeal the prohibition amendment likewise was sent to the states. And a measure to grant independence to the Philippines, after a ten-year probationary period, was carried over the President's veto.14

Truman and the Republican Eightieth Congress

Truman became the second President in the present century, and the fourth since the Civil War, to face a Congress in which both houses were organized by the opposition party. The Republican-controlled 80th Congress clashed repeatedly with the President on domestic issues, and Truman later denounced it as a “do-nothing Congress.” But the actual legislative record of 1947–48 was impressive, especially in the field of foreign affairs.

In retrospect, the bipartisan support given to the Truman-Marshall foreign policy was an outstanding example of effective cooperation between the Executive and Legislative branches in a time of grave international tension. Under the strong leadership of Sen. Vandenberg (R., Mich.), Congress acted quickly on the European Recovery Program, Greek-Turkish aid, and appropriations to carry out measures which would assist free nations threatened with Communist aggression. The Economic Cooperation Administration bill passed the Senate, 69 to 17, in 1948 and was approved in record time by an overwhelming majority in the House. The $6 billion appropriation for the first year of the Marshall Plan was a compromise between the administration and Congress. Paul G. Hoffman, president of the Studebaker Corporation, received unanimous Senate confirmation as the first Administrator for Economic Cooperation.15

Chief credit for establishing a solid groundwork for bipartisan action on foreign policy, at least with respect to Europe and the United Nations, went to Sen. Vandenberg as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Evidence of the confidence he enjoyed on both sides of the aisle was reflected in the 64-to-4 vote on June 11, 1948, for the celebrated Vandenberg resolution, which reaffirmed basic objectives of American foreign policy in relation to the United Nations. Vandenberg was instrumental in obtaining Senate ratification of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, negotiated in 1947 at Rio de Janeiro. Other foreign policy measures approved by the 80th Congress included a one-year extension of the Trade Agreements Act and passage of the Smith-Mundt Act giving legislative sanction to the Voice of America.

Truman's domestic program, in contrast to the foreign program, was a source of constant friction and controversy between the Executive and Legislative branches throughout the 80th Congress. Aside from defense measures, few domestic items proposed by the Democratic administration were enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature. Two leading measures pledged by the Republicans in the 1946 campaign—the Taft-Hartley Act and income tax reduction—were written into law over presidential vetoes.

The President sent a series of special messages to Congress urging enactment of a long list of economic and social measures, including inflation control legislation, social security expansion, federal aid to education, public housing and slum clearance, and a ten-point civil rights program. The Republicans gave scant attention to the President's recommendations, and virtually none of the items on this program reached the statute books. Southern Democrats were instrumental in blocking legislative action on the civil rights measures, and the conservative Democratic-Republican coalition had sufficient strength to override presidential vetoes of six major items of general legislation.16

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Cooperation or Conflict with New Congress

As president Eisenhower takes up the task of leading a divided government, his administration and the country face many formidable problems. Will the President, in tackling these problems, be more successful than his predecessors in coping with an opposition Congress? How will Eisenhower deal with the internal division within his own party? What will be the nature of his national and party leadership at a time when issues of peace and war may turn on the stability and continuity of American foreign policy? And how will the President react to the pressures of party politics that generally come to a boil in the two years before a presidential election?

Measured against the varied experiences of earlier Presidents, Eisenhower is conceded to have certain advantages that many of his predecessors did not enjoy. Most non-partisan observers agree that his personal prestige was not diminished by the results of the mid-term election, as was Hoover's in 1930. Eisenhower's predicament is quite unlike that of Grant, whose last years in the White House were marred by charges of corruption deeply involving his close associates. Nor is the potential Republican split today comparable to the G.O.P. division which led to Taft's defeat in 1912. The factors which produced Wilson's losing battle with the Senate over the League of Nations are not duplicated in Eisenhower's differences over foreign policy with Knowland and other congressional leaders.

On the other hand, President Eisenhower has had less exposure to the pitfalls of American politics than, say, Cleveland or Truman. He has expressed his own distaste for the extremes of partisan politics; after the November election he voiced regret for having gone so far as to predict a cold war if the Democrats controlled the incoming Congress. But with the 1956 presidential election looming ahead, both parties will engage in partisan attacks. And the Democrats are certain to sharpen their criticism, not merely against the Republicans, but directly against the President.

Eisenhower's Plans for Working with Congress

President Eisenhowers plans for working with the Democratic-controlled Congress have been the subject of bipartisan review at a series of White House meetings since the election. At a news conference the morning after the voting, the President expressed his earnest desire to establish close, cordial, and constructive relations with the incoming Democratic leaders; and the Democrats were quick to assert their own good intentions. The President implied that he would want to consult the leaders of both parties not only on foreign policy and defense measures, but on almost every vital legislative issue where cooperation was essential. But after Republican leaders in Congress had voiced misgivings,17 the President made it clear that formal bipartisan consultation would be limited to foreign policy and national defense legislation.

Considerable progress toward establishing ground rules for Executive-Legislative relationships under the new conditions was made at the initial White House conference on Nov. 17. According to the official summary given out after the meeting, President Eisenhower told the congressional leaders that it was “essential to have a continuing bipartisan approach to foreign affairs and national security matters, regardless of which political party controlled the Congress.” The Democratic leaders welcomed the President's assurances, but reserved judgment on how the bipartisan approach would work out in practice. Genuine bipartisanship, they contended, would require consultation before policy was made and implemented, and no mere blanket endorsement of policies initiated by the Executive.

In mid-December, the President held further conferences with congressional leaders on two successive days to review the administration's legislative program for 1955. The first meeting, on Dec. 13, was limited to Republican leaders of the Senate and House and dealt chiefly with proposed domestic legislation and matters of party unity; at the second conference both Democrats and Republicans were brought in for a preview of foreign policy, mutual security matters, and national defense legislation.

The domestic program, as outlined by the President and his aides, contained no major innovations; in the main, it looked toward legislation at the coming session to complete the administration's 1954 program. On the foreign affairs side, the proposals covered chiefly the economic aspects of American policy, including extension of trade agreements authority and development of long-range plans for economic cooperation with and assistance to free nations of Asia. Congressional leaders of both parties were promised every opportunity to participate in formulating basic plans and policies in those fields-an assurance that the White House said would be reinforced by presidential instructions to government departments to consult with congressional committees in shaping legislative proposals.

No blanket commitments were asked by the President or given by the congressional conferees. Arrangements for consultation would not restrict the freedom of action of the President in the event of disagreement over specific policies, and consultation would not bind the Democratic majority in Congress to automatic support of the administration's program. Democratic leaders said they were ready to cooperate to the full, but that they would also insist upon fulfillment of certain conditions.

General Agreement on Bipartisan Foreign Policy

Some of the conditions necessary to successful conduct of a bipartisan foreign policy, as interpreted by the Democrats, were defined by Sen. Sparkman in a report to the Senate of the 82nd Congress. The report was submitted during the Korean war, when the Truman administration was being criticized by the Republicans for not consulting them sufficiently on Far Eastern commitments.18 After reviewing the record of bipartisanship since World War II, Sparkman's report laid down the following requirements for conduct of a bipartisan foreign policy:

Bipartisanship in the conduct of foreign relations does not diminish the primary responsibility of the Executive Branch under the Constitution. It does require, however, that the Executive shall act without partisanship and in the national interest. In matters of importance-but where legislative action is not necessary-it calls for full and frank information by responsible officials of the Executive Branch to the authorized committees of the Congress, and for free consultation with the bipartisan membership of those committees on the development of sound policies, before irrevocable decisions are made.

Bipartisanship should not require consultation, on the detailed, day-to-day conduct of foreign relations, nor the full concurrence of every member of the minority party in every case …It does include objective consideration of the views of the minority before decisions are reached.

Leading Democrats continue to regard consultation “before irrevocable decisions are reached” as the test of true bipartisanship, and they have emphasized their belief that President Eisenhower will have to rely heavily upon Democratic support if his policies are to prevail in the 84th Congress. Sen. Fulbright (D., Ark.) asserted in a recent magazine article that the President must depend upon the support of the opposition party “to a far greater extent than was necessary in the Eightieth Congress,” because the determined opposition to administration foreign policy now centers in “the radical extremists” of his own party.19

With regard to the substance of foreign policy, there seems to be little ground for disagreement between President Eisenhower and the Democratic majority in Congress. During the 1954 session, the Democrats generally supported the administration's defense and foreign policy legislation. The defense budget was approved unanimously in the House and by an overwhelming voice vote in the Senate; more Democrats than Republicans voted for the foreign aid authorization bill, and a large majority of Democrats backed the President's original request for a three-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, which was blocked by Republican leaders.20

On the strength of voting records last year, the prospects for enactment of the administration's trade agreement program should be considerably better in the coming session, despite continuing opposition from high tariff Republicans and some protectionist Democrats. Strong bipartisan support would seem to be assured for early ratification of the Mutual Security Pact for Southeast Asia, the Mutual Defense Treaty with Nationalist China, and sections of the London-Paris agreements dealing with restoration of German sovereignty and admission of that country to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The extent to which the administration's proposed economic aid program for Asia receives bipartisan support may depend upon how large a part both parties in Congress are given in shaping the legislative and budgetary provisions. Last year Democrats and Republicans alike showed a disposition to terminate direct foreign aid, at an early date; on the other hand, the need to combat Communism by economic assistance to free nations in Asia has been recognized by leaders of both parties. Congressional emphasis is likely to be on extension of technical assistance rather than on large appropriations for direct aid.

Should the issue of a blockade of Red China be revived by Sen. Knowland, it is probable that leading Democrats and Eisenhower Republicans would be aligned against the right wing of the President's party. After Knowland's call for a blockade in November, the entire Democratic leadership in the Senate, including Sen. George, the prospective chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, lined up solidly behind the President.

Administration plans to reduce military manpower as part of its long-term defense program may encounter some opposition from Democrats who voted last year to increase, rather than decrease, the number of active Army divisions. Congress in the past has been reluctant to implement an effective system of universal military training.

Controversial Questions in the Domestic Field

The program of domestic legislation put forward by the administration in mid-December seemed designed to attract maximum support from the moderate elements of both parties, and to avoid extremes likely to provoke major controversy. Although primary emphasis was placed on meassures requested but not enacted last year, a number of items on the President's tentative list seemed likely to produce sharp divisions along party lines.

Tax and fiscal proposals were certain to stir at least the normal amount of partisan debate. At a White House conference, Dec. 13, it was disclosed that the administration wanted further postponement of certain tax changes seheduled to take effect next Apr. 1—a reduction of the corporation income tax and cuts in the rates of various excise taxes—which would reduce federal revenues by about $3 billion a year. Such a request had been anticipated in view of Treasury Secretary Humphrey's statement on Dec. 6 that the budget could not be balanced in the next fiscal year and that the anticipated deficit would be in the neighborhood of $3 billion. When President Eisenhower faced a similar situation a year ago, he asked Congress to continue existing rates but, under political pressure from both parties, he was forced to accept excise reductions totaling $1 billion.

On the general 1954 tax revision bill, the Democrats almost upset the administration by supporting a proposal to raise the individual income tax exemption by $100. This project was defeated by margins of six votes (210 to 204) in the House and three votes (49 to 46) in the Senate. In the upper house, four Democratic senators supported the President's plea to leave the existing exemptions unchanged and thus were responsible for the administration victory. One of these was Sen. Byrd (Va.), who is slated to head the powerful Senate Finance Committee in the new Congress.

Other domestic questions discussed at the Dec. 13 White House conference included farm and labor matters, minimum wages, government reorganization, public health, and public housing. The Republican Congress went only half way with the President last year in most of those fields, and the new Democratic-controlled Congress is not likely to go much farther. Liberal Democrats have served notice that they will press for an increase in the statutory minimum wage from the present 75¢ to 90¢ or a dollar an hour, and they can be counted upon to support a liberalized public housing program and other social welfare measures. But Southern Democrats and conservative Republicans may be able to block legislative action on these parts of the President's program.

Public power generated heated controversy at the 1954 session and is likely to do so again in the new Congress. Sen. Anderson (D., N. M.) called on the Securities and Exchange Commission on Dec. 13 to defer action on the financing plan for the Dixon-Yates power project in the T.V.A. area until the disputed power arrangement could be reviewed by the Democratic Congress. Anderson, slated to become chairman of the congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, was a leader in last year's efforts to block the administration-favored contract between the Atomic Energy Commission and private utility companies for power supplied to the Tennessee Valley Authority in return for T.V.A, power supplied to A.E.C.

Influence of Oncoming Presidential Contest

Although the next presidential election campaign will not get its formal start until mid-1956, both political parties are already looking toward that contest, and will not run true to form if they ignore partisan considerations in the legislative sessions ahead. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress will be attempting to build a record for use in the campaign. Already, some Democratic critics have sought to make political capital of the administration's inability to balance the budget, while counter-attacks have been launched by Republicans against alleged undermining tactics of the opposition party. By organizing the new Congress, the Democrats will be in position to conduct investigations into matters which might furnish campaign material.

Preliminary skirmishes between the Democratic and Republican national committees began early in December when the new Democratic chairman, Paul M. Butler, leveled an attack directly on President Eisenhower for his “lack of capacity” to unify the country. Butler explained his attitude on criticism of the President when he said, Dee. 10, that the Democrats would never “vilify the President, as Sen. McCarthy has done” but would not be deterred from directing attention to his failures. Chairman Hall of the Republican National Committee countered with a charge that the Democrats were “determined to undercut” the President in every possible way.

Regardless of whether or not President Eisenhower is a candidate for re-election in 1956, he is bound to face considerable criticism in the second half of his term. Those Democrats who give him more consistent support than do some members of his own party nevertheless must look after their own partisan interests as an election approaches. Various commentators have pointed out, however, that the President's personal prestige may be strengthened with a coalition of moderate elements of both parties supporting-him on issues of war and peace and on some questions of domestic policy.

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Footnotes

[1] Morse has announced that lie will vote with the Democrats on organizing the Senate. If lie did not do so, and. every member voted, there would be a tie that would be resolved by Vice President Nixon in favor of the Republicans, Because Sen. Kennedy (D., Mass.). recently hospitalized, probably will be absent on Jan. 5. the prospect la for a 47–47 tie that will he resolved by Morse In favor of the Democrats.

[2] The Democratic majority won In the election was reduced to 28 by the death on Dec. 1 of Rep. Rogers of Florida.

[3] Before the Congress elected In November 1930 convened for Its first session in December 1931, choice of Democrats to fill vacancies created lay deaths of Republicans had converted an initial Republican plurality In the House Into a Democratic plurality.

[4] As amended and finally adopted, the resolution substituted the word “condemn” for “censure” and omitted the Watkins committee charge relating to McCarthy's alleged abuse of Gen. Zwicker. However, the resolution condemned the Wisconsin senator for contempt of a Senate elections subcommittee in 1952 and for his conduct during the censure proceedings.

[5] McCarthy voted “present”; Wiley, senior senator from Wisconsin, was attending the Inter-American economic conference in Brazil and was not recorded. For roll call on censure vote, see “Record of the 83rd Congress, Second Session,” E.R.R., Vol. II 1954, p. 640.

[6] For Knowland statements on China and coexistence, see “Red China and United Nations.” E.R.R., Vol. II 1954, p. 680, and “Peaceful Coexistence,” E.R.R., Vol. II 1954, p. 848.

[7] At his Bee. 2 news conference Eisenhower permitted direct quotation of his statement that a blockade was “an act of war intended to bring your adversary to your way of thinking, or to his knees.” He added that his view his difference with Knowland were largely over methods, but the methods in his view Involved a difference between an act of war and a chance to avoid war.

[8] Mundt was presiding temporarily at an open meeting of McCarthy's Investigating subcommittee on Dec. 7 when McCarthy made his attack.

[9] The political opposition has controlled one or both houses under at least 19 Presidents—ten before the Civil War, when party lines were less clearly defined, and nine from Grant through Truman.

[10] Wilson was elected by a popular vote of 6,286,000 and an electoral vote of 435 representing 40 states; Roosevelt won 4,126,000 popular and 88 electoral votes: Taft received 3,484,000 popular and 8 electoral votes.

[11] See “President and Mid-Term Elections,” E.R.R., Vol. I 1950, pp. 416–418.

[12] Four separate votes were taken between November 1919 and March 1920 without winning the necessary two-thirds. See “American Policy on the League of Nations and the World Court,” E.R.R., Vol. I 1935, pp. 7–10.

[13] Mellon was appointed Ambassador to Great Britain, and succeeded at the Treasury by Ogden Mills, before the Patman charges were taken up in the House.

[14] This measure, the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act, met opposition in the Philippines and was superseded in 1934 by the Tydings-McDuffie Act, under which the islands eventually gained independence.

[15] For early legislative action on the Marshall Plan and related measures, see “Record of the 80th Congress,” E.R.R., Vol. I 1948, pp. 372–385.

[16] President Truman during the 80th Congress vetoed nine bills embodying general legislation: three of the vetoes were sustained. See “Record of the 80th Congress,” E.R.R., Vol. I 1948, p. 360.

[17] Rep. Martin, retiring Speaker of the House, said on Nov. 16 that it would be “absolutely impossible” to extend bipartisan consultation to domestic legislation and ordinary congressional business, as the Republicans would remain primarily responsible to the President.

[18] Review of Bipartisan Foreign Policy Since World War IT, presented, by Sen. Sparkman, Oct. 20, 1951.

[19] J, W. Fulbright, “Bipartisanship Is A Two-Way Street.” The Reporter Dec 16, 1954, p. 8.

[20] For party alignments, see “Roll Calls in 83rd Congress, Second Session,” E.R.R., Vol. II 1954, pp. 643–655.

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Special Focus

    Senate     House  
Congress Democrats Republicans Others Democrats Republicans Others
79th (1945–47) 57 38 1 243 190 2
80th (1947–49) 45 51 0 188 246 1
81st (1949–51) 54 42 0 263 171 1
82nd (1951–53) 48 47 1 234 199 2
83rd (1953–55) 47 48 1 215 219 1
84th (1955–57) 48 47 1 232 203 0
President Party Congress Senate control House control
Grnat Rep. 44th (1875–77) Rep. Dem.
Hayes Rep. 45th (1877–79) Rep. Dem.
Hayes Rep 46th (1879–81) Dem Dem.
Arthur Rep 48th (1883–85) Rep. Dem.
Cleveland Dem. 49th (1885–87) Rep. Dem.
Cleveland Dem. 50th (1887–89) Rep. Dem.
Harrison Rep. 52nd (1891–93) Rep. Dem.
Cleveland Dem. 54th (1895–97) Rep. Rep.
Taft Rep. 62nd (1911–13) Rep. Dem.
Wilson Dem 66th (1919–21) Rep. Rep.
Hoover Rep. 72nd (1931–33) Rep. Dem.
Thruman Dem. 80th (1947–49) Rep. Rep.

Presidents whose party had a majority In neither house during the life of one Congress.

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Document APA Citation
Stone, W. T. (1954). Divided government. Editorial research reports 1954 (Vol. II). Washington, DC: CQ Press. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1954122200
Document ID: cqresrre1954122200
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1954122200
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