Presidents With the Best and Worst Relationships With Congress

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Source: National Archive / Newsmakers / Getty Images

James Garfield
> Years served: 200 days in 1881
> Relationship with Congress score: 48.6 (17th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 44.1 (13th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

President James Garfield was shot and killed just a few months into his presidency, making his the second shortest presidency in history. Most of his time as president was devoted to establishing his cabinet and making appointments that needed Senate approval. He wanted and tried to keep all parties and factions happy, but it did not quite turn out that way. Some thought he was favoring one group over another and tried to block his nominations, but unsuccessfully.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Harrison
> Years served: 1889 – 1893
> Relationship with Congress score: 50.5 (18th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 42.5 (11th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

The most controversial aspect of Benjamin Harrison’s presidency was his support of protective tariffs. They were seen as the reason for the country’s economic troubles that soon followed. Congressmen who opposed high tariffs said they hurt business. A bill with even higher tariffs was passed, but reciprocity provisions were added on Harrison’s insistence as a compromise. By the end of his presidency, the Treasury’s surplus was gone. As prosperity looking like disappearing as well, midterm elections went against the Republicans, who no longer cooperated with Harrison.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

George W. Bush
> Years served: 2001-2009
> Relationship with Congress score: 51.9 (19th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 52.3 (19th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

George W. Bush’s presidency was shaped by the 9/11 terrorist attacks a few months into his term. He established the Department of Homeland Security and authorized invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. What Democrats and Bush disagreed on was his $1.6 trillion tax-cut bill, but Bush enjoyed a Republican majority in both houses, the first since the 1950s, and a version of the bill passed. Shortly after that, however, a Republican senator became independent, giving Democrats control of the Senate. That made the president’s domestic proposals harder to pass.

Source: White House research / Wikimedia Commons

John Adams
> Years served: 1797-1801
> Relationship with Congress score: 52.0 (20th lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 62.8 (17th highest)
> Party affiliation: Federalist

The second president of the United States was better known as a political philosopher. His presidency was preoccupied with foreign affairs as Britain and France were at war. Domestically, he lost his popularity after signing the Alien and Sedition Acts, which allowed for anyone who disagreed with the government to be arrested. Opponents, who called themselves Democratic-Republicans, among whom was Thomas Jefferson, called these laws unconstitutional.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

William Howard Taft
> Years served: 1909-1913
> Relationship with Congress score: 52.3 (21st lowest)
> Crisis leadership score: 49.9 (18th lowest)
> Party affiliation: Republican

President William Howard Taft and Congress passed several significant laws. However, the executive and the legislative branch disagreed on who should submit a budget to Congress. Taft advocated for the president’s office instead of different government agencies. Congress banned that action. Taft and Congress also did not see eye to eye when it came to tariffs. The president called for a special congressional session, after which, the Payne-Aldrich Act was signed. The act, however, did little to lower tariffs, which the president wanted. Disappointed Republicans broke out to form the Progressive Party.